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Daryle Johnson Became Guru And Guru Became A Star

“Then I realized I represent the fans, I won the competition because I know how to relate to the fans. I’m not ashamed of that.”

Jack Ferris

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It doesn’t take long to get comfortable with Rodney Lofton.  The 58-year-old is quick to chat about all sorts of topics, most notably SEC football, his playing days at Murray State, and his 32 year career as a firefighter.  His voice is filled with life, love and pride – but he takes it to a whole different level when you bring up his younger brother Daryle.

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“Daryle?  He’s been an argumentative loud-mouth kid his whole life,” Rodney proclaims affectionately, as only an older brother could.

Today, Rodney is remembering the night that would change his brother’s life forever.  It took place on a cool February 2012 evening at the Englander in San Leandro, not far from Union City where Daryle grew up. 

That night the sports bar was hosting auditions for “Lucky Break” – a competition developed by 95.7 The Game to find hidden talent in the Bay Area.  To say that Daryle loved sports radio would be a severe understatement – but he wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about getting involved.  He was once on the cusp of a potential career in the business once before, and it only ended in heartbreak.  

“We were just having fun watching people audition,” Daryle remembers fondly. “I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go up there, but my brother,” he pauses, shaking his head slightly as if he still can’t believe how the night worked out.  “My brother looked me in the eye and asked ‘are you really gonna just let your dreams die?'”

Daryle’s dream of a career in sports was born 33 earlier in 1979 thanks in no small part to his grandmother and a paper route.

“My grandma gave me a transistor radio and I remember listening to the Pirates/Orioles World Series,” recalled Johnson, an excitement in his voice that would rival his 9 year old counterpart.  “The day after each game I would always check the paper for the box score, and I saw Willie Stargell was from the East Bay just like me.  He had an afro – just like me.”

To this day Daryle remains a Pirates fan, but his appreciation of Pittsburgh ends there.  In the NBA it’s always been the Warriors, and he’s a diehard Cowboys fan as a direct result of his father’s annual road trips through Dallas on their way to see family in Mississippi.  His fanhood might have been spread across the country, but it was as passionate as it was diverse.

“Growing up he would never shut about about his Cowboys crap, his Barry Bonds Pirate crap,” explained Rodney, his tone a healthy blend of nostalgia and real irritation.  “He always had something to say.”

Outside of Rodney, no one was more familiar with Daryle’s unwavering opinions than KNBR’s Pete Franklin.  Throughout the 90’s and his 20s, Daryle was working as a driver for Ikon Office Solutions.  Spending the vast majority of his day delivering copiers and printers to clients all over the Bay Area, Daryle listened religiously to Franklin’s afternoon drive show, eventually calling in.  In a matter of weeks, those calls became more and more frequent.  

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“I would come on to defend the Cowboys, but then he would just let me go on and on with all kinds of topics.  Any time he disagreed with me, he’d flush me – play the toilet sounder and I’d be gone.  My friends used to eat that up.” 

The cadence of Johnson’s voice picks up when he discusses his call-in days, and gets especially warm when recalling Franklin.  Through the countless calls, the loud disagreements and the abrupt flushes – Daryle and Franklin developed an unlikely bond, an accidental friendship forged over 50,000 watts.  The kind of friendship in which neither party uses a first name.  

“One time I was on a roll talking about something, tossing around a lot of facts and P just stopped me right in middle of the sentence and asked; ‘How do you know all this, are you some kind of Guru?'”

In that moment – Guru was born.  Daryle Johnson’s alter ego.  A man with no shortage of opinion, ready and willing to breakdown and discard any argument that stood in his way.  Guru quickly became a favorite among other KNBR hosts and remained a consistent caller even after Franklin left the station in 1997.  In fact, Guru became so popular over the years, it eventually lead to Daryl receiving a voicemail from KNBR General Manager Tony Salvatore, asking for a call back on his personal line.

“I played that voicemail for everyone,” chuckled Johnson.  “I couldn’t believe it – like there was actually going to be some gold for me at the end of the rainbow.”

When he worked up the nerve to call back, Daryle couldn’t believe the conversation he was having with the top decision maker of his beloved radio station.

“He was asking me questions like if I thought I could do a show with Tom Tolbert and Ralph Barbieri – and I was like ‘Yes!  Yes, I think I can!'”

Daryle’s eyes still light up as he thinks back to that conversation. Unfortunately for Guru – that particular rainbow yielded no gold.  Despite waiting by the phone and following up several times, nothing ever materialized from that promising phone call that filled him with such optimism.  The days turned to weeks and the weeks melted into months, and Johnson knew his dream of making a living on a microphone had just about died.  Guru’s shot had come and gone.

“I gave up man,” Daryle sighs, allowing his shoulder to drop for just a moment before picking himself back up. “So I focused on my job, I focused on work.”

At this point in Daryle’s career, he had ascended from a driver to a sales role for Ikon.  He was spending less time delivering product and more time dealing directly with clients.

“I figured if I wasn’t going to see my name on a radio show, at least I could see my name in bright lights high on the sales board.”

Daryle channeled the same charm and conviction that made him a part time celebrity on the air and focused on being the best salesman he could be.  As the years passed he found himself making a nice salary working as an Admissions Rep for Devry University in Sacramento with his wife Mia and their three children.  Daryle Johnson had found success in life, and Guru had become a memory.

“My job all day was hearing different stories from people, where they were coming from, where they wanted to be – and I would help them on their way.  It was great, I loved meeting new people – but I couldn’t stop thinking about the Giants game the night before.  I couldn’t shake sports from my head.”

It was that last ember of sports passion still burning in Daryle that lead him to the Englander that February evening.  95.7 The Game was the new station in town.  It appeared to be an avenue for the blue collar sports fan, the passionate sports fan.  A station seemingly made for Guru.  A quick word of encouragement from Rodney was all Daryle needed to muster up the courage to compete.  

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“He walked up straight up there and they asked for his name,” explains Rodney, the pride rising in his voice.  “He says ‘it’s Guru,’ and everyone there goes ‘WHO?  Guru!?”

Present at the auditions that night was 95.7 PD Jason Barrett, the architect of the competition, who has no problem remembering his first impression of Daryle.

“When he got on the mic he started dropping opinion after opinion, and a number of clever lines and analogies on the Warriors and Hue Jackson.  He was loud, colorful, passionate, knowledgeable and had the gift of gab.”

In a matter of minutes, Daryle had resurrected Guru.

“He went up there and he was just on,” Rodney laughs.  “I wasn’t surprised.”

After the audition, Guru had punched his ticket as one of the final 16 contestants set to compete over a five week span on the airwaves in San Francisco.  He was beside himself with excitement, but was faced with a significant logistical issue – one that he found a way to turn into his advantage.  

“I was still working full time at Devry in Sacramento, so I would leave work a little early and drive straight to San Francisco.  I didn’t have any time to change so I’d walk in wearing my work suit, and everyone else is wearing jeans and jerseys.  Immediately I stood out as someone who was taking the role very seriously,” he smiles.  “It was a total accident, but I just rolled with it.  I played into the suit.  I felt like Denzel or Puff Daddy.”

Ask Daryle about that phase of the competition and he’s not lost for words.  

“I would walk in there pretty nervous.  There’s maybe 100 people watching along with a camera, but I just used all of those nerves and turned it into confidence.  Why not me?  I would talk directly into the camera, I’d play to the crowd, I just did what I could to control the room.  Quickly I realized how much my experience in sales was helping me.  I knew people, I knew hot to connect with people. It clicked with me that working in sales I was hosting 6 different radio shows every day.”

In April, Guru received the news he had been hoping to hear since he was a kid.  He had won Lucky Break.  He would be paid to showcase his personality on a microphone.  

“It felt like destiny.  It felt like everything had happened for a reason leading up to that.  Maybe I wasn’t ready to host a show when I was in my late 20s or early 30s, but now I had my chance.”

Following the competition, Guru’s boss knew he had the talent, but he needed to see something else.
“The questions I had were; was he coachable?'” remembers Barrett.  “‘How would he respond to adversity and being challenged?  Can he handle having his ego bruised by being seen as the ‘contest winner?'”

Walking into the office as the ‘contest winner,’ is a feeling Daryle remembers all to well.

“It was in my head for a while.  I didn’t go to Syracuse to study broadcasting, I just won a contest and now I’m working here,” Daryle pauses as if Guru’s had enough of his humility and wants to steer the conversation.

“Then I realized I represent the fans, I won the competition because I know how to relate to the fans.  I’m not ashamed of that.”

With that attitude, and the will to improve everyday, Guru began his grind.  He started with a 2 hour slot every Sunday night by himself, gaining confidence week by week.

“I don’t know how good those early shows were,” Guru’s smile widens as he thinks back to the hours he spent cutting his teeth.  “But Jason Barrett stuck with me, and for that I’ll always be loyal to him.”

“He was very green,” Barrett admits today.  “I knew it’d take time for him to gain confidence.”  

It was the small things Daryle was doing off the air that earned his boss’ trust over time.

“He was very invested in trying to be good at this, and genuinely cared about getting better.  I saw him in the door early for shows and he wasn’t afraid to say ‘JB, be real with me, what did you think of the show?’ When I gave him tough love, he took it in stride and understood it was only to get him better.”

Perhaps most importantly, Daryle only worried about what he could control.  A change in management can be stressful for anyone, let alone to the guy who got a show because he won a contest.  So, when Don Kollins took over as Program Director in June of 2015, the Guru kept his head down and proved his value to the station.  Soon, his role in the building began to grow.

So, when Don Kollins took over as Program Director in June of 2015, the Guru kept his head down and proved his value to the station.  Armed with nothing more than his will to succeed and the unconditional support of his wife Mia, Guru made his impression.  Soon, his role in the building began to grow.  

“I was filling in for guys on the morning show, midday, and afternoon drive.  It was great, but naturally – once I started doing that, all I wanted was more.”

Eventually, in addition to working Saturdays and Sundays, Guru found a consistent home opposite Matt Steinmetz Monday through Friday from 10 am to Noon.  He was thrilled with his trajectory, but after years of building his reputation – one thing that eluded him was a contract.  A full time agreement between himself and the station with which he had developed so much.  

When Matt Nahigian came aboard as the station’s newest PD in late 2017, Daryle thought he might have to start all over again.  Once more he would have to shed the “contest winner” stigma and prove he was more than just a fan on a free ride.  He was wrong.

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“When I got the job the first thing I did was call all the hosts,” recalls Nahigian today.  “I spoke with Daryle for about an hour, and honestly – I realized I had a goldmine.”

As Nahigian saw it, Guru’s path via a contest wasn’t a blemish – it was an attribute.

“All I did was listen to the shows for two months and knew that Guru was exactly who we’re trying connect with – he can relate to the listeners.  Yes, his path was unorthodox and out of the box, but I loved it.”

In October of 2018, Nahigian presented Daryle “Guru” Johnson with a contract.  The young, brash, funny caller from the 90s had turned himself into a brand with which a major market radio station wanted to invest.  In his own backyard.  It was a humbling moment Guru still has a hard time finding the words to describe.  Instead, he’s quick to rattle off the names of colleagues and mentors who credits with putting him in that position.

“Chris Townsend, Dan Dibley, Damon Bruce, Rick Tittle, Matt Steinmetz, Mychael Urban, Zakariah Slenderbrook.  These guys taught me different things at different times – even if I didn’t want to hear them.  They helped me tremendously.”

Nearly twenty years after he thought his dream had passed him by, and seven years after his 2 hour slot on Sunday nights, Guru finally has his name in lights.

Bonta, Steinmetz & Guru own 95.7’s midday slot from 10 am to 2 pm.
Nearly a decade after “Lucky Break,” Jason Barrett has nothing but praise for his contest winner.

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“Guru’s earning a midday slot at The Game is a testament to his talent, personality, and presence.  But it doesn’t happen without preparation, patience, sacrifice and continued improvement.”

As for Rodney?  He’s far from shocked at his baby brother’s success.

“It’s incredible.  He’s just a dude that got his shot in San Francisco of all places.  But if it was going to happen to anyone, it should’ve happened to him,” Rodney pauses.  It’s clear he couldn’t be prouder of his brother, but every kind thought seems incomplete without a slight dig.  

“I’m glad everyone has a chance to hear his voice.  I’ve had to listen to that voice his whole life.”

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 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. Less than two months 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. 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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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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BSM Writers

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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BSM Writers

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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Barrett Media Writers

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