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Q & A with Marc Kestecher

Brian Noe

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From his early days of having beer spilled on him while calling an Arena Football League game, to his dream role of calling the NBA Finals last June for ESPN Radio, Marc Kestecher has quite the tale to tell. He’s a very bright guy with plenty of insight to share on numerous aspects of sports broadcasting. Marc also has an outstanding reputation as one of the great individuals in the business. After reading this piece, I’m sure you will be able to see why many people think so highly of him.

BN: How did you initially break into the business?

MK: Well, I guess I wanted to be a broadcaster. My parents didn’t think it was a real career so we took a look and chemical engineering was the route. I was pursuing that at Syracuse University for two years until I realized it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I was at a great university with broadcast students. So, I switched into communications.

Everything changed when I got an internship my junior year with the Albany Yankees Double-A affiliate. I was working under a guy named Dale McConachie. We worked together that summer during my internship. He was a basketball announcer in Albany for the Patroons, a CBA team. I had switched to take classes at University at Albany, so I was working with him. The season started in October or November, and by December 25th, he landed the Triple-A baseball job in Portland, OR and he was going to take it because baseball was his thing.

The Patroons were left without an announcer and as they looked for a suitable backup, they asked me if I had any experience. Fortunately, I had been taking as much time as I could to make tapes, sit in the crowd, call the game when I wasn’t doing anything on air with Dale. That tape landed me a two-week, four-city road trip audition, which apparently I passed. I had it for the rest of the year and I was on my way.

BN: How did that lead to you ultimately landing in Bristol?

MK: I went from my Albany years — for six, to Cleveland — for almost three. A guy that I worked with at WKNR radio in Cleveland, Greg Brinda, was on the short list of fill-ins for ESPN Radio GameNight, which was on weekends — Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Great show.

I gave Greg my audition tape to give to anybody, which turned out it never got listened to, but part of the deal for Greg when he went up to Bristol was on Monday morning he would do his Cleveland radio show from a Bristol studio. The guy who ultimately hired me happened to be in the booth while one of my updates was coming down the line, and he was like, “Oh, what’s that voice?” From there, Greg gave them my number and they brought me out for a series of auditions in the fall of ’98.

BN: What do you remember from those auditions?

MK: I remember being incredibly nervous. It was a little different because I had been used to being in my own booth. In the old ESPN Radio days it was a little, corner broadcast booth with three microphone positions and most of the time there were three co-hosts. I would have to walk in about a minute before the update and one of the hosts would have to vacate — usually, right about the time they were sending it to the update. So, one guy would get up, I’d quickly sit down and have to deliver my update in front of Chuck Wilson, Tony Bruno, Keith Olbermann, or Chris Berman. It was nutty.

I couldn’t believe where I was sitting, but I thought I held my own. I thought I did a pretty good job. I did the best that I could do. I got a second audition and by then I was feeling a little more confident. By the end of the second audition, I had a feeling that there was gonna be an opening and I started hunting apartments. Sure enough, I got a third audition, and after that they offered a contract.

BN: How has ESPN Radio changed over the past two decades?

MK: Well, it’s a complete change in many ways in A) our studios. We went from that corner, little tiny dinky studio, to state of the art, digital, multi 55-inch plasma HDTV viewing studios. Also, how people receive our content. We were only on terrestrial radio stations. Then, ESPNRadio.com happened and we became available online. Then, with the advent of smartphones — the app. Many people get it that way.

I should add somewhere in that timeline, I don’t know if it was 2001 or 2002, whenever SiriusXM went on the air, satellite radio started delivering us 24/7. That also helped and became another way which we were heard. From how we go about putting our stuff together in studio, to how it is received by everybody, it’s just changed completely over the 20 years that I’ve been there.

BN: Do you think there’s anything that translates from doing play-by-play to hosting sports talk radio shows?

MK: I think the one common thread is the unscripted nature of it. I think as a play-by-play guy, you do all of your preparation in the days before your event. Then, once the game starts, you can look at your chart all you want, but you’ve got to basically keep your head up and call the action that you see in front of you. Have most of the stuff that you want to add memorized in your head.

Even though it’s a world apart from a talk show, there are some parallels in that most of your prep is done before, and you don’t know what direction you’re heading in if you’re taking phone calls. Callers may drive that show. We don’t do that as much nationally, but there still are guests and co-hosts that can take things in completely different ways then you would have planned.

I don’t do talk shows, so I don’t know exactly what the thread is, but just from having done a few here and there, it would be the kinda tightrope, high-wire-act nature of being on air — cracking a microphone and filling three hours of time.

BN: When you’re doing play-by-play, it’s so important to be concise. As a color commentator, Cris Collinsworth has talked about diagnosing a play and having maybe 10 seconds to do it — it’s not the easiest thing to pull off. Do you have any tricks of being concise when you’re doing a game?

MK: It’s more than a trick. It’s just that internal clock after the reps of doing hundreds of games. You know when something that has to be described on radio is coming up, and you have to get the idea of what you see and share it in this small timeframe. I think it’s just repetition.

Look, there are some naturals out there. Especially, analysts I’ve worked with who’ve never done games on radio or even TV. On radio, concise is obviously most important cuz your play-by-play guy needs to describe everything because you can’t see anything. On TV, things can be disjointed — you can see things and you may want to describe things, but now you’ve added a third element of what does the producer/director want to do? What replays are they going to show? What package are they going to squeeze into this moment?

Analysts on television, and even on radio, they’re impressive in two different ways — the conciseness of the radio analysts and then on TV, being able to work around multiple things that are happening at the same time — and then still describing the most important part of the game.

BN: You mentioned the internal clock. I’d imagine there are times when the color commentator says something that triggers a thought, but your foresight kicks in and you know there isn’t time for it. How has your foresight improved over the years?

MK: I think I always had a sense of the timing of the game, especially on radio. Where I’ve gotten better over the years, and with repetition, is to hold that thought. To expand on that thought, but yet at the same time I’m doing something else. It happens in nanoseconds, but now I have to describe something — and obviously in a game like basketball or hockey — you may have to hold onto that thought for 30 seconds or 60 seconds.

In football, you know you’re going to have time after a play is done unless you have a hurry-up offense. In baseball, generally you call the next pitch and you can get right back into it. So, it’s really positioning yourself for how you’re going to continue that thought. I think it can be very overwhelming in the beginning just trying to handle the action in front of you. That’s the part that repetitions help is knowing that you can hold that thought, and know exactly where you need to get to, to continue that conversation.

BN: When I think about hosting shows, sometimes listening can be really difficult because as a host, I’m organizing my thoughts, the reads, the tease, and I’m looking at the clock. Do you find listening to be one of the toughest things to do while calling games?

MK: Listening has been a work in progress for my entire broadcast career because there are so many avenues you can go down based on the response from your analyst’s, callers or from an interview subject.

I’d say almost 100% of the time, I script out my questions. I have a flow, an order of how I want an interview to go. I also don’t want to miss anything that’s important or get sidetracked, but at the same time I’m trying my best to listen to what the answer is or what the analyst is saying, because I think it sounds great when you’re having a conversation rather than I talk, you talk, I talk, you talk. Also, something might be said that I didn’t realize and just from a curiosity standpoint — maybe for the betterment of the interview and broadcast — that’s the direction it should go. It can open up more avenues.

BN: How extensive is your preparation for calling games?

MK I guess it depends on the sport, but it’s very extensive. For football, it’s a serious one-week project. Sometimes, when I have time, I can turn it into 10-days or two-weeks. That’s not usually normal unless you’re coming off of the summer and getting right into the first week of the season because there’s so many other things going on.

I generally try to give it a hard seven days to gather stories and stay on top of things. A lot of my preparation turns to video prep. I can watch games, see patterns of how coaches are going to rotate their players and just get a better sense of who normally comes in and out of games.

BN: What percentage of your prep hits the cutting room floor?

MK: You’d be shocked. On radio, I don’t know if I can give it a fair percentage. There are days where I feel like I only use 20% of what I had because A) the game was so good, or if it’s a quick game like in basketball, you’re really confined to description and working off of your analysts. I’d say for football and basketball on radio, I’d like to think I get close to 50%, but there are times where it’s significantly less depending on the action.

BN: What would surprise people about the difference between calling professional games compared to college games?

MK: I think people might be surprised at how much more preparation goes into a football game. Appreciating the fact that when there’s more than 200 players combined, and some of them have the same jersey — you’ll see a #1 on offense as a wide receiver. You’ll see #1 on defense as a cornerback. You’ll see #1 on special teams. And sometimes there’s a fourth #1. There’s two guys you might see on special teams — they can’t play at the same time, but they’re all wearing #1. So, being prepared for just a ton of players. If you have a blowout, you’re getting past your two-deeps. Now, you’re working with freshmen and sophomores who usually don’t play. It’s an amazing haul.

I think people also may be surprised — on football broadcasts — how many people are in the booth. You’ve got your play-by-play voice and analyst. The statistician and spotter. If it’s a network broadcast, we have a producer. And then there’s a tech, the engineer who’s getting us on the air. So, it’s a huge production. It’s like a traveling family during college football weekend that I think people would be surprised about.

BN: I just flashed back to being a little kid and having multiplication flash cards. You have to know the players immediately. It can’t be five seconds later. How do you go about that?

MK: I have, and most guys have, what they call a spotter chart. You can put all of your offense and defense, numbers, colors, names. I find that with my video research the first two or three days can be difficult because you’re seeing the same number over and over and it’s just not sticking. Or, you’re preparing for two football games in the same week and you’re just not getting the right #38. Then, somewhere magically by the fourth day or so, it just starts popping into your head. It’s an amazing process of memorization. It is kind of like flash cards, and I take that spotter chart with me for the game just in case I need to look down.

Also, people may be surprised to learn that having a spotter, which I have for just about every football game, is invaluable. His one job is to identify players for me. I generally handle the offense. I’ll have a spotter watch the huddle and see who the running back is. So, pre-snap I’ll get the running back from my spotter. I’ve got everything else on offense. Together, we’ll work on defense, but I really lean on my spotter for who makes a tackle — especially runs up the middle where it’s hard to see amongst 10 people, or three guys are colliding on a short pass over the middle. He or she has their binoculars on, or just sees it quicker than I do and points to my chart, so that we correctly identify who the tackler is.

BN: If you’re working a college football game, and a month or two later you’re broadcasting the same team’s game, how much of the previous experience sticks with you vs. having to relearn everything again?

MK: It’s funny because after an entire week, and by the fifth day I’m finally starting to get the names, you’d be surprised how quickly after the game is over you can flush that out of your brain. If I had to do the game over again five hours later, I might have to relearn some things because I’m on to the next game already.

I do find that with football and even with college football, if I get the same team a month later, it just comes a lot quicker. It may only take a few series to watch and be like, “Oh, that’s right. I got that guy.” You have all the skill guys. You have most of the defense. It is actually a nice thing if you have USC Week 1, and then USC pops up in November, because you know it’s not gonna take quite as long. For me, it may require watching a quarter or a half not necessarily five days.

BN: I interviewed Craig Sager a few years ago, and I remember him telling me that when he’d do sideline reporting for the NCAA Tournament, he’d wear a lot of neutral colors. He wore a lot of plaids because fanbases would freak out if he was wearing a colored jacket that matched the rival school. They’d accuse him of rooting for that team. Do you pay any attention to what you wear when you’re calling a game?

MK: I always thought that was nonsense. And I have to tell you, I can report that when I’m packing my suitcase for college games, and even pro I suppose, I try to make sure I do not wear the color of either team. Sometimes I forget, but I’ll share a story with you from about six or seven years ago.

I was on my way to Arizona for the BCS National Championship Game, and I had a college hoops game at Oklahoma State. I packed a purple tie not thinking anything of it. Oklahoma State was hosting Kansas State, and purple is their predominant color. Fran Fraschilla, my analyst, had kind of mentioned it on the ride over. I still kind of blew it off. Then, I did get a couple snide remarks at the arena. Some, I think, were in jest. Some, I think, weren’t. I remember thinking to myself, “You know what, that’s the last time I’m not gonna pay attention to what colors I’m gonna put in my suitcase.” Because when you are visible, which you are for basketball games, not so much for football, it can be a problem.

BN: Is there anybody in the broadcasting business of play-by-play, that is a known fan of a particular team, or do most guys keep that under wraps?

MK: I don’t think for play-by-play. Look, we’re all human. We all love sports. So, I would guess, we all had a team growing up that may be in a field that you’re working in now — whether it’s baseball or football or basketball. What I will say is, over the years it’s hard to imagine for those of us who love sports, that you start to lose that everyday zeal of your team winning at all costs.

I’m still a sports fan. I still watch the teams that I grew up rooting for, but I find I don’t have a rooting interest, and especially when I’m broadcasting them. I mean that goes completely out the window. It could be a team that I don’t care about by the time I’m broadcasting it. You have to take that out of the equation.

I’m sure there have to be some announcers that still really enjoy certain teams and follow them, but none that I know of. Especially as a national announcer, you’re calling it down the middle anyway. If you’re a home team announcer, you could be accused of being a homer, but you’re calling 162 in baseball or 82 in the NBA. I think your normal slant is going to go towards the home team where you’re trying to entertain the home team fans. So, maybe that goes into your process. I think most of us, we just root for close games. We root for Game 2 of the World Series where you have unbelievable action that will be remembered for a long time. That’s what you root for the most.

BN: Speaking of Game 2 of the World Series, a Dodgers fan jumped into the Astros bullpen. Have you ever worked a game where something wild like that took place?

MK: I don’t know if I had anything crazy in my years, but I have been in front of tense crowds. I can remember working the FIBA Tournament in 2010 in Istanbul. Turkey was playing in the opposite semifinal from the US. I think it was Turkey against Serbia. It’s legendary in Europe about basketball and the fans. Even soccer, we’ve heard all the soccer stories about the national teams playing each other. There was that feeling. It was a little bit tense in the building.

More on a humorous side, when I was doing Arena Football in my early years, I was doing a game in Iowa and Kurt Warner was the quarterback for the Iowa Barnstormers before he had made his ascent into the NFL. The broadcast position was kind of an overhang in the first row of the second deck. The fan’s knees were on my back. There was beer spilling everywhere. Nothing malicious toward us, but I remember thinking this is the wildest scene I’ve ever been a part of. I’m a road announcer in the middle of this madness.

BN: We were talking earlier about the challenge of listening. You’ve worked with some tremendous people over the years — Dr. Jack Ramsay, Hubie Brown, etc. — has there ever been a time where the guy you’re working with has said something so well and so interesting that it was hard to focus on what you were going to say next?

MK: I’ve had the great pleasure to work with Dr. Jack. I still get a chance to work with Hubie and it is daunting in that when you talk about listening — you wanna take in what they say, and many times you wanna amplify it as a play-by-play guy, but sometimes there’s nothing more that needs to be said because they’ve seen everything. All you can hope for is it triggers a story where there’s something the two of you have shared in the coach’s office, or perhaps even something historical.

I always found working with Dr. Jack and still working with Hubie, I try to stay on top of my basketball history. Something that might be germane to the game — something I might know casually, but I wanna know more details. Cuz those guys lived it, and many times they coached it, and they were a part of those players.

The story that I always enjoy telling was in the NBA Finals for a number of years we had Dr. Jack and Hubie as part of a three-man booth for the Finals. With Mike Tirico as play-by-play. I think one year Jim Durham was the play-by-play. So, we would go out for meals on the road during the Finals and invariably every night at one point, the salt shakers, the pepper shakers, the sugar packets, all became like a diagram board on the table, with Dr. Jack and Hubie basically giving us a PhD-level course on why the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs were doing what they were doing.

It was a learning experience. Here are two guys that have been through it all, who know basketball inside and out, and even they were disagreeing on strategy from some of the best NBA coaches and best players of the current day. So, that was one where I shut up, sat back, and took mental notes.

BN: What do you see as the future of sports updates when it comes to sports talk radio?

MK: Unfortunately, it feels like they’re being lessened in importance. Much of that is attributed to the fact that people are getting breaking news on their smart phones. People can be on their computer or their tablets or on their phones and dial up the information they need right then and there anywhere in the world if there’s some kind of cell coverage.

I do believe two things, 1), there’s still value in it. We can develop the news on a second level or third level. You may have the bulletin, but we may have a little more available on the why and the how, and we can pair it with audio almost instantaneously — especially at ESPN Radio where we’re rolling on press conferences and play-by-play. We can deliver that in a nice, neat 60, 90, two-minute package.

Also, 2), I think within the construct of a talk show, there’s always a good place at the top and at the bottom of the hour. Take a break from the show and deliver for two minutes, here’s the latest of what’s going on. I think if you’re listening and you’re in your car and you don’t have access to your phone, we’re getting you the news. We’re putting everything out there digitally as well. So, even if you’re getting alerts on your phones, you’ll get a nicely packaged two minutes with audio, a nice presentation with news and background that still has value, but I do agree, it’s not as valuable as it may have been 20 years ago. We just have to find ways to make it more valuable or keep it relevant.

BN: How challenging is it to find ways to keep updates valuable and fresh?

MK: I think it’s very difficult. It’s incumbent on my bosses and the creative people to come up with different ways to package that content and deliver it. Many times, they challenge us to come up with different ways to write it and to execute it. Maybe it’s not just “here are the scores” but it’s “here’s the score and the biggest part of that game.” Or, maybe people are utilized live on-site like we’ve done in the past with stringers where you can add greater context.

There’s only so many ways you can deliver a SportsCenter update on the radio. I think you can package it better, or make it more concise, or add more elements to it to make it move faster and sound better. So really, it’s incumbent upon the people I work with to just get their heads together and constantly come up with different ways to put SportsCenter updates in front of people in different ways throughout programming, whether it’s terrestrial or digital.

BN: What else would you still like to accomplish in your sports broadcasting career?

MK: I think when I got into the business, I wanted to be a play-by-play guy. I had a very circuitous route to get to where I wanted to get — NBA play-by-play — and I never could’ve imagined in any circumstance that I could get the top network NBA play-by-play job. It was the plan, but it really wasn’t the plan.

I was happy just to be able to do play-by-play on ESPN Radio especially for NBA. I was even more thrilled to be able to be the B-announcer, and that would’ve been fine for the rest of my career. So, to be the A-announcer was beyond my wildest dreams. I got to do my first NBA Finals last June.

I guess the best answer for me would be not to be satisfied, but to continue to do it. My goal at this point is to do a second NBA Finals, which I’ll do this June. Then do a fifth, and then do a tenth. Just continue to get better. I listen to all play-by-play guys around the country. I’ll hear one guy and say, “You know what. I should do something more on that realm. Here’s a little piece that I would like to try.” Just try to get better myself — challenge myself to prep harder — be better at what I do, and hopefully just evolve into the best radio broadcaster I can be.

BSM Writers

Beyond The Mask: Henrik Lundqvist Embraced 2nd Career in Sports Media

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal.”

Derek Futterman

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Plucking the strings of an acoustic guitar, Henrik Lundqvist found himself beneath the bright lights once again, poised to put on a worthy performance. Just as he aimed to stop pucks from going in the net as the star goaltender of the New York Rangers for 15 seasons, Lundqvist sought to captivate viewers as half of a musical duo featuring former NHL forward Paul Bissonnette.

Their performance of “Good Riddance” by Green Day was in tribute to Rick Tocchet, a former NHL on TNT studio analyst who recently departed the network to serve as interim head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

Lundqvist serves as a studio analyst for TNT’s coverage of the NHL, breaking down players and teams throughout the broadcast and bringing his own unique style to the set. His pursuit of a post-playing career in sports media was no guarantee from the moment he retired in August 2021; in fact, he never intended to stop playing the game and competing for a Stanley Cup championship at that time.

During the 2019-20 season, Lundqvist had lost playing time to young goaltenders Igor Shesterkin and Alexandar Georgiev, and by the year’s end, his deal was bought out by the team. In an effort to continue playing, Lundqvist signed a contract with the Washington Capitals – marking the first time in his NHL career that he would not step between the pipes for the Rangers.

Lundqvist never played a game for the team though, as it was discovered in a medical exam that he would need open-heart surgery to replace his aortic valve while also having an aortic root and ascending aortic replacement. One month after the successful five-hour operation, he was back on the ice rehabbing and attempting to make a full recovery – but a few months in, he began to feel unexpected chest pain. Following a medical checkup, Lundqvist was told he had inflammation around his heart caused by exertion. It was a significant setback that required him to step off the ice, take off his goaltender equipment and rest for several months.

After discussions with his family and friends, Lundqvist determined that the risk of taking the ice outweighed the rewards and officially stepped away from the game. Rather than conjuring hypothetical scenarios wherein he did not experience the misfortune and played for the Capitals, Lundqvist looked to the future amid the ongoing global pandemic and thought about how he could best enjoy his retirement.

“I was just mentally in a very good place,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t have a choice; I guess that makes it easier sometimes when the decision is made because you can’t go back-and-forth – ‘Should I?’ ‘Should I not?’ Yeah, I wanted to play but it was just not meant to be for me.”

Before any definitive resolution on his future endeavors was made though, the Rangers announced that the team would retire Lundqvist’s No. 30 in a pregame ceremony during the 2021-22 season, making him just the 11th player bestowed that honor in franchise history. As a five-time NHL All-Star selection, 2011 Vezina Trophy winner, and holder of numerous franchise records, Lundqvist had the accolades to merit this profound distinction.

Moreover, he was an important component in growing the game of hockey and contributing to the greater community, serving as the official spokesperson for the Garden of Dreams Foundation and founder of the Henrik Lundqvist Foundation. He also was a two-time recipient of the organization’s prestigious Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, honoring the player “who goes above and beyond the call of duty.”

Throughout the night, attendees regaled Lundqvist with chants of “Hen-rik!” and were treated to flashbacks of some of his memorable career moments. The night was of monumental importance for Lundqvist, during which he expressed his gratitude to the Rangers’ organization, former teammates and fans. Then, Lundqvist — referred to as “The King” — promptly took his place among team legends beneath the concave ceiling of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

“When I look back at my career, I know, to me, it was all about preparation; how I practiced and how I prepared for each game at practice,” Lundqvist said. “There’s no regrets, and I hope people, when they think about how I played, [know] that it was 100% heart and commitment to the game.”

Before this ceremony though, Lundqvist and Rangers owner James Dolan had held several meetings with one another. The purpose of these conversations was to determine the best way for Lundqvist to remain involved with the team, its fans, and the community. In the end, he was named as a lead studio analyst on MSG Networks’ broadcasts of New York Rangers hockey before the start of the 2021-22 season: the start of his foray in sports media.

This past summer, Lundqvist negotiated a new deal with Madison Square Garden Sports and Madison Square Garden Entertainment in which he maintained his in-studio responsibilities while increasing involvement in other areas of its sports and entertainment ventures. In this new role, Lundqvist supports the business operations for both companies, assisting in digital content development, alumni relations, and partner and sponsor activities.

When Lundqvist is not in the studio or the office, he can often be found at Madison Square Garden taking in New York Rangers hockey, New York Knicks basketball, or one of the arena’s renowned musical performances. Usually, when he is in attendance, he is shown on the arena’s center-hung video board as an “NYC Celebrity” and receives a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

“The network is just part of it, but it feels great to come there,” Lundqvist said of Madison Square Garden. “Every time I go there – to see the people that I’ve known for so long – but also I love that place; I love The Garden. I think the energy [and] the variety of things that happen there is something I really appreciate. It feels really good to be a part of that.”

Sitting alongside former teammate and studio analyst Steve Valiqutte and sportscaster John Giannone, Lundqvist appears in the MSG Networks studios, located across the street from the arena, for select New York Rangers games. From the onset, he brought his allure and expertise to the set and appealed to viewers – so much so that national networks quickly began to take notice.

“I enjoy watching hockey [and] talking hockey, but the main thing to me is the team; the people that you work with,” Lundqvist said. “The guys on the panel [and the] crew behind. I really enjoy that part of it and having a lot of fun off-camera.”

One month later, Lundqvist was on his first national broadcast for the NHL on TNT where he and Bissonnette famously performed a cover of “Nothing Else Matters” by Metallica that went viral on social media. It had been known that Lundqvist was a musician, famously performing on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in his Rangers uniform to celebrate the end of the 2012-13 NHL lockout.

In fact, during his retirement ceremony, the Rangers gifted him with a custom-made guitar painted by David Gunnarsson, the same artist who used to paint Lundqvist’s goalie masks.

Aside from occasional music performances, Lundqvist brings an esoteric base of knowledge to the NHL on TNT panel as its only goaltender. Whether it be through player breakdowns, interviews, or dialogue with other analysts, Lundqvist has a perspective to which few professional hockey players can relate. There are various goaltenders among local studio panels surrounding live hockey game broadcasts, and Lundqvist is in a unique situation with MSG Networks in that he and Valiquette are both former goaltenders. Yet on Turner Sports’ national coverage, he is the only voice speaking to this different part of the game.

“It’s not a coincidence you see a lot of goalies working [on] panels and analyzing the game because that’s a huge part of playing in goal,” Lundqvist explained. “Yes, you need to stop the puck, but a huge part of being a goalie is analyzing what’s going on. We can never really dictate the play so you need to analyze what’s happening right in front of you.”

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NHL ON TNT STUDIO

In broadcasting at both the local and national level, Lundqvist is cognizant of the differences in each network’s studio programs. Lundqvist says appearing on the MSG Networks studio panel is more about being direct with the viewer, whereas the NHL on TNT views its panel as being conversational in nature. With Turner Sports, Lundqvist also asks his colleagues about the different teams around the league since he is most familiar with the Rangers both as a former player and studio analyst.

“I’m closer to the Rangers; I see more of what’s going on,” Lundqvist stated. “When you work [national] games, maybe you focus in on teams on the West Coast or [part] of the league you don’t see as often. You try to talk to the other guys on the panel and the crew and figure out things that are interesting about those teams.”

Hockey is a team sport, and Lundqvist felt grateful to play with his teammates and face his competitors over the years. Now as an analyst though, it is his job to analyze their games and critique them when necessary; however, he does not try to be excessively critical.

Lundqvist knows the trials and tribulations associated with the sport and can relate to scenarios many players face on a nightly basis. Therefore, he thinks about his own experience before giving an opinion, especially a critique, instantiating it with comprehensible, recondite knowledge and/or by recounting a similar situation.

“I’d much rather give them positive feedback obviously because I know it is a tough game,” Lundqvist said, “and sometimes it might look like an easy mistake, but if you can give the viewer a better explanation of why he did that, they might have a different view of that mistake.”

Now metaphorically being beyond the goalie mask, Lundqvist’s vision of the game has evidently shifted. He discerns just how intense the schedule is and the rapid pace of the game, axioms he was aware of while playing but inherently avoided thinking about. He has implemented his refined viewpoint of the game accordingly into his analysis, simultaneously utilizing the mindset and savvy he cultivated on the ice. It is, quite simply, a balancing act.

“I think people can be pretty quick to jump on guys and critique them,” Lundqvist said. “That’s where maybe you take an extra look and try to understand why it happened and give those reasons. I think that’s where it helps if you played the game [for] a long time and just love the game [because] you have a pretty good understanding of why guys react a certain way.”

The challenge tacitly embedded in the jobs of most studio analysts – Lundqvist’s included – is in presenting the information to the audience in a manner through which it learns without being confused. It is a delicate craft that takes time and genuine understanding to master, especially related to promulgating hockey analytics as Valiquette does on MSG Networks and within his company, Clear Sight Analytics.

“There’s a lot of educated viewers out there, but there’s also a lot of people that maybe don’t watch as much hockey,” Lundqvist said, “so you want to find that middle ground where you kind of educate both sides.”

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By broadcasting both locally and nationally in addition to working in a specially-designed business operations role, Lundqvist is staying around the rink in his retirement while facilitating the growth of hockey. Despite the profusion of young talent, dynamic action and jaw-dropping plays, viewership of the sport on ESPN and TNT’s linear channels has dropped 22% from last season, according to a report by Sports Business Journal.

For Lundqvist though, he does not feel much has changed from playing regarding his responsibility to advance the reach and appeal of the sport. He played professionally for 20 years, beginning his career in his home country of Sweden, primarily in the Swedish Elite League (SEL). In the 2004-05 season, his final campaign before arriving in New York City, Lundqvist had won the award for most valuable player. Furthermore, he was recognized as the best goalie and best player, leading Frölunda HC to its second Elitserien championship in three seasons.

His NHL debut came five years after he was selected in the seventh round of the 2000 NHL Entry Draft by the New York Rangers but unlike many rookies over the years, he came polished and prepared to embrace the lights of Broadway. Following an injury to starting goaltender Kevin Weekes, Lundqvist was inserted into the starting lineup and, from that moment on, virtually never came out.

By the end of his first year, he had been named to the NHL All-Rookie Team and was a Vezina Trophy finalist for best goaltender. Additionally, he remains the only goaltender to begin his NHL career with seven consecutive 30-plus win seasons.

“I think the league is doing a great job of growing the game,” Lundqvist said. “In the end, it comes down to the product and right now, it’s a great product. I feel really good about, the best way I can, to promote the game [by] talking about it, but… it feels like I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

One means through which Lundqvist attempts to grow the game is within the studio demos he performs with the NHL on TNT, displaying different facets of the game in a technical manner. The show also embraces the characteristics of their analysts and implements them in lighthearted segments, such as zamboni races, putting competitions, Swedish lessons and, of course, musical performances.

“I’m huge on mindset and the pressure,” Lundqvist said. “I love to talk about that type of stuff and give the viewer a better understanding of what goes through their heads. In terms of personality, I don’t know if I can say [that] I’m a serious guy because I love to have fun and laugh and do fun things.”

Lundqvist thoroughly enjoys what he is doing both locally and nationally, and he ensures he surrounds himself with people he wants to be around. There are plenty of other broadcast opportunities for former hockey players, such as moving into the booth as a color commentator or between the benches as a rinkside reporter. At this moment though, he is more focused on being immersed in his current roles, performing them to the best of his ability while ensuring he allocates time to spend with friends and family.

“I see myself more as an analyst in the studio more than traveling around and being in the rink,” he said. “I think that’s another thing with the schedule; it works really well with my schedule to have one or two commitments with the networks, but then I have other things going on in my life that I commit to.”

Plenty of comparisons can be drawn between playing professional hockey and covering the sport from the studio in terms of preparation and synergy. Yet the end result is not as clearly defined since “winning” in television is quantifiably defined as generating ratings and revenue. Undoubtedly, Lundqvist is focused on doing what he can to bolster hockey’s popularity; however, he also wants to enjoy this new phase of his career being around the game he loves.

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“In sports, you win or you lose,” Lundqvist explained. “With TV, you want to be yourself [and] you want to get your point out – but at the same time, if you do it at the same time you’re having a good time, I feel like that’s good TV.”

Once their careers conclude, many athletes think about pursuing a post-playing career and oftentimes end up taking on a role in sports broadcasting. On MSG Networks alone, there are plenty of former players who take part in studio coverage on live game broadcasts, such as Martin Biron of the Buffalo Sabres, Bryce Salvador of the New Jersey Devils, and Matt Martin of the New York Islanders. At the national level, Turner Sports employs Paul Bissonnette, Anson Carter, and Wayne Gretzky for its studio broadcasts, while ESPN’s top studio crew includes Mark Messier and Chris Chelios.

All of these former professional hockey players had an obligation to regularly speak with media members, answering questions about games and the season at large. Lundqvist maintained a professional relationship with journalists and beat reporters, and he most enjoyed taking questions when the team was doing well. Regardless of what the end result of a game was though, he had a responsibility to divulge his thoughts and, in turn, be subject to criticism and/or negative feedback.

His stellar career and persona all came from emanating a passion for the game – and it continues to manifest itself beyond the television screen. Listening to those passionate about the game discuss it usually engenders euphony and lucidity to viewers, analogous to the sound of the puck hitting the pads or entering the glove. It is a timbre Lundqvist created 27,076 times throughout his NHL career (regular season and playoffs) in preventing goals, and one he now aims to explain en masse.

“The reason why I kept going to the rink and put all the hours in was because I really enjoyed it,” Lundqvist said. “If you decide to go into media or whatever it might be, I think the bottom line is [that] you have to enjoy it and make sure you have good people around you.”

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Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

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Diamond Sports has been anything but a diamond in the sports world. As subscribers leave cable and satellite for streaming services, companies are dropping RSNs nationwide because they are too expensive to carry. This has caused an impending bankruptcy for the company, which owns the local rights to dozens of sports teams nationwide. It is also putting the NBA, NHL, and MLB at major financial risk. 

In the short term, it is known that teams will still broadcast on their RSNs even if they aren’t getting the paychecks they were promised in previous rights deals. This will affect teams’ ability to pay players and could even create an unfair advantage among the haves of the sports world like the Yankees and Lakers and the have-nots. The NFL doesn’t face the same problems that the other leagues are facing because its rights have been nationalized.

With the NFL’s continued television dominance, college conferences also bundling up games together for more money, and the MLS guaranteeing themselves television revenue after packaging local and national rights together, could we see the other leagues follow suit? It is an option that is much easier said than done but it seems like we are moving closer to it becoming reality. 

The NBA’s upcoming rights negotiations will be this transformational idea’s first testing grounds.

The biggest problem the NBA and other leagues would face are that the local rights to all of its teams don’t expire at the same time. If the league were to sign a deal that included giving all local rights to a streamer, the amount which the league was getting paid would be very unique year after year. It would be crazy for a streamer to pay a huge chunk of money to the NBA all at once if the number of teams they have local rights to changes every year.

It would also be insane to pay an astronomical amount if the streamer is only getting the local rights to small-market teams like the Cavs and the Pistons. A major market team like the Lakers doesn’t renew their local rights until 2032. We’re still in 2023. How does that affect the league’s operating costs? 

The NBA would also have to figure out whether teams whose rights don’t expire yet deserve to be included in the pot of money garnered from selling local rights to a streamer. Whether they are or they aren’t, does it put each team at different competitive advantages and/or disadvantages when trying to acquire free agents or front-office personnel?

One of the most interesting puzzles to figure out is what influence a league owner like Washington’s Ted Leonsis has in this potential measure when all is said and done. Leonsis just acquired complete control of the regional sports network — currently named NBC Sports Washington — that broadcasts Wizards and Capitals games for millions of dollars, although the exact amount remains undisclosed.

What does Leonsis do with his network if his team’s games can no longer air there? Can his team opt out of participating in a potential league offering? Or if the games continue to air on his network but are simulcasted locally on the streamer that wins local rights on a national scale, does the streamer have the ability to pay less money for rights?

If so, does that make the deal as lucrative for the NBA? And what does that mean for retransmission fees that cable companies like Comcast pay to Leonsis and other RSNs they’re still carrying?

The league will face a similar problem with the Lakers, Bulls, Knicks and other franchises that either wholly own or partially own a part of the RSNs where they broadcast their games. 

I don’t have the answers to any of these questions which is why they are written here in this column. Unfortunately for the leagues, they don’t have the answers either. But if the NBA figures out a way to nationalize their product even more and make streaming games more appealing by ending local blackouts, it’ll benefit the game more than it hurts the game. 

NBA, NHL, and MLB games are still some of the highest-rated programs locally in many markets when you look at how they rate vs. other cable and broadcast offerings. But at this point, the ability to charge everyone for a program that only ten percent of subscribers are watching is a losing business proponent.

The leagues should start from scratch and sell a mass package of games for maximum profit. It gives fans a more centralized location to watch their favorite teams and puts the leagues on a much more steady path than where they could be headed sooner rather than later.

Diamond in the rough to sparkling jewel of light? Only time will tell.

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Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

“We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right?”

Jeff Caves

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Having gratitude for your life is all the rage. If you, like me, have trouble starting your day with positive affirmations and maintaining a positive outlook about your job, read on! 

We are told to be grateful for what we have and remember it could be worse. That feels like a really low bar, right? Here is another version. Try a few affirmations of gratitude instead.

“I HAVE A JOB.”

With interest rates rising, inflation increasing, and spending down; corporations are laying people off. PayPal laid off 7% of its entire workforce. Amazon let 18,000 go. Alphabet (Google) said goodbye to 12,000 jobs. Radio sales managers need to hire people like you – experienced sellers with a track record of bringing home the bacon. 

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

You solve a problem for your company when it comes to revenue. You know people, and you sell advertising better than anything they can come up with…so far. 

Yes, they are trying to replace you, but Zoom Info reports iHeart’s self-serve spot buying service,  AdBuilder, is doing under 5 million in business. You have time to solidify your value. Be happy you are the rainmaker. 

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

Sports talk radio is the ultimate companion to millions of listeners. They aren’t robots, and your stations improve their lives by talking about what they care about 24/7. Celebrate selling access to callers, Twitter followers and FANS who go to games. You also get to work with local celebrities that everybody knows but you know best. We all need a connection to other people and want to be seen and heard. 

“I GET TO CHANGE HOW I FEEL ABOUT MYSELF.”

In this job, you determine your value, feelings about your work, and who you work with. You get to set a strategy and talk to the businesspeople you want to help and do business with. It’s like running your own business with a tremendous support staff. Try to do it independently, and you will appreciate accounting, traffic, production, and sales assistance. Those wins produce deposits in your bank account.  

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

That format competitor across the street does things differently and sometimes better than you or tries to imitate you and looks terrible. They motivate you to beat them to a new account or put a moat around your best clients so they can’t be touched. They keep you sharp and willing to try new things. Good competition schemes to take money from your station, and your management needs you to protect them. And they also provide a place for you to work one day. The FTC wants to eliminate non-competes so you can walk across the street this year.  

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