ESPN’s NHL studio show thriving with cast of analysts

Steve Levy, Mark Messier and Chris Chelios’ (l to r) between-periods analysis is not forced, and their roles have been naturally definedESPN Images

The cast of ESPN’s Stanley Cup playoff studio show feel “free to be themselves,” which is a “big part of the reason the crew has clicked, blending together comfortably in a relatively short period of time,” according to Bob Raissman of the NY DAILY NEWS. The main trio – Steve Levy, Mark Messier and Chris Chelios – “never come off preachy,” and their inter-period analysis is “not forced.” Their roles have been “naturally defined.” Levy “pushes buttons, stirring the pot.” Chelios “rarely smiles but keeps his analysis tight and on point.” Messier is the “eternal optimist whose analysis is understandable and insightful.” Having Brian Boucher, who “gets less airtime,” in the studio “specifically concentrating on goalie play, which is a critical part of playoff hockey, completes the package.” No in-game reporter has made “better use of her limited time” than Emily Kaplan, whether it be “during an interview or while she is offering up info” (NY DAILY NEWS, 6/12).

FIRST-TIME CALLER: In Phoenix, Bill Goodykoontz notes this is the “first time” ESPN play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough will call the Stanley Cup Final. His broadcasting career included two seasons as the play-by-play voice of “Monday Night Football,” but that “did not work out.” To McDonough’s thinking, “all’s well that ends well.” McDonough: “If you had told me back then you have the choice between ‘Monday Night Football’ and the Stanley Cup Finals, I would choose this in a heartbeat.” McDonough’s delivery is “deceptively straightforward.” Goodykoontz: “He’s got a dry wit that’s all the funnier because of the way he says things – he just kind of says them, meaning you either get the joke or you don’t.” McDonough said, “People do not have to watch the game. I’m not there to call attention to myself.” He added, “I have friends all the time say why doesn’t more of your personality come out on TV? I say well, I think it comes out enough.” McDonough has “called college hockey, and he called NHL games for ESPN when the network had rights to the league previously.” When they reacquired the rights, he “made it known he wanted to be the lead play-by-play announcer,” and “it worked out” (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 6/13).

STAR IN THE MAKING: In NY, Phil Mushnick noted in the first period of Lightning-Rangers Game 5 Thursday, Rangers D Adam Fox “made two sixth-sense passes, perfectly hitting teammates in stride with cross-ice passes.” Soon after, from his position between the benches, ESPN’s Ray Ferraro “captured Fox’s game in a suitable-for-framing take.” Ferraro: “You watch Fox play once, you might be underwhelmed. You watch him play five times and you start to love it. You watch him play 10 times and you say, ‘That guy is a star’ “(NY POST, 6/12).

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