Hextall on Hockey: The game without a crowd

I could have cried on Saturday night at the sight of fans in the stands for Game 6 in Montreal between the Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs.

From the anthem to the cheers and jeers, it hit me how much a crowd impacts a hockey game.

It seems like a no-brainer — of course the crowd matters — but after more than a year of simulated crowd noise, one becomes used to the new concept of what a crowd sounds like.

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It was even more evident to me how important a crowd is after calling games on Sportsnet in Calgary over the weekend.

It was my first assignment without a crowd on hand.

Doing play-by-play, you feed off the energy of the crowd noise: the crackle of anticipation at the start of the game when anything is possible, the crescendo of excitement for a player on a breakaway or an odd-man rush, the “oooo” of a shot just wide or the screams of delight for a massive save.

And, of course, the eruption from a home crowd as its team scores.

It was a challenge to manufacture the same type of excitement in my call without the ability to feed off the crowd.

I can only imagine how difficult it has been for the players.

The good news: it looks like that was my first and last call without fans as we move towards a return to the rink — which we will never take for granted again!

Click to play video: 'Winnipeg Jets celebrate 10 years since returning to Manitoba' Winnipeg Jets celebrate 10 years since returning to Manitoba

Winnipeg Jets celebrate 10 years since returning to Manitoba


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