From storming off the NBC set in protest of the 1-3-1 to calling fellow analyst Keith Jones “a dick” to ripping Alex Ovechkin, we can agree Mike Milbury is no shrinking violet. More like Audrey Jr., the man-eating plant in The Little Shop of Horrors.
Milbury has never had his name etched on the Stanley Cup as a player, coach or GM but, love him or hate him, his tentacles have touched every aspect of the game. And for the better part of a decade, he’s been one of hockey’s most outspoken, enraging and candid analysts. THN caught up with Mad Mike recently.
THN: Once on Twitter, someone said he wished I were dead. What’s the worst thing anyone has ever tweeted to you?
MIKE MILBURY: I don’t know, because I don’t go anywhere near Twitter.
THN: What’s the worst thing someone has said to your face?
MM: Oh, man. When I was GM in New York, I used to have a perch in the balcony and the people below used to yell, “Jump, Mike, jump!”
MM: Nah. The only thing we led the league in in Long Island was convicted felons who were owners. We had a couple of good years, but we were flawed from the beginning. We knew what we were getting in (Alexei) Yashin and we bundled that with Peca and in that year, which was Peter Laviolette’s first year, we improved 44 points, which is one of the all-time highest, but we were flawed at the core and never any threat of being a championship team. That stuff doesn’t bother me anymore. I’m too old to worry about that s---.
THN: Did it bother you when Bob McKenzie recently took a shot at you on an NBC telecast, saying Islander fans wish you had never been the GM?
MM: We all should be able to take shots. I talked to Bob about it later. I didn’t like it, and there were many things I could have said in return, but I like Bob. That’s a shot you take in a bar, but it’s not my idea of a good time when you’re doing it to your colleague on the air. I didn’t love it, but I only have to worry about what one person thinks of me, and that’s my boss at NBC, Sam Flood.
THN: And how does he feel about you?
MM: I’m still here and have been seven years. There’s no other broadcaster, probably in any sport, who has the breadth of my experience. I’ve been a major league player, coach and manager and VP of business affairs. I played for a Stanley Cup as a player and as a coach. I would have liked to have more success as a manager, but things on Long Island were pretty hairy there for a while.
THN: Did you have the mumps when you were a kid?
MM: You know, I was just thinking about that the other day. I think I did, but it was so long ago that these things get lost. I know I had the measles.
THN: Do you see yourself as the U.S. version of Don Cherry?
MM: There is only one Grapes. I’ve never tried to be Grapes, I wouldn’t even try. I bring a different set of circumstances and background, but the one thing we have in common is neither one of us is afraid to speak his mind. For many years I was under a microscope and had to take the criticism the media and the fans offered and, after 35 years, it’s my turn.
THN: What would Mike Milbury the analyst think of Mike Milbury the player going up into the stands to beat a fan with his own loafer?
MM: He’d say he understood he was going to the aid of his teammates. For that, he gets a pat on the back. For the fact he tapped a guy with his loafer, he should’ve known better.
THN: What was your major at Colgate?
MM: I graduated with a degree in sociology.
THN: What was the plan?
MM: There really wasn’t a plan. I was interested in urban sociology and the study of how government works and how various aspects of society function. It was interesting, but where it was going to lead me, I have no idea. I probably would have been selling f---ing insurance if I wasn’t playing hockey.