Mike Milbury is stepping away from broadcasting the rest of the NHL playoffs after his on-air comment that there were no women in the league’s quarantined bubble to disrupt concentration drew widespread criticism.
The former player, coach and general manager released a statement through NBC Sports on Saturday, saying: “I do not want my presence to interfere with the athletes as they try to win the greatest trophy in sports.”
An NBC Sports spokesman confirmed it was Milbury’s decision to leave and that the analyst remains employed by the network.
During a game Thursday night between the New York Islanders and Washington Capitals, broadcasters were discussing the environment inside the bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton, Alberta. After Brian Boucher talked about it being “the perfect place” for players who enjoy playing hockey and being with their teammates for long periods of time, Milbury responded there are “not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”
The league said it condemned the “insensitive and insulting” comment that “did not reflect the NHL’s values and commitment to making our game inclusive and welcoming to all. NBC Sports said it was disappointed and addressed the situation with Milbury.
He apologized by saying: “It was not my intention to disrespect anyone. I was trying to be irreverent and took it a step too far. It was a regrettable mistake that I take seriously.”
Earlier in the playoffs, Milbury seemed to compare no fans at these games to women’s college hockey. He also drew some criticism for his remarks about Boston goaltender Tuukka Rask opting out and leaving the bubble to return to his family.
Milbury, 68, has worked for NBC Sports since 2008 after coaching the Bruins and serving as coach and general manager of the Islanders.
NBC Sports in December suspended Jeremy Roenick indefinitely without pay for making inappropriate comments about coworkers on a podcast, and the former player announced in February he would not be returning.
Last year, former NHL coach Don Cherry was fired by Canada’s Rogers Sportsnet over an anti-immigrant rant on the air. Earlier this week, Cincinnati Reds broadcaster Thom Brennaman was suspended after making homophobic comments during a game.
AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report.
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