ESPN Talks Hockey Coverage In New Press Conference

Courtesy: ESPN

Members of ESPN’s National Hockey League broadcast team talked to the media Wednesday about its new broadcast deal with the league. The discussion covered topics, such as ESPN’s split coverage with TNT, player rights, and what ESPN and its networks are going to do in order to keep viewers engaged and entertained in each broadcast.

The full transcript from Wednesday’s discussion is available to read below.

Moderator: Good morning, and thank you all for joining us. Welcome to this season’s first media availability previewing the upcoming NHL season with Mark Gross, Sean McDonough, Ray Ferraro and Brian Boucher. Mark Gross, ESPN SVP of production and remote operations overseeing ESPN NHL coverage will start off the call, with a few words.

Mark Gross: Thank you very much, and thanks everybody for for joining us in your interest.

It’s hard to believe, but it’s going to happen next Tuesday hockey will be back on the ESPN family of networks and we couldn’t be more thrilled across the Walt Disney company to have the NHL back. Last time we had it was 2005 which seems like an eternity ago, considering the amount of hockey fans that work here all over the company.

As many of you know, we have a little over 100 regular season games on ESPN, ESPN+, Hulu and ABC. They are all exclusive telecasts. And then the out of market broadcasts over 1000 out of market games, the fans will be able to see on ESPN+, so for hockey fans ESPN+ is a great service between the 75 regular season exclusive games and all the out of market games it’s really amazing.

As I mentioned, I think y’all know but just as a reminder, we do start up, we do have The Point which is our weekly studio show that will debut tomorrow. And then the games starting next Tuesday with a double header with the unveiling of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup banner. They will take on the Penguins next Tuesday in our first game, followed by Seattle’s first game ever on the road at Vegas.

We have some of our wonderful talent team here. When the deal was announced on March 10 we had one analyst at that time – a guy by the name of Barry Melrose. That team has grown exponentially here since March 10 and we’re thrilled to have them all, whether they’re in the U.S. or whether they’re in Canada, which is where Ray Ferraro is, I believe.

I’m sure you have plenty of questions for them, and probably less, for me, but we will begin with Sean, Ray and Brian giving some opening statements and then, the floor is open for questions, thank you.

Sean McDonough: Thank you and I would just echo what Mark just said – thanks to all of you for being on here today, we appreciate your time and your interest. And I would also echo what Mark said about the excitement level in the building there in Bristol and all around our ESPN family. I’m one of those people who, for the last 16 years has been hoping that someday hockey would come back, that the NHL would come back to ESPN and on March 10 when the word spread that it was coming back I immediately fired off a text message to Jimmy Pitaro who, as most of you know, is the President of ESPN saying I would very much like to be involved in this at the highest level I can possibly be involved, because I love hockey and have been hoping for over a decade and a half that it would come back so really grateful to Gross, to Norby Williamson and Mike McQuade for the opportunity to do this and really grateful to them too for the team that they have assembled. We have a lot of people, as I said, in the building who love hockey. When I heard we were getting hockey back, the first people I thought of were Barry Melrose, Steve Levy, John Buccigross, Linda Cohn, Jim’s Ziroli, he was one of our producers who, Ray and Brian know because we were all together in August in Bristol for an exercise, still wears his Hartford Whalers hat around the building and he is thrilled to be involved in producing a lot of our games. There’s just a tremendous affection for hockey on the part of a lot of people at ESPN and I’m amazed by the team that Grossie and his colleagues have assembled and really happy and proud to be a small part of it. I’m excited to work with these two guys, who are on here with us on the call, so I will hand it off first to Ray Ferraro. Hi, Ray.

Ray Ferraro: Hey, Sean. Thanks. I think we’re probably all going to talk about our gratitude to Mark and to Mike and to Norby and the ESPN team of being involved here with this project. When I was still playing I got traded from the Rangers to Los Angeles, which was you know, was not exactly what I was looking for at that time in my career, however, it opened the door for an opportunity to start broadcasting at ESPN and I got a phone call from Barry Sax at the time, and he said, “hey would you like to come in and do studio work with NHL Tonight and you know I hadn’t even really thought about the end of my career yet, but I was intrigued and I got there and I was working with Bill Pidto and Barry Melrose, soon to become John Buccigross and Melly and I mean I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I started, and I was learning and Bucci was an immense help to me and I was still playing, and so I was hearing it from the guys on the ice about, “hey why don’t you go analyze that play” as I made a mistake on the ice and then it grew into a career and to come all the way back around to be able to be involved again at ESPN is a Is a great thrill for me. I’ve known some of the people here for a long, long time and am meeting lots of new people as well. Everybody’s excitement is quite evident, I mean we can’t wait to get going, I can’t wait to get going. Tuesday I’ll be with Sean in Tampa and I’m sure Brian feels, the same way. He’ll be out in Vegas with John Buccigross. I’m thrilled to be here, thank you all for being here and Bouch, over to you.

Brian Boucher: Thanks, Ray. I’m excited. I am extremely grateful for this opportunity to be with to be with ESPN and be a part of a group that is truly diverse. We’ve got all different types of position players on our team, we got some of the best women players in in their game part of our group, guys that were coaches, Hall of Famers, want-to-be Hall of Famers – we have it all! I’m excited to be a part of it and fortunate to be doing this post playing career. It’s not easy when you retire from playing to know what you’re going to do. I’ve been fortunate to get into this side of the hockey world and really enjoy it and I’m looking forward to being part of this team at ESPN. You got to understand, I’m a little bit younger than some of the older guys like Ray – no offense. I grew up watching NHL hockey on ESPN and for me this is this is surreal. I mean it’s nostalgic for me to hear that music and then go back to my childhood and think about the big games that were played on ESPN and what the game and what ESPN meant to me when I was growing up and to now be a part of this group really is something that I’m looking forward to, and just like Ray said I’m looking forward Tuesday night. I’m going to be out West for the historic first Seattle Kraken game with John Buccigross and A.J. Mleczko and I’m fired up. I cannot wait. I think it’s going to be great to have a new set of teammates and I’m just really looking forward to it. Hoping for a year, that is not stopped by health concerns and that we can get back to some normalcy and looking forward to a great season.

Moderator: Awesome. Thanks, guys. Now we’ll move into the questions. As a reminder, please raise your hand to ask the question using reactions or a shortcut on your computer. We’ll then call on you to unmute your line to ask a question. First off, we’ll go with John Wawrow, with the Associated Press.

John Wawrow – Associated Press: Hey, folks. Congrats on coming back and all the best to you folks on the inaugural season. I’ve got a bit of a news question for you, it’s for Ray actually. Sorry for starting things off this way, but as a former player, what’s your take on how the Sabres have dealt with Jack Eichel situation and whether the NHLPA may have gave up too much in relinquishing its player rights to teams.

Ray Ferraro: Obviously, a pretty difficult spot in Buffalo. Without understanding the legal side of things, it strikes me as more than unfortunate that, one way or another, this couldn’t have been dealt with in a more expedited manner. I know everybody has to get their opinions and their second opinions, and one doctor has to talk to another. I would have liked to have thought, whatever the conclusion to this is going to be – surgery or no surgery or one surgery or another – that they would have been able to come to this conclusion, a little bit quicker. As far as the PA giving up rights, I think it’s more complicated than just saying a player should be able to go get a second opinion and the reason I say that is, I don’t know for a fact if I’m able to go and get a second opinion and I decide to get the surgery with that second opinion, legally because the team signed off on that does that make them liable? There’s a far more complicated structure to this, then I think we can look at from first brush.

Moderator: Alright, next up we will go with Richard Deitsch with The Athletic.

Richard Deitsch: Thanks a lot. Shout out to Vancouver, Ray Ferraro, great city. This is, for this is from Mark Gross. Mark, how do you look at Turner’s acquisition of the NHL? Do you see them as competitors or do you see them as something else, and if so, why?

Mark Gross: I see them like as friendly competitors. I think that our goal is to obviously document all the games, as far as ESPN’s goal, is to document games, document the sport as a whole. Ultimately, I think, from a business standpoint it helps all of us across all hockey if we can grow the sport of hockey and grow the NHL everybody wins. So I would say, we know a lot of the people who work there, some of them used to work here, so I’m going to just call it kind of like a friendly competition. We’ll be watching what they do on Wednesday night. We were peeking in on the preseason games last week. I’m guessing they’ll watch what we’re doing next Tuesday, I don’t know that for a fact, but I’m going to say friendly competition. Ultimately everybody wins if our numbers are good and their numbers are good, that’s a good thing for everybody – fans, the NHL and all of our businesses.

Moderator: Next Michael McCarthy with Front Office Sports.

Michael McCarthy: Hey, guys. Congrats on the NHL, looking forward to what you’re going to be doing this season. I’ve got two questions. First, is for Mark – when we spoke a few months ago, you talked about working on the next big idea for hockey coverage. Any developments there? And then to this is for the whole panel – Sean, Brian and Ray – how do you guys feel about addressing gambling and betting on your telecasts?

Mark Gross: We do have some new ideas. At this point, we’re just not ready to announce them as we’re just kind of finalizing them, but I would look for something to come out from the PR team prior to our opener on Tuesday. We’re pretty far down the road on a half a dozen ideas that we’ve been working on and have presented to the NHL.

Michael McCarthy: And Sean, Brian, Ray – how do you think about this brave new world of betting and gambling, will you address it during the telecast?

Sean McDonough: Well, I think we will take our lead from our bosses in that regard. Obviously sports gambling has become legal in many more places than it used to be. As a matter of fact, here in Massachusetts where I live half the year, and I’m sitting right now, there is the anticipation that will be legal here in the Commonwealth at some time in the not too distant future. Now we’ve all watched enough sports TV to know that there are more and more gambling ads popping up here and there, we have a show dedicated to gambling that Doug Kazarian hosts from Las Vegas but, we haven’t specifically had that conversation yet. I’m sure that we will and whatever our bosses tell us is the right way to proceed in that regard is what I intend to do at least. I don’t want to speak for Ray and Brian, but I know they talked about how excited they are to have this job, so I assume they will do what those in charge of our employment deem is the proper way to proceed, if they want to have any longevity in this situation.

Ray Ferraro: So that’s probably a pretty good way to put it, Sean. I think it feels wide open. It feels like it’s something we’ll figure out as we go along. There’s no real playbook to how to deal with it, I mean, Mark and Mike and etc will tell us how we address it, but I can’t imagine you’re going to talk about a power play and then bring up the odds of a power play goal. I can’t imagine that’s the way it is but, we’ll just see as a goes.

Sean McDonough: Like weird when we did the practice exercise that Bouch was on his phone while the power play was about to begin. I don’t know what that was all about…

Brian Boucher: I got some issues. I think we got to embrace it, I mean, I think the opportunity to grow the game, to grow interest, to bring more fans in, whatever we need to do to help in that regard, I think we have to have an open mind with it. Truthfully, I think it’s an area that I have a lot to learn it so I’m looking forward to figuring out how I can present that to fans and how we want to do that, but like Sean said, I’ll follow our bosses lead and if they say we do it, then, then we do it, and hopefully we make it as clear and concise his fans need it to be.

Sean McDonough: I would say this too. Obviously doing other sports for ESPN, doing football this weekend in Nebraska. I’ve been doing live events for ESPN as the gambling situation has kind of evolved and I don’t think our presentation of college football at least has changed at all. I still think, and I know Grossie believes this, and you know our mantra, our mission has always been to serve the viewer, and I think the vast majority of the people who tune into these games are tuning in to watch the game, and if they have a gambling interest then I’m pretty sure they’ll be able to figure out for themselves whether whatever they wagered on is going well for them personally or not without us telling them or reminding them how it might be going.

Moderator: Okay next up we’ll go with Neil Best from Newsday.

Neil Best: Hi, this is for Sean. Obviously, you’re very well known to sports fans nationally, but primarily for other sports, could you expand on your personal and professional connection to hockey? 

Sean McDonough: Sure! Well, I grew up here in Boston in the Sixties when, for all the success the Celtics were having in those years, this was still Bobby Orr country and the big bad Bruins. I grew up like every other kid on my block wanting to be Bobby Orr. I have been a passionate hockey fan my whole life, and matter of fact, I think maybe the last time I saw you in person was at David Quinn’s press conference when he was named the head coach of the New York Rangers. As you know, Quinny is one of my best friends. The first opportunity I had outside of Syracuse, when I graduated from the Harvard of central New York. Sorry, Grossie, slight little plug here, just a reminder. When I do these Zooms I have Syracuse stuff in the background, I don’t have to send in any donations to the alumni fund, so this is in lieu of a contribution to the alumni fund at Syracuse. But the first opportunity I had was calling college hockey for NESN back in the fall of 1984 when I was right out of college. As we get ready for this first game very early in that time that I was calling hockey east games for NESN, one of the BU Terriers forwards, who is a terrific two-way player was Mike Sullivan and we’re going to see him now on Tuesday night, as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Did a lot of college hockey, was involved in our Bruins coverage here, did the Olympics in ‘98 Nagano, was very involved in our ESPN hockey coverage when had it the first time around, and, as I said, I just I love doing hockey. Dan Berkery was a wonderful guy who hired me to do the Red Sox games on local TV here on WSBK back in 1988. He’s now retired on Cape Cod and when it was rumored I might get this gig he called me, he said, “you know I’m the guy who gave you your opportunity in Major League Baseball, but I’ve always thought hockey’s your best sport and I really hope you get this because I think you’ll demonstrate that if you get that opportunity.” There’s a very high standard in hockey broadcasting that has been set, not just at the national level, but throughout North America by American and Canadian play-by-play announcers so there’s a high bar there, but I hope to hold up my end of the bargain and I am really excited to be a part of this team. I saw the video that ESPN sent all of us when they assembled the team and I kind of sat back in my chair and have to say, my goodness, what a what a group, this is so really excited to get started.

Moderator: All right next up we’ll go with Joe Reedy at the Associated Press. 

Joe Reedy, AP: Thanks guys for doing this. Mark, just expanding off Richard’s question with the longtime relationship you guys have had with TNT. How much is that going to help maybe in the spring, when it comes to playoffs, since you guys both have NBA and NHL playoffs with scheduling and you know cooperation with that? And then for Ray and Brian – Ray, you talked about the diverse cast that ESPN has assembled, you know Leah Hextall and Cassie Campbell pretty well, just for an American audience, what’s it going to be like for them to kind of get this opportunity since are more well-known on you know the Rogers package and CBC and everything? 

Mark Gross: Joe, on the on the programming question, it’s a fair question because, obviously, our NBA schedule and Turner’s NBA schedule is sort of is opposite. Obviously, we’re more on the weekend, they are more during the week. I don’t want to pass the buck, but Ilan Ben-Hanan is really the key guy in programming, when it comes to the NHL for ESPN, who could answer how that’s all going to play out or potentially play out once we get to the middle of April, when the NHL has playoffs and the NBA has playoffs. But Katina, or Olivia or Grace can get you in touch with Ilan.

Ray Ferraro: And as far as Leah and Cassie. Well, Cassie, of course, is a decorated player and her experience helps her in her analysis and her vision of the game. She’s been doing this a long time as well up in Canada, now on Hockey Night in Canada and with Sportsnet. Leah would be newer to the audiences on the play-by-play side, but I think it’s important, and we see this in the diverse hirings that are happening, is that we’re just looking at the people that can do the job the best. That at ESPN, we’re looking for, whether you’re a male or female, are you able to deliver the play? Deliver it with entertainment? Deliver it with information? And Leah and Cassie, of course, are doing two completely different things – Leah’s play-by-play and Cassie is an analyst – think you’ll find them both really good. You’ll find them enthusiastic and I think, like the rest of our team we’re all going to try and find our way. I’m going to work a game, I assume, somewhere rather quickly with Leah. I’ve not worked with her before and so we’re all learning on the run to work together. I guess it’s important that you’re singling them out, being Leah and Cassie, yet in short order, does it really matter? If you’re good at the job, you’re good at the job. And I think you’ll find that they’re good at the job. Same as us, you’re either going to like Brian and I or you’re not and we’re going to be good enough to do the job or you’re not going to think we are and that’s the way it should be. 

Brian Boucher: If I could just add, I think the one thing that I, when I think of diverse, I don’t just think of gender or skin color, I think of the different positions that we played as hockey players. And I when I think of hockey players, I think of us all as one, whether you played women’s Olympics, women’s World Championships or Stanley Cups or what have you, we’re all hockey players. We all play different positions, I see the game differently than Ray sees the game. Then Ray sees it differently than AJ Mleczko, so we all have different trainings in the game, and I think we’re all still learning, at least I am. I’ve always looked at the game from the goal on out and maybe Ray looks at it looking at the goal trying to score. I think all of those different mindsets and different ideas of how the game should be played and how you see it, I think that’s what makes it good. That’s the diversity that I think I’m also referring to it’s not just with regards to gender or skin color or what have you. That’s what I’m looking forward to. We have such a wide range of people on our team that’s what that’s what’s going to make it really exciting.

Moderator: Okay next up we’ll go with Sean Shapiro with The Athletic.

Sean Shapiro: These are for Mark. First off, Mark, when you talk about looking at new ways or creative ways to do things, is that more within the game itself is that more studio or is that is that more part of daytime programming? And then the second one is: what have you been able to track or see anything as far as has ESPN+ been boosted by having the package have you seen have you been able to track that anyway, for what hockey’s done to bring new viewers into the ESPN+ package and things like that?

Mark Gross: I’ll answer the second one first, which will be a non-answer because I just I don’t know is the honest answer. I’ll need the PR folks to chime in on the plus question. I think access is important to get closer to the game, get closer to the ice, get closer to the players. And access takes on a lot of different forms: access to locker rooms, coaches mic’d, players mic’d and then those things make their way onto the studio, whether that’s on The Point, whether it’s on SportsCenter, whether it’s on, whether it’s on the App. We’ve focused, and we’ve mentioned this in a few articles, documenting the event is the number one priority and then right underneath that sort of the subtext to that is speed, skills and strategy. The game is a lot different now than it was 17 years ago. It’s evolved. It’s a completely different game than when we last had hockey. The way we document the game will be different than we did 20 years ago and part of that is access to which we look to be in a good place right now with the League and with the players association, with more specifics to come.

Moderator: Thanks. Next up we’ll go with Marty Klinkenberg with the Globe and Mail.

Marty Klinkenberg: Hi, guys. Good morning. This this question is for Ray but, anybody that would want to chime in…I’m actually writing on Saturday around two teams in particular and that’s the Maple Leafs and the Oilers and I’m wondering: when you look at their history, what you what you make of each one of them, and the issues they’ve had in you know getting beyond where they are right now?

Ray Ferraro: I’ll start. I mean the, of course, the expectations are extremely high. When you have some of the players that these two teams have. I mean Edmonton has the best player in the game in Connor McDavid. They’ve got a top five player in Leon Draisaitl. They add Zach Hyman as a free agent. Their questions are, and Bouch would be better to go through this, but you’ve got a 39-year-old in Mike Smith, who was just brilliant last year, and Mikko Koskinen who had an up-and-down year, yet their goaltending numbers by statistical average are in the top half of the league, so can that be good enough? They’ve added some pieces around McDavid, I mentioned Hyman, but around McDavid and Draisaitl, as they try to round out their team. How much game does Duncan Keith have left? I mean we can all speculate but the proof is going to be when we watch them play. Now, I did the Leafs exhibition game yesterday against Montreal, and I look at the Leafs, I think they’re going to be a really good team. Now, again, is Jack Campbell and Peter Morazik good enough to take you deep, deep, deep into the playoffs? But I look at their top six forwards and with Marner and Matthews will play together and it looks like Brett Richie will play there, he had 15 goals in Boston last year. Looks like Michael Bunting will start with Tavares and Nelander. And I don’t see any reason that Bunting and Richie can’t get 15 to 18 goals in in those alignments. Well, that means, is I project they’re going to score 175 to 185 goals from their top six forwards. I think they’ll at least have a decent defense to top four, in particular. I think they’re really good team. They’re in a really tough division too. And so projections, we call them projections, I think they’re guesses at this point, but I think those are two teams that will be factors, not just in the regular season, but in the playoffs this year.

Brian Boucher: I totally agree, Ray, and I think you said it very well, I think you detailed all the different positions. But to me, both these teams have question marks in goal. I don’t know which one is more, maybe it’s Edmonton just because of the sheer age of Mike Smith and the instability of Nikko Koskinen in Edmonton so that’s a big question mark. But the flip side of it is they’re in the weakest division in the NHL, so that may not be as much of a factor, particularly in the regular season, but how will it play out come playoff time? McDavid, I think this guy just continues to wow and I think with the crackdown on cross checking there’s going to be even more power plays for a power play that’s already lethal, to begin with. Toronto, I think their goaltending, I was a huge Freddie Anderson fan, just me personally. Jack Campbell’s a great story, I just don’t know if he’s the guy that you want to pin your hopes on. And Petr Mrázek,  to me always seems to, I guess you could say it about Anderson the last couple of years, he unfortunately, gets injured at certain times, and he has played at a high level at times in his career, but will he be able to do that? And it’s a tough division for Toronto, I think, for Edmonton just because of where they are in their division, they probably have maybe a higher ceiling than the Leafs. I just feel like I wonder if the Leafs can get over that hump. It’ll be interesting to see in that in that Atlantic division.

Moderator: Next, we’ll go Jacob Feldman with Sportico.

Jacob Feldman: Thank you. Yeah, I’ll be fairly short. Brian, my question is for you and I wanted to go back to the spring when the new deals were announced and I’m curious what types of conversations you’re having with your now former NBC colleagues as people were finding new professional homes and then now what the biggest difference you think would be when it comes to ESPN’s coverage compared to other places that you’ve worked?

Brian Boucher: Yeah, going back to the spring it was an uneasy time I think for all of us over at NBC. I mean, obviously we had, speaking about those people there, we had a lot of people that love hockey, they were great teammates and when you’re when you’re with people for so long, and you get news like that, I mean you want everybody to come out on the other side and be okay. There were a lot of tense days for a lot of people, and I think, for the most part, a lot of people at NBC have landed on their feet. Whether it’s at ESPN or TNT. In some cases, like for Pierre McGuire he ended up going back to the management side over to the Ottawa Senators. You’re happy to see people move on and get to the next chapter.

As far as what’s going to be different this time around, I think maybe sometimes when you’re in one spot for so long and it’s the same thing, year after year, maybe things get stagnant and maybe the creative juices aren’t flowing as much as you’d like. Maybe that was the case at NBC towards the end, I’m not really sure. But I think coming to a new team here at ESPN and getting fresh ideas and seeing the enthusiasm that the folks here at ESPN have. And the excitement, I think Sean alluded to it, there’s a lot of hockey fans inside of ESPN that were just dying to get the NHL back and that, for me, brings energy to me. And as bittersweet as it is, you’re sad to leave your old teammates but you’re excited for what’s to come. And I think like Mark alluded to, I think we’re also access, camera angles, you know how we’re going to bring the game to the viewers, that’s something that I’m really looking forward to. I don’t necessarily have the specifics, as to what it is, but I think with the diverse group that we have and the knowledge, the collective knowledge that we have, I think we’re going to do a great job of entertaining the fans and showcasing these great players.

Moderator: Okay we’ll go to Brandon Costa with sports video group. 

Brandon Costa: Thank you, Olivia. Quick one for you, Mark. You mentioned in your comments earlier that the game has changed a lot since you guys last had things on ESPN and Sean mentioned that there was a lot of talent that was flooding phones trying to get involved in this property once you got it. I have to imagine the same was true for behind-the-scenes folks. So short question is who did you end up getting to be the lead producer and lead director for your exclusive game coverage and was that something that came from the internal ranks or did you have to go externally, to find someone who maybe had more recent NHL game experience?

Mark Gross: We kept it internal. Fortunately, we’re blessed with a lot of big hockey fans, a lot of great production folks, obviously. The lead producer is Jeff Dufine. Jeff has, in the past, produced some of the biggest college basketball games on our air and in addition has been producing Sunday Night Baseball up until like the early part of July when we took him off to get ready for hockey. And then Doug Holmes, who was a part, and I believe has directed, I don’t know the exact number, I think he directed seven or nine Stanley Cup finals so he is already a staff director and is based in Charlotte. But that is the lead production team, and they will be doing the very first game on Tuesday night.

Moderator: And I think this will be our last question. We’ll go to Nick Cotsonika with

Nick Cotsonika: Hey Brian and Ray. Hope you’re well. I have a series of questions for Sean. You talked about your enthusiasm for hockey and you kind of alluded to a practice session so I’m curious, when’s the last time you called a hockey game? Out of all the sports you’ve done what’s unique about hockey, what do you like about calling it and just how does this fit your schedule like what’s the next few days, going to be like for you, like you, kind of crazy schedule?

Sean McDonough: I’ll address the last one first, because it is an issue right now as I’m sitting here surrounded by papers of Nebraska and Michigan football and as Olivia said, Ray and Brian are jumping on ESPN NHL production zoom call here in five minutes or so. And then as soon as that’s over I have a zoom call with Jim Harbaugh the Michigan players and coaches and I did do the Red Sox game last night, so.

And we’ll do more Red Sox playoff games, thankfully, on their radio network. Happy they won last night, so this is a particularly busy time of year. But you know, you learn when you do this, and I’ve done a lot of sports over the years that overlap, to get ahead in the prep. We’ve spent time together, as we mentioned to answer that part of the question, in late August a bunch of us – Ray, Brian, the other analysts, the other play-by-play people all met in Bristol and we did some games off a monitor just to get a little sense of each other and the timing. For me, it was helpful, to answer that part of your question, just to get back and do some hockey because it has been a while. I don’t know the exact answer to your question. I’m not like some of my friends like Mike Tirico and Bob Costas who can remember you every moment of where they were every day of their life and what they were wearing what they eat and what the date that was, but it was it was a while ago. I’ve done some Frozen Fours since we had the NHL, I know that. If I looked it up, I could tell you when the last Frozen Four I did was but, it’s been a while. But, I think play-by-play is a skill that is transferable to the different sports and I felt even in the couple hours that we were together in Bristol that I was much more comfortable and much more in a flow than I was at the beginning.

And to that part of your question, what I like about calling hockey is that it really is a sport of rhythm and flow and I think you can do a little bit more of a radio style play-by-play on TV than maybe you would do in the other sports, because I think it can be hard to follow the puck, and it can be hard to identify players, although I think with the technology advancements in television since we last had it, those things aren’t as much the case. People will say, “oh it’s a great in person, sport, but it’s not great on TV”, I don’t think that’s true anymore. I was glued to the TV watching Brian and his teammates during these most recent playoffs and enjoy the heck out of it as a TV viewer. And I was at the Bruins Stanley Cup final a few years ago against the St Louis Blues sitting in the stands as a fan and I said to my buddies, “wouldn’t it be great to have the chance to do this someday on national TV?” The reality that that’s going to happen next year for us is really exciting too.

And the last part, I would say, to answer your question, to fully answer it, we’re well past that, is that the hockey community is really special. It’s close-knit. A lot of you cover hockey regularly, and you know that it’s a tight-knit community that is populated by really nice people. I have been really, really impressed by the enthusiasm for this partnership from the folks at the NHL. All of them have been incredibly welcoming and helpful already in terms of preparation and I think eager to do what they can. There’s been a number of questions that Grossie has dodged artfully about technology advancements and that sort of thing, but I do think that the NHL is really excited about what we can all do collectively in that regard as well. The sport’s never been better, I think we have a great team to help advance that and can’t wait to get excited and can’t wait to get started really excited to get started.

Moderator: Alright, thanks guys and apologies if we didn’t get to your question. We’re going to go ahead and wrap things up. We will have another call with some of these men’s colleagues tomorrow with Mark Messier, Chris Chelios, Steve Levy and Barry Melrose tomorrow, Thursday October 7 at 2pm Eastern.

More information on the ESPN networks’ NHL coverage is available along with all of the latest NHL headlines at

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Turner Sports Announces NBA Pre-season, Regular Season Opener Schedules

Courtesy: TNT/Turner Sports/NBA

TNT will launch its NBA preseason coverage next week.

The network made the announcement through a press release distributed Tuesday. The document states the networks’ preseason coverage is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. Oct. 5 with a showdown between the 2020-21 NBA Champion Milwaukee Bucks on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies.

Kevin Harlan will have the call for the game. Stan Van Gundy will provide additional commentary along with fellow analyst and NBA legend Reggie Miller. Reporters Allie LaForce and Stephanie Ready will have all of the game’s latest headlines and interviews.

Matt Winer, Isiah Thomas, and Channing Frye will be live in studio at half-time with all of the game’s first half highlights and headlines from around the league.

In other news, TNT will open its coverage of the NBA’s regular season Oct. 19 with not one but two double headers. The first double header will go down as follows: The first game will see the Bucks take the court against the Nets. The Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Lakers will tip off in the evening’s second game.

The second season-opening double header from TNT will air Oct. 21 with the Mavericks and Hawks opening the night. The Warriors and Clippers will round out the night’s coverage.

The Emmy Award-winning studio team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Shaquille O’Neal, and Kenny Smith will provide pre-game coverage ahead of each evening’s schedule on Inside The NBA.

All games broadcast through TNT will also simulcast online the through the Watch TNT app and at

More information on TNT’s NBA coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NBA headlines at:



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Turner Sports Announces Details For NHL Pre-Season Double Header Schedule

Courtesy: Turner Sports

Turner Network Sports will start its coverage of the NHL next week.

The company made the announcement Wednesday through a news release. The document states the company will launch its first-ever season of NHL coverage Sept. 30 with a double header schedule.

The schedule opens at 7:30 p.m. ET with a matchup of the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins. The Las Vegas Golden Knights and Los Angeles Kings will take to the ice in the schedule’s second game at 10 p.m. ET.

Kenny Albert, Eddie Olczyk, and Keith Jones will provide commentary and coverage for the Flyers-Bruins game. Brendan Burke, Darren Pang and Jackie Redmond will have the call for the Golden Knights-Kings game.

Studio coverage for the upcoming double header will come courtesy of host Liam McHugh, analysts Anson Carter and Rick Tocchet, and contributor Tarik El-Bashir.

In related news, TNT will launch its inaugural season of NHL regular season coverage at 7:30 p.m. ET Oct. 13. The opening game in the evening’s double header schedule will see the New York Rangers on the road against their Eastern Conference foes, the Washington Capitals. Later at 10 p.m. ET, the Western Conference takes to the ice as the Colorado Avalanche will host the Chicago Blackhawks.

Counting those two games, TNT’s regular season coverage of the NHL’s 2021-22 season will feature games on 25 Wednesday nights, including 15 double headers. Additionally, TNT’s coverage includes coverage of the 2022 Discover NHL Winter Classic (scheduled to take place Jan. 2, 2022), the 2022 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series (Feb. 26), and 2022 Tim Horton’s NHL Heritage Classic (March 13). Also, TNT will feature seven weekend of Sunday afternoon telecasts in March and April.

TNT’s full broadcast schedule for the 2021-22 NHL season is available here.

Audiences can stream TNT’s NHL coverage via the WatchTNT app on mobile devices and smartTVs, and online here.

More information on Turner Sports’ NHL coverage is available along with all of the company’s headlines at

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Ian Abel Band Debuts New Single, ‘Not Afraid To Die’

Courtesy: TAG Publicity

The Ian Abel Band debuted its latest single this month.

The band, fronted by its namesake, debuted the song ‘Not Afraid to Die‘ Jan. 3. The song, available to stream and download here, made its unofficial debut in a promo for a match between Cody Rhodes and Darby Allen for the TNT title at November’s All Elite Wrestling pay-per-view event, Full Gear.

Clocking in at just over two-and-a-half minutes in length, the song features a simple southern rock style arrangement. The dual acoustic/electric guitar pairing and its sound immediately lends itself to comparison to Bon Jovi’s timeless song ‘Wanted Dead or Alive.’ The airy, echo effect used in the arrangement adds to its depth and appeal.

The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement makes a statement about not being afraid of anything because the song’s subject has been to the lowest point possible in life. That sentiment pairs well with the ominous sense in the song’s musical arrangement.

Abel talked about the song during a recent interview.

“I wrote and recorded this song specifically for Cody Rhodes,” he said. “It was originally intended to be the Double or Nothing, Cody vs Dustin, promo, but Cody preferred ‘Shoes.’ At the time, AEW was just beginning and I wanted to write something that I thought captured Cody’s trailblazer like spirit. In hindsight, the song was better suited for the video package which included, Steve-O, Cody Rhodes and Darby Allin. Three very original performers who have paved their own way into history. Something I admire and am attempting to do myself.”

Abel released the song ‘Shoes‘ in 2019 as the music bed for a promo for the noted match between the Rhodes brothers.

The debut of Ian Abel Band’s latest single comes more than two months after the debut of the band’s then latest single, ‘All For Love.’ ‘All For Love’ is available to stream and download here.

More information on Ian Abel Band’s latest single is available along with all of the Ian Abel Band’s latest news and more at:

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TNT To Launch NBA Western Conference Finals Coverage Friday Night

Courtesy: TNT/Turner Sports/NBA

The NBA ‘s Western Conference Finals open Friday exclusively on TNT.

Coverage of the NBA Western Conference Finals presented by AT&T 5G is scheduled to open at 9 p.m. ET Friday.  The Los Angeles Lakers and Denver Nuggets will vie for the league’s Western Conference championship in the series.

Brian Anderson will have the call for the game.  Analysts Reggie Miller and Chris Weber will have Additional commentary for the series’ opening matchup.  Reporter Allie LaForce will have all of the game’s latest headlines.

The Arena presented by Tractor Supply will preceded the game at 7 p.m.  The hour-long broadcast will feature discussions on topics tied to the NBA off the court, such as racial equality and COVID-19.  Cari Champion, Draymond Green, and Isiah Thomas will conduct the discussions with a variety of guests.

TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader will follow The Arena presented by Tractor Supply.  Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith, and Shaquille O’Neal will preview Friday night’s game during the broadcast.  The group will also wrap up the game following the final buzzer on Inside the NBA presented by Kia.

TNT’s coverage of the NBA Western Conference Finals series continues Sunday beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET with The Arena presented by Tractor Supply.  The network’s full broadcast schedule for its coverage of the NBA Western Conference Finals series is noted below.

2020 NBA on TNT Western Conference Finals Schedule


Date Time (ET) Game/Commentators (Play-by-Play, Analyst, Reporter)
Fri., Sept. 18 7 p.m. The Arena presented by Tractor Supply

Cari Champion, Draymond Green & Isiah Thomas

  8 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith & Shaquille O’Neal

  9 p.m. Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Game 1

Brian Anderson, Reggie Miller, Chris Webber & Allie LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith, O’Neal & Green

Sun., Sept. 20 5:30 p.m. The Arena presented by Tractor Supply

Champion, Green & Thomas

  6:30 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

  7:30 p.m. Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Game 2

Anderson, Miller, Webber & LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith, O’Neal & Green

Tue., Sept. 22 5:30 p.m. The Arena presented by Tractor Supply

Champion, Green & Thomas

  6:30 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

  7:30 p.m. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets, Game 3

Anderson, Miller, Webber & LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

Thu., Sept. 24 7 p.m. The Arena presented by Tractor Supply

Champion & Thomas

  8 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

  9 p.m. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets, Game 4

Anderson, Miller, Webber & LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

Sat., Sept. 26

(if necessary)

8 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

  9 p.m. Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Game 5

Anderson, Miller, Webber & LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

Mon., Sept. 28

(if necessary)

8 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

  9 p.m. Los Angeles Lakers vs. Denver Nuggets, Game 6

Anderson, Miller, Webber & LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

Wed., Sept. 30

(if necessary)

8 p.m. TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

  9 p.m. Denver Nuggets vs. Los Angeles Lakers, Game 7

Anderson, Miller, Webber & LaForce

  Postgame Inside the NBA presented by Kia

Johnson, Barkley, Smith & O’Neal

All games broadcast through TNT will also simulcast online the through the Watch TNT app and at

More information on TNT’s NBA coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NBA headlines at:









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TNT Continues Coverage Of Lakers-Rockets Series Tonight; Celtics-Raptors Series Finale To Air Friday On TNT

Courtesy: TNT/Turner Sports/NBA

TNT continues its coverage of the NBA playoffs tonight.

The network’s coverage will center on the semifinal matchup between the Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets.  Los Angeles leads the Western Conference series two games to one.

Coverage is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. ET on TNT’s NBA pre-game show TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.  TNT’s broadcast team of Ernie Johnson, Charles Barkley, Kenny Smith and Shaquille O’Neal will discuss the game and what to expect in the other Western conference semi-final, that of the Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers.  The Clippers lead that series three games to one.

The quartet will also wrap up the Lakers-Rockets game following it conclusion on Inside The NBA presented by Kia.

In related news, TNT will carry a double-header schedule Friday beginning with coverage of Game Seven in the Boston Celtics-Toronto Raptors Eastern Conference semi-finals series.  Johnson, Smith, Barkley and O’Neal will open the evening’s coverage at 6:30 p.m. ET on TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by Autotrader.

After that game, TNT will turn its attention back to the Western Conference with coverage of Game Five in the Lakers-Rockets series.

All three games will simulcast online through and the Watch TNT App.  Coverage is sponsored by AT&T, Quicken Loans, and Apple Music.  Audiences can log in by using the username and password provided by their TV service provider.

More information on TNT’s NBA coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NBA headlines at:









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NBA Postseason Coverage Continues Monday, Tuesday On TNT

Courtesy: TNT/Turner Sports/NBA

TNT’s coverage of the NBA postseason continue this week with two consecutive days of coverage.



The network’s coverage opens tonight with a semifinals double header that is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. ET.  The Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics open the night with the fifth game in their best-of-seven series.  The series is tied at two games each.

Boston took the series’ first two games, but Toronto came back to win in a last second basket from OG Anunoby.  The Raptors took Game four in easier fashion.

Quarantine regulations will keep Boston’s starting Forward Gordon Hayward off the court despite his recovery from an ankle injury he sustained in Game 1 of the quarterfinals.  He is healed, but has to quarantine for at least four days as per league regulations just to ensure he has no symptoms of COVID-19.

The second game on the night will see the Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets face off in Game Three of their semifinal series.  That series is tied at one game each.  Coverage is scheduled to start at 9 p.m. ET.



The Miami Heat looks to finish off the Milwaukee Bucks in their best of seven semifinals matchup Tuesday night.  Miami leads Milwaukee 3-1 in that series.  Coverage is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The Los Angeles Lakers and Houston Rockets follow at 9 p.m. ET.  They are tied at one game each in that series.

More information on TNT’s NBA coverage is available online now along with all of the latest NBA headlines at:









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Echobats Debuts ‘Save Me From Loving You’ Video

Courtesy: Mercia Records

Rock super group Echobat debuted the video for its first-ever single this week.

The band — Tony Harnell (TNT), Joel Hoekstra (Whitesnake, Trans Siberian Orchestra), James Lomenzo (White Lion, Megadeth), Matt Starr (Mr. Big), and Eric Levy (Night Ranger) — debuted the video for its new single ‘Save Me From Loving You‘ Friday.  The video, shot in London, California, and New York as a result of the global COVID-19 pandemic, features the band members singing along (and performing to) the single.

The song’s musical arrangement features a catchy, upbeat indie-rock style arrangement that also has a touch of influence from the rock and pop sounds of the 1960s and 70s.  It will stick in listeners’ minds.

The song’s musical arrangement is a direct contradiction to its lyrical theme, which Harnell said is the polar opposite of the feeling in the song’s musical arrangement.

“The lyrics for ‘Save Me from Loving You’ are ironic for such a happy song!,” he said. “They’re kinda dark; describing someone who’s pretending to be something that looks good to the world while hiding a dark and empty soul. I think, against the happy melodies, it gives it a kind of cinematic mood. “Isn’t there more to you than shine, or are you an empty room”. A friend of mine described the song as Bop-Noir. I kinda like that!”

‘Save Me From Loving You’ is available to stream and download at: Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, and Deezer.  The song was mixed by Chris Collier (Prong, Lita Ford, Korn, Whitesnake).

More information on Echobats’ new song is available along with all of the band’s latest news at

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Violent Idols Asking Fans To Help Craft Its Next Video

Courtesy: Violent Idols

Violent Idols wants fans to help create the video for its new song ‘F*** You.’

The band debuted the song by itself April 23.  It is featured in the band’s new EP Idolatry, which is streaming in whole through Spotify.  The song and EP were produced and mixed by Kane Churko at The Hideout Recording Studio.

As the band prepares to create an official video for its new single, which features guest vocals from Gemini Syndrome front man Aaron Nordstrom, the group is launching a contest to get its fans involved in the process.  The band is asking fans to submit footage to the band showing how they say ‘F*** You’ during the COVID-19 quarantine.

The footage picked by the band will end up in the upcoming video.  Fans can submit their footage now here.

In terms of its musical arrangement, the song lends itself, ironically, to comparisons to works from Gemini Syndrome, The Veer Union and other similar acts through its heavy, guitar-driven foundation.  The song’s low-end and percussion adds to that comparison even more.

The song’s lyrical theme is an anger-fueled statement to which any listener can relate, and was discussed by the band recently in a collective statement.

“‘F*** You’ encapsulates a feeling that every single person alive has felt at one time or another,” the statement reads.  “Even the best of us still have moments where we just want to let our anger and frustration out and say, ‘F*** You.’  This song is an ode to that feeling, a feeling that need not be hidden inside, as it’s an honest reflection of he internal human struggle.”

The band’s enigmatic front man “V” added to the discussion with his own comment on the song’s creation with his own statement.

“Very appropriately, I started writing this song in my car after getting stuck behind bad driver after bad driver,” he said.  “Aaron [Nordstrom] and I had discussed the idea of him guesting on our EP and once I had the initial seeds for it I knew it would be perfect to involve him on.  Aaron is an extremely talented artist, and he brought a whole other layer of intellectual rage to the song that I would not have been able to do alone.”

‘F*** You’ is the fifth and final single from the new five-song EP.  The band debuted the EP’s lead single ‘Enemies With Benefits‘ Oct. 22, 2019.  The song’s musical arrangement presents a sort of industrial metal sound at its base while its lyrical theme is heavy in its own right.

“V” discussed the song’s lyrical theme in a previous interview.

“There is no hero without an enemy, and usually, even the villain thinks himself the hero,” he said.  “This song explores the schizophrenic relationship between the two and their perpetual bond.”

‘Enemies with Benefits’ is available to stream and download here.

The debut of the EP’s second song, a cover of The Doors’ ‘Break On Through (To The Other Side)‘ followed in December.  The band debuted the EP’s next song, ‘Unscripted VIolence,’ which is the theme song for AEW star John Moxley, on Feb. 5.  It was followed weeks later with the debut of the record’s fourth single, ‘New Religion (ft. K.A.Z.).’

More information on Violent Idols’ new song, contest, latest news and more is available online at:






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TNT Tips Off NBA Preseason Coverage This Weekend

Courtesy: TNT/Turner Sports/NBA

TNT will launch its National Basketball Association preseason coverage this weekend.

The network will launch the coverage with coverage of a matchup between the Lakers and Warriors.  Golden State will play host to Los Angeles for the game.  Coverage is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET.

Marv Albert will anchor Saturday’s broadcast.  He will be joined by analysts Chris Webber and Reggie Miller for additional commentary.  Reporter Allie LaForce will be courtside for all of the game’s latest news.

On the studio side, Casey Stern will anchor TNT’s in-studio coverage for the game.  Stern will be joined by analysts Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis for additional commentary.

Saturday’s game is just one of the preseason matchups that TNT will carry this month.  The network will broadcast a matchup of the Knicks and Pelicans Oct. 18.

TNT will feature a double header schedule as the NBA’s 2019-20 season opens Oct. 22. Up first on the night is a matchup of the Pelicans and the defending NBA Champion Raptors at 8 p.m.  The Lakers and Clippers follow at 10:30 p.m.

The network’s opening week broadcast schedule continues Oct. 24 with another doubleheader broadcast schedule.  Up first on the night is a matchup between the Bucks and Rockets at 8 p.m.  The Clippers and Warriors follow at 10:30 p.m.

In-game coverage of each game is compliments with the return of TNT’s Emmy Award-winning studio show, Inside The NBA.

More information on TNT’s NBA coverage is available online at:






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