Transcript: ESPN’s NHL Studio Commentator Conference Call

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Transcript: ESPN’s NHL Studio Commentator Conference Call

Steve Levy, Barry Melrose, Chris Chelios, Mark Messier

Date of Call: Wednesday, October 7, 2021

MODERATOR: Welcome to the NHL studio team media availability with Mark Messier, Chris Chelios, Steve Levy and Barry Melrose.

STEVE LEVY: Thanks to everyone joining. As one of the longstanding hockey-loving members of ESPN, Tuesday night will be an emotional night for me. I remember how emotional it was when we lost hockey the last time. So being on both sides of that has really been quite an emotional roller coaster.

What I tell everyone is everybody knows about Bucci and Linda and Barry and myself, but there were so many people behind the scenes who were just heartbroken about ESPN losing the NHL rights way back when. Camera operators, audio people, just so many hockey fans, die-hard hockey fans behind the scenes at ESPN.

So it’s a great joy to have the property back. I think we’ll all agree that the game has never been better in terms of skill and speed. And we’re fortunate that we have a history in covering the game on our side.

And I think many of you know my relationship with Barry. One of my favorite people on the planet. We’ve been to every single Stanley Cup Final, starting with Mess’ ’94 Ranger squad; that was our first together covering it. Barry was there in ’93 with the Kings, not with ESPN. And we’ve covered every single Stanley Cup Final since ’94, except for the work stoppage and the bubble in Edmonton.

So we got to see Mess’ first Stanley Cup — the most important Stanley Cup victory as a native New Yorker, I’ll say that. And obviously covering Cheli and all those great Detroit teams and have known both of those gentlemen a long time. Can’t wait to get started and working with them.

Fired up about Tuesday night in Tampa despite the heat and humidity that will be outside. Looking forward to raising that banner and seeing what the Lightning and Penguins have in store for us the rest of the season.

BARRY MELROSE: You forgot to mention when we owned the hockey team, Two Leaves (phonetic), another successful venture we were in. People should know they’re dealing with a couple of real, live owners in these interviews we’re doing.

One of the things, I haven’t told Leves this because it happened a day ago, I was working, doing some cleaning up in my closet and stuff and I found these two shirts, T-shirts. Nice ones though. And I looked at the front. They were two pictures of John Saunders. And they were great pictures.

I can’t remember getting them. I don’t know when I got them. But there’s four pictures of John on the front of each T-shirt, and one T-shirt is orange and one T-shirt is black. It’s so John. He was young. He was strong. He was vibrant, smile on his face.

You could just tell that he was ready to go somewhere and do something, have some fun with his friends. And it really grabbed me because we were all, with all what’s going on here with us getting the package back, there’s a lot of emotions out there. You can imagine when John Saunders just jumped out at me out of the middle drawer, it was pretty impressive stuff, pretty interesting. And just miss him so much.

Not just John, Tom Mees. I don’t know if you guys know Tom as well as other people, but great guy. Loved hockey. In ’93 he lived on the street. He lived in that bar and was playing the drums and just having a great time. And you couldn’t wait to see Tommy Mees, seeing him having a great time, enjoying himself. And another guy that loved hockey and died too early.

Another thing that’s interesting, Mess and I played together a long, time ago. Mess I think was 17 in Cincinnati. I was 21, 22. Obviously you didn’t know he was going to be this good. But you knew he was going to be good.

And we played together for a part of a year and then with the expansion draft, Mess ended up going to Edmonton. Pretty good deal on his part.

And Cheli is just a guy we all love watching. You can tell he loves playing. It’s not a chore for him to get up and go to the rink. I think you’ll see that he’ll be a player, an ex-player that doesn’t mind saying something, and will be ready. Won’t be scared to work hard, just like he was as a player. And I think that will make the broadcast really good.

When you have a bunch of guys that have charisma and senses of humor and aren’t scared of what they’re going to say, that’s the making of a good show and a lot of good comments. So hopefully that will continue.

But, again, it’s a long, long time since we’ve been here. We’re finishing all the things now it takes to get this ready. And it’s going to be a great broadcast. It’s going to be a great group of guys and girls. And it’s going to be a great number of shows that we’re going to put out.

So thanks to everybody that’s here today listening and hopefully we’ll be doing this monthly or biweekly and the stories will get better as the games get better.

MARK MESSIER: Good job, Barry. And it is true, Cincinnati, 17 years old, Barry was a veteran defenseman.

BARRY MELROSE: I was 21 years old.

MARK MESSIER: Just really excited to join ESPN. And one of the things that’s really struck me since talking to the folks here and coming up to Bristol in the studio is the passion that, as Steve mentioned, for the people here and how much they actually missed hockey.

When you’re actually playing the game, you don’t really get to see or are privileged to see so many of the things behind the scenes and how many people that are bringing this game alive to people around the world, the passion that they have to do that job, not only for the job itself but to actually be able to bring this great game into the living rooms of millions of people.

So really excited about that and really excited to join the whole entire team, especially Steve. Steve and I, we’re old China Club buddies, back in the early days in New York. And it will be fun, and Chris and Barry.

And the entire team, ESPN has put a lot of time into putting together a diversified team that can, like I say, really kind of articulate and shine some light on the great things that are happening in our game on and off the ice and really looking forward to it.

CHRIS CHELIOS: Again, working with ESPN, I’ve had the opportunity a few years ago, in the World Cup, and it couldn’t have been a better experience. I think back in the day we were playing even every other day, a night a game was on ESPN. I always thought that was the place for sports, especially hockey. It got so much exposure.

For me, it seemed like it was the best time, the playoffs and every other night rolling those games. So I jumped at the opportunity when I was given this job. And to work with Steve, first night, opening night, and Mess, we go back to ’83, ’84. Never played with Mess — thank God never played against him in the playoffs either, which is kind of ironic that we didn’t.

But I’m looking forward to it. Hopefully myself, bring a little passion to the studio with these guys. And hopefully Steve will carry us through the first couple of weeks here. And once we get used to it and comfortable with it, looking forward to it I really am. Haven’t been around the game a whole lot. Working as an ambassador with the Blackhawks, but this is going to be great.

You miss the hockey — (indiscernible) when you play you miss it, especially the playing part. But if you’re not coaching, I think this is going to be the next best thing, to be back in the game and around the players and in the room. And I really look forward to that. That’s one thing I really miss.

So being out in Bristol, the studio, it’s amazing with the setup. And loved my time there, too. So it’s going to be a great experience. I’m really looking forward to Tuesday night and opening up and being back, the NHL being back on ESPN.

  1. For Chris and Mark, why was this the time and opportunity for you guys to jump into broadcasting like this? And then for Steve and Barry, as guys who have seen the production side of ESPN, how important — you’ve talked about those people on the back end and the producers — with the success of a studio show, where will that fit come as you look at that?

MARK MESSIER: Interesting for me, when I retired I thought I would kind of get away from hockey in some respects. But I haven’t. I watch hockey every night of the week. Watch all the playoffs. I was going to different rinks around the league, obviously Madison Square Garden.

And I guess probably because of the Mark Messier Leadership Award has really made me pay attention to what the league is doing, what the players are doing and stay current, which is obviously going to be helpful for what we’re doing now.

And I guess just timing, just seemed to be the right time for me, personally, from what I’m doing in other aspects of my life. And the excitement around ESPN and coming back and the way the game is changing year to year and some of the great players. Everything seemed to fall into place perfectly for the timing for me.

CHRIS CHELIOS: I guess for me, the same thing, timing, after this last crazy year and a half, two years of shutdowns, not a whole lot to do. I’ve always been the kind of guy that likes to work and stay busy. And when I found out that ESPN was going to carry the NHL again, first thing I did was call the producers there and just told them if they were hiring, I’d be very interested in maybe doing something in some capacity — any way, part-time, full-time. It turned out to be a great schedule.

Like I said, I’m really excited. The experience I had during the World Cup working with Brett Hull, it was great working with professionals. Really enjoyed being around the studio, something I didn’t think I could sit around for that long. But it was just one of the best experiences I could imagine in doing TV and working with Steve and the rest of the ESPN crew. So, again, I’m just looking forward to it and really excited about it.

STEVE LEVY: My recollection of that World Cup, Barry and I are doing the games. It wasn’t a great World Cup, let’s just say. The U.S. team didn’t do that well and the young guns, the young stars, whatever they were calling them at that point, they were great. But what I can remember was so much attention on the studio. The game became secondary. It was like, what are Cheli and Hully going to say in between periods. That became such a focus.

It’s great we have Cheli with us now for every single game and cool that we all get to sit next to him.

But the studio has evolved over the years. I think our intermissions will look very different than they did 17 or 18 years ago. Television’s obviously changed a lot. And I was telling Mess this: The key to this is you think you have more time than you actually do. The intermissions fly, and whatever is on the scoreboard clock in the arena — we get maybe a third of that. A lot of that is commercial time.

So, if we get four or five minutes of content in between periods — and Barry knows about speaking in sound bites, try to make your point in 25 seconds and move on — it’s got to be fast moving and hard hitting. We want to have a good time.

I think that’s what you’re going to see. I think sports broadcasting has shifted. We have gotten away from Xs and Os come first and then having a good time. There will be always be a place to be smart and learn and teach about the game, but I really think the entertainment value has shot up in its importance. And we’re going to put, I think, a priority on that.

And that starts with all the people behind the scenes that you mentioned in the studio. And we’re looking forward to taking that studio show on the road once in a while and getting in front of a live audience, too.

BARRY MELROSE: What Leves is trying to tell you, there’s not going to be a lot of time for the color guys to talk. I think that’s what he’s trying to get through to everybody out there, so when the game starts you’re not that disappointed when you have time for three or four words before you have to get the mic back to Leves.

STEVE LEVY: I’ll let you know when you can talk, Barry.

  1. Steve, going back to the spring, when you hear that ESPN is getting it, and you are involved, what responsibility do you feel you and your team have to help grow the sport of hockey now that you guys had this opportunity again? And how do you feel like ESPN can achieve that with the game of hockey?

STEVE LEVY: It’s a mass responsibility. I take that piece very seriously, every time we go on the air. And we just missed it so much.

Again, I think it’s the insight. When you look at who we have look at who is on your screen today, Barry’s been on an island here for the last 15 years by himself. And he’s had lots of great stories, but, quite frankly, I’ve heard them three or four times. I was looking for fresh blood and Cheli and Mess —

BARRY MELROSE: You want some blood, I’ll give you some blood.

STEVE LEVY: They have a ton of great stories. So I think it’s capturing the new audience which grows the sport while also keeping the audience that hockey has entertained. I think Cheli and Mess will do a great job of that.

Listen, it’s odd that you can add veteran players, guys who have been out of the game in terms of playing for quite some time, yet their names still resonate. That’s why they’re Hall of Famers, they’re all-time greats. They can walk into any arena.

Every rookie that comes in the league right now, they’re 18, they still know who these guys are. And they obviously know Barry from being on TV all these years.

That’s the trick. The trick is to bring in a new audience and keep the audience we already have. We’re all suited to do that. It’s great responsibility that we all have. And I take it very seriously.

  1. A lot has changed since 2004, the last time you guys had hockey. HD has been adopted. A lot more, a lot easier to follow the games. Technology-wise, how much different is this upcoming season going to look for viewers when it comes to stats, implementing new graphics, as opposed to what it was in 2004?

STEVE LEVY: That’s a great question. I’d love to pass that to Barry, but he knows nothing about that, exactly the same amount as I do.

BARRY MELROSE: Analytics, analytics.

STEVE LEVY: Listen, Barry, let’s be honest with the people here, that’s not our department. But we have a department that will handle that. And I’m sure Grace will get you in touch with people for that.

They’re working on the score bug and all that stuff. Analytics definitely plays a role. I’d love to hear if Chris or Mark are into analytics. Hockey is a different sport when it comes to analytics and judging the heart and all that kind of thing and the courage that it takes to play the game.

It will play a role. I’ll be honest with you, as I sit here today I’m not sure the technology. I’m, quite frankly, trying to get the score right get us to commercial on time. That’s my role.

  1. Barry, one of the things, you’ve been in the business a long time, and the you’re fully aware that when it comes to NBA coverage, ESPN’s coverage and Turner’s coverage are often talked about and often compared for both networks. I’m wondering how do you view Turner studio show. Do you see it at all in terms of competition? Do you see it additive? I’d be interested in Mark and Chris’s take as well, because you’re very familiar and friends with the guys who are working there, too.

BARRY MELROSE: I won’t sit here and lie to you, Charles Barkley is a good friend of mine. I love watching him. He’s funny. He’s passionate. I’d like to be the same as him.

I think that there’s lots of room out there for good guys that can talk, good guys that can tell stories, good guys that can teach, good guys can break down a play.

Everybody has those guys. I think that’s one of the things that I really love about with these organizations is that they’re talented guys and they’re smart guys and they’re funny guys and the product is going to be great. The product is going to be off the chart. (Lost audio) for us ESPN guys to bring it every night. And make sure we’re putting a great show on whenever we’re on TV.

CHRIS CHELIOS: What I would say, obviously no animosity to them, they’re kind of our partner in the sense that we’re both carrying it. Been a lot of fun on these group texts with Rick Tocchet and Gretzky up to this point. Tocc, I think the first time on, his mic wasn’t on for the first three minutes. It didn’t look too good. So hopefully we’ll be able to (lost audio) the first night.

It’s going to be fun. And the crew of guys sitting in the room and seeing everybody that they hired a couple of weeks ago — we had our meeting in Chicago — everybody’s pumped up, both networks. I think it will be competitive a little bit with each other. That’s the nature of everybody.

STEVE LEVY: Mess, tell them we’re going to kick their ass. That’s what they want to hear.

MARK MESSIER: I’m not afraid of a little competition. I think competition makes everybody better. I think it’s just great that Wayne is going to be involved in sharing his perspective. I think it’s great for the league. When I took the job with ESPN to do this, I want to be good at it. I have no ego whatsoever, that I understand that I have a lot to learn and can learn from the people who have been doing it for a long time.

Certainly willing to take advice and take constructive criticism and do what I need to do in order to be good at it. And hopefully our broadcast and telecast resonates with the people.

But, look, I want to do good. I want our team to do good. I want ESPN to do good. And the first thing asked when they called me what are the ratings like; how do we compare ratings.

  1. Mess, what do you think about what the Rangers have done in terms of trying to toughen up their roster, whether that was necessary and whether you think the way they’ve done it will help?

MARK MESSIER: I think it’s getting overplayed a little bit. If you look at any championship team, you have to have a well-balanced team. You have you to have finesse. You have to have scoring and grit and character. You have to have guys who can protect your players. You have to have great goaltending.

And my point last year when all this happened, the Rangers weren’t there yet. They didn’t have that element to their team that is much needed. I don’t think anybody would like to see what happened with Panarin and their star player. And I don’t ever remember it happening to Wayne Gretzky or Brian Leach or any teams I’ve played on.

I think the reason why is because we had players who could fill different roles. And in order to be a Stanley Cup contender you have to have a well-balanced team.

I think the fact they’ve gotten Ryan Reaves — who I love, who could have played on any team that I’ve ever played on; I love him and his character and the energy that he brings to the team — but I think that in Edmonton everyone considered us a finesse team, but we could win in the streets or we could win in the alleys.

That’s the way that I was brought up into the game and I don’t think the game has changed all that much even with the rule changes where there is definitely an intimidation factor even with it all.

I would never want to be on the end of being pushed out of the game because we couldn’t have an answer for any of the physical elements the team was trying to push on us.

And believe me teams tried for years to knock us out of our game in Edmonton for the obvious reasons. Couldn’t do it. And that’s why we won five Stanley Cups — one of the reasons why we won five Stanley Cups.

  1. Very curious about what you guys feel on these divisions, of who you think is going to be a little bit more competitive in that way in a tight race. As examples, the Central last year was neck and neck with one point here, ties were very crucial, everything like that. Is there anything different that you feel coming in with all these? Is there going to be a division that’s going to stand out more, a little tougher? As we’ve seen through the preseason last nights games Jets were close, everything as well? But this season I think we’ll get back to it where it’s going to be real every point is going to count. And a lot of teams I think are going to try to come out right away, right off the hop. But if they are slugging it out in the last tail end, is there a division that you think is going to be that type of division we want to keep an eye on?

MARK MESSIER: I would keep an eye on the Metropolitan Division. I think the Devils have a real talented team — the Islanders obviously. The Rangers are going to take a massive step forward. If there’s going to be a division that’s really kind of posturing and changing and three or four teams have a chance to win that division, that could be it.

That’s who I’ll be interested in seeing how the division works out, me personally.

BARRY MELROSE: One thing I’ll be interested in is the two Florida teams. I lived in Florida. One of them has won two Stanley Cups in a row. And obviously the one that got beat by Tampa Bay, Florida, maybe gave Tampa Bay the best game they had in the playoffs. That’s certainly a place to watch.

And it’s great to see new markets. What about — we’ve got Seattle. I coached in Seattle. What a beautiful city that is. What they’re doing at the start of the season, if you watch exhibition games, they’re playing very well. They look very, very solid.

That’s going to be a team that we’re going to watch out because everyone will say they’ll be as good as Vegas. They’re not going to be as good as Vegas, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be pushing for a playoff spot. That’s going to be a great story as well.

Those two Florida teams, when did any of us ever think we’d say two of the best three or four teams in the NHL come from Florida? I don’t think we would have thought that when were 12 or 13 years old, growing up in Western Canada or wherever Cheli grew up.

CHRIS CHELIOS: Moose Jaw was the place that turned it all. That’s about it. I’m a little bias, Chicago, the Hawks, the moves they made. Obviously a big market. Everybody wants to see them, especially with their star players — Toews, Kane — Kane, still one of the best in the league. Hopefully they’ll be back in the playoffs with Fleury, Jones, picked up Tyler Johnson. Toews is healthy again. Looks like he’s back and looked good in the exhibition games.

It’s going to be interesting. I’ve only seen a few games in exhibition here. Time will tell. Chicago got off to that great start last year, and then kind of at the end, games started meaning more, and, like you mentioned, every point is so important, especially the way it’s set up these days nowadays with the point system. Everybody’s in it right until the end for the most part. So it’s going to be exciting.

STEVE LEVY: Regarding division play, last season it was crazy with everything going on with the pandemic and everything. But it was really cool, like the all-Canadian Division, I thought that was neat. It seemed like only playing in your division, because of travel restrictions, that made for a lot of wars every single night, seeing the same people over and over again.

I like the old-time stuff, quite frankly. I enjoyed that. I knew it was one and done. We have to make sure the great stars from all over this league are seen in every market, home and away. And I, too, am looking forward to seeing Seattle play at home and juicing up the rivalry with Vancouver. I think that’s going to be a really nice touch and make the Canucks more prominent in the NHL. That’s good for Western Canada and BC, such a beautiful place to be.

  1. For Mark and Chris, you guys are coming into this as people who haven’t been part of the traditional broadcasting and part of NBC’s — I know, Chris, you did some stuff with the World Cup of Hockey. For you guys is there anything about hockey broadcasting you thought we should try this that you want to try on air? And then for Steve, as someone who has their hands in a bunch of sports, is there anything from football or basketball or another sport where you say, hey, let’s bring this to hockey broadcasting that we can bring in here?

MARK MESSIER: I agree with Barry. I think that the NBA with Barkley and Shaq, they do an awesome job, partly because they’re really funny. But at the same time they hit the topics. They have an opinion. And I just remember being a big Celtic fan back in the ’80s. And my brother was a Los Angeles Laker fan, watching those final series all the time, and Mike Fratello doing an amazing job with the color analysis of teaching the game. And it gave me a better perspective of basketball because of what he was able to articulate to the viewers.

So I think there’s definitely an educational component to what we’re trying to do, to entertain and educate at the same time and give a viewer more of a glimpse into the challenges that the players face, maybe both on and off the ice. So I think it’s a combination of both.

And as far as reinventing the wheel, I don’t know if I would say we’re going to reinvent the wheel. But I think, to Steve’s point earlier in this interview, maybe a little less of exactly what happened on the goal. Everybody can see what happened in certain areas, but maybe there’s 15 different things that happened prior to that that even allowed a goal.

But something like that, where maybe Xs and Os, maybe a little more entertainment, maybe a little more education.

CHRIS CHELIOS: Like Steve said, we’ve got a great fan base in hockey. But the key is to get more fans, attract more fans. Hockey is such a great sport, live TV, it’s a little tricky because of the speed and cameras.

Like Mess said, just explaining how things happen, breaking down for a person that doesn’t understand the game as well might be a good way to try and educate them and teach them, like Mess says, how the goal happened and why guys were getting beat out of the corner.

After coaching for a few years, the way it is, they break it down, the video and stuff.

It’s just so much more, I don’t know what the word would be, but I think we can bring by playing, my knowledge on defense, I guess, might be able to make the fans understand a little better on what happened.

That should be something I should be able to add a lot to.

BARRY MELROSE: I think that we have to cater — cater is the wrong word, but the young guys nowadays, they want to learn hockey. They’re all about numbers. Teaching-wise, better to have the puck on your stick this many times, the more you have it on your stick, the puck possession, the more chance to score, and why winning draws are important on both ends of the rink.

And Gretz, a lot of times he didn’t even try on draws at center ice. If there’s a goal on the line at the other end of the rink, he’s going to be a dog on that puck, win that draw every time how does that come about, why is that possible? Things like that. I think there’s lots of ways we can teach better.

But I agree with the guys, what makes our sport special is the passion we play with, how hard we play, the courage we show. Guys playing hurt; they don’t care, they’re out there.

I think people love to see that, too, because it’s so far from our civilization right now, it’s just great to see guys with courage playing hard every night. And I think people like to see that also.

And we’ve shown that over the years very, very good. Whoever has done the NHL. It’s hard not to come up with a great vision of players being tough and taking care of each other and playing hard every night.

STEVE LEVY: From my perspective, I’m sort of wearing two hats with hockey. So there’s very little carry-over from doing NFL to NHL in terms of the booth. The NFL is so structured. The snap, the whistle, end of the play and the analysts jump in.

In hockey you can go six, seven, eight minutes without a whistle. So I think there’s not a lot of carry-over that I can take from Monday Night Football into the NHL, but on the studio side, I do — I’d love to smash the format. We talked about this a little yesterday, Mess and I. Here in October we need to show every second period goal from an otherwise ho hum regular season game, for me personally — I might lose this battle with the producers — but I would much rather have a story from one of these three guys or something funny, something light an experience they had, as opposed to another power play goal from the point or deflection in front of the net. We’ll see a thousand of those across the season. That’s what I mean by shaking up the format a little bit.

Hey, if it’s a great goal, a great save, a great hit, absolutely, let’s show it three times. But if it’s garden variety, I think we can spend our — our time is better spent in listening to one of these experts and listening to what they have to say and how they can tell it.

  1. Steve’s point, in terms of let’s spruce things up a little bit. Both all you guys today and the tournament crews, expressing the value of bringing in more entertainment, more conversation, more personality, life to the telecast. Have you spoken to fans, particularly the younger ones, is that what they want to hear from you guys? And do you think by presenting the games in that more colorful way that we’re going to find more people watching NHL games?

STEVE LEVY: I’ll start there. I just think that’s probably for focus groups. Like I know what my friends like and my friends love hockey. I assure you they want to hear from these three guys and they want to laugh.

And so while I haven’t taken my own informal poll in terms of hockey fans out there, that is my sense. And you see it elsewhere. We keep going back to it because it’s sort of the crown jewel of studio shows.

And that’s the NBA on TNT. And don’t fool yourselves. Barkley and Shaq are great. We all know who the ring leader of that is, and that’s the host, of course, Ernie Johnson. He does such a great job in setting those guys up and putting them in position.

But I think that’s perceived as the top game we’re not above top studio show, not game. I’m not going to be above copying something or taking a piece of something if in fact it’s greatness. Why wouldn’t you want to be like the best, join the best or be right there in that same company. So that’s something for us all to try to emulate going forward.

And I think that’s really all I have to know in terms of what the public wants. That’s my sense. I do get that same sense on social media, on Twitter. A lot of times it’s not that warm and cuddly, but it can still help. I’m sure the focus groups are out there saying these types of things. If not, we’ll be told otherwise.

CHRIS CHELIOS: I’m walking around, people are looking forward to seeing me, how I’m going to do. Thinking I’m going to be good at it. I hope they’re right. But again, just our personalities, me and Mess, Barry. Steve, you’re a pro.

We’re going to learn off of you and get better and hopefully enjoy it. And have a lot of fun. That’s the key. Everybody has to have fun and have the viewers enjoy watching us listening to the stories.

Steve, you have your hands full, I’ll tell you that, with me and Mess, but we’re good listeners. I think people are really excited about this, they really are, about ESPN being back with hockey and the cast of guys that are going to be on it.

MARK MESSIER: I don’t know if I can add any to any of that. Other than I came here yesterday for some rehearsals, sat down with Steve and did some mockup scenarios there. And it just struck me what an unbelievable professional he is, how comfortable he made the whole experience and how he will be able to draw out of Chris and I the things that I think will be interesting to the viewers to listen to.

And I think that gave me so much confidence entering into the first game that easy going, really relaxed but fun and just has an amazing way about him that he’s done — he’s a real professional and I think that alone to his point with Ernie Johnson and that set.

The setup guy, obviously, is critical to the whole tone of the panel. And Steve has mentioned a lot of times he wants to make it fun. I completely agree with him. And it just gave me a lot of confidence that we’re going to be able to put a good show together.

BARRY MELROSE: I don’t know how he did it at ESPN, but everybody there is funny. You have Leves, he’s much funnier when you got him alone than he is right now. But Bucci, funny guys, great stories. Passion. I think that’s what we have in our group is the energy and passion and a bunch of guys together that want to talk about hockey and tell stories and listen to stories and score goals and wonder why they went in and things like that.

There’s no reason why we can’t have that in our broadcast, fun, character. I get back to passion. I think what makes our team special or our group of guys special is all these guys have played, most of them. All of these guys have been tough guys. When they said they stood up, got in a scrap with a guy, they’ve done that. They’re not a bunch of guys that didn’t hit anybody or play that style of play.

These guys have all lived the dream and battled the battle. So I think the product on the ice, give the people a reason to love these guys, because once you meet them and know what they’re like, you’ll love them.

MODERATOR: Thank you.

CONTACTS:

ESPN

Danny Chi | [email protected] | 213-405-4400

Grace Coryell | [email protected] | 213-405-4402

ESPN+

Kevin Ota | [email protected] | 860-839-7834

Olivia Wilson | [email protected] | 904-303-3538

Grace Coryell

Based out of the LAPC in Los Angeles, Calif., Grace Coryell is manager of communications focusing on X Games and West Coast PR. A native Angelino, Coryell attended the University of Southern California and began working at ESPN in 2008.
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