I'm not saying he's one of the best, he's far from it, but I prefer NESN over NBC when I have both options.
Maybe it's unwatchable from a neutral/opposing point of view, but Bruins fans generally like him very much. Don't let his silliness get to you, he knows a lot about hockey. He's a homer, but he works for the Bruins... He has to...
If he called a neutral game, say for example the Wild vs. Oilers, two teams we're pretty neutral against, I think he'd get a lot more love.
Neutral > homer
I watch a ton of hockey games and I prefect the neutral announcers even when my team isn't even playing.
At one time, Bob Cole epitomized the way to call a game taking his cue from Foster Hewitt. Age has caught up with him of course but just merely hearing his voice gives me that "I'm home" feeling. Jim Hughson isn't bad either now as the CBC lead hand. You have to love his "Great Save Luongo" type of calls. He puts some strength into them.
Emrick is more or less the grandfather in the States. I like him as well even as a Canadian. But putting Emrick on here is like putting Vin Scully in Baseball. He is always a favourite.
While I never have liked the Sabres I love Jeanneret. There is just always something about his calls coupled with the goal horn going in Buffalo that bring you excitement.
Mike Lange again is another great one. You always associate him with Mario or Jagr.
All of these guys have not only the voice but also the genuine excitement when a play surfaces. Some announcers, especially in the NFL for instance, can get over the top and it is almost insulting because you know they are trying to attract the lowbrows watching. These above guys seem to do it right though and at the RIGHT time. Watch that fight in 2007 between the Sabres and Sens when Peters and Emery fight. Jeanneret is commentating the entire time and his voice almost makes it better.
I miss Dick Irvin too. I didn't like how CBC (who also threw Chris Cuthbert out) sort of weeded him out. He wasn't getting senile, he wasn't forgetting names, he was the perfect colour commentator and his voice reeked of hockey knowledge going way back to the days of when his father was a prominent coach.
Ones that can grate on me a bit:
Joe Bowen - Look, he doesn't get all excited unaturally, it isn't fake like some announcers. I truly believe he inches that much closer to a heart attack with each passing scoring chance but while his reaction is real, it is also one that gives you a heart attack. Try listening to Bowen on the radio or on TV without looking. His reaction scares you everytime and not in a good way.
Gord Millar - I guess a part of me always associates the World Juniors with Paul Romanuik who I loved, but Millar is doing it now. I am not saying he isn't a good announcer, and I like TSN and all, but he has this constant sound in his voice of something being dislodged in his throat. It never goes away. So it's an acquired taste and I always figure Millar is more or less just someone who commentates rather than brings the game to you.
The best announcer bar none though is still Paul Romaniuk. Likely, we will hear him do the Spengler Cup just after Christmas. It is too bad that he moved to London, England and rarely calls hockey on Canadian TV anymore.
I agree, he was the best, can't wait for the spengler cup.
I may be in the minority here, but I don't mind a good homer announcer so long as they're entertaining. If I'm watching the Bruins, I want Jack Edwards. If I'm watching the Sabres, I want Rick Jeanneret. Guys like that, though homers, exhibit so much passion in their calls that it makes the game more exciting to watch.