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Respect For WFAN Remains, But John Jastremski Is Sold On The Ringer’s Future

“I wasn’t actively looking to leave, but this came across my desk and my jaw dropped when I received the Twitter message from Bill Simmons. It’s all about The Ringer and what they’re providing me.”

Brandon Contes

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What would it take for you to leave your dream job?

John Jastremski filled in on every weekday timeslot, and he was a full-time overnight host building his own brand and following with JJ After Dark. He developed a relationship with station icon Mike Francesa and was often compared to another in Christopher “Mad Dog” Russo.

But as a lifelong listener to WFAN who was living out his dream as a radio host for nearly a decade, Jastremski was offered a new venture, one that was too good to pass up.

Few people sound more like New York than Jastremski, so leaving the city’s heritage sports radio station was surprising at first, but joining the ever-growing digital space with Bill Simmons and The Ringer presents a new playground to perform on. Creative freedom, flexibility to turn the mic on at a moment’s notice, reaching a new audience, and still being able to retain a relationship with his old listeners as he remains focused on his hometown city in a new podcast New York, New York were part of the appeal. I took some time to chat with JJ about his past, present, and future.

Brandon Contes: Just as a general starting point, what was it that appealed to you about The Ringer?

John Jastremski: Wow! Loaded question [Laughs]. Bill Simmons is somebody I’ve had a great appreciation for, for a long time. I’ll be honest, when I stepped foot on to Syracuse in 2006, I had no idea who he was, but I was living with some Boston guys who introduced me to him. And even though we rooted for different teams, that ability to be an entrepreneur and connect with fans really resonated with me. When he reached out back in December with this idea, it wasn’t like I was hearing it from a random podcast company or an upstart, I was hearing from a guy who has been incredibly successful in a lot of ventures.

BC: That’s a good measurement of talent, if you’re listening to someone and you’re not emotionally invested in the teams or topic, but you’re still able to be entertained.

JJ: Yeah! And listen, his style is very different from Mike and Chris, Joe Benigno and everyone else I grew up listening to. But he’s done a great job of developing characters and you kind of revel in the fact when his teams lose. I get a kick out of knowing he was going to be miserable on those days [Laughs]. It’s a very different sound from what I grew up with and even what I’ve done for the last nine years, but the idea of bringing a New York style podcast where I can have the same energy, same nuttiness, mix in some gambling and listener interaction on this platform is exciting.

BC: Is this move more about what The Ringer is as a platform today? Or is it about where you see them having the ability to grow?

JJ: If you look at the variety of different podcasts they have, they’re building around young talent, they’re supporting their talent, it’s great to have Spotify backing the platform as well. They’re making a real investment into the digital age and I’ll be honest, if you would have told me four years ago that I’m going to leave radio for a podcast I would have said, ‘dude you’re out of your mind!’ But it’s a different world now! So yeah, I see the company’s success and when you have a guy like Simmons saying he believes in you, it was just super appealing.

BC: This is the first New York specific podcast with The Ringer. In your conversations with Bill and the company, do they want to place a larger emphasis on regional projects?

JJ: I don’t know how they’re going to handle that moving forward. Would it surprise me if in six months they have a Boston show? No. But they may look at this as an exclusive deal to get in the number one media market and have a presence in New York. I can’t tell you what they’re thinking, but I’d be more than happy to inspire offshoots in other markets because that means I’m doing something right!

BC: Was Mike Francesa in anyway the catalyst in jumpstarting the relationship between you and Bill Simmons?

JJ: Great question because that was the first thought I had. And I asked Bill point blank, ‘how the hell did you find me?’ I thought Mike might have played a big role in that. As you know, Mike has always been in my corner, he’s always been a supporter of mine and I look at him as a mentor in many ways. This was not Mike’s doing as far as I know. It was more Bill doing prep work and research, discovering my show and taking it from there.

BC: There were only a few people ever mentioned as possible co-hosts for Francesa once Dog left. Sid Rosenberg, Bill Simmons and yourself. Did you at any point think there was a chance you could be added to Francesa’s WFAN show?

JJ: To work with Mike full-time, no. Would I have been fired up about it? Yeah. But listen, I would have forever, unfortunately, had the Mad Dog comparison because we’re both a little zany, we both have a lot of opinions and energy. Dog’s memory from 50, 60 years ago is hopefully what my memory will be about sports in the ‘90s and 2000s.

But to work with Mike, that would have forever been ‘is it going to be like Mike and Dog?’ There’s never going to be another Mike and the Mad Dog, it’s the best sports radio show in history. End of discussion. I’m grateful I was able to do a bunch of stuff with Mike, I’ll always remember that, it was an absolute thrill. It didn’t end up working out that way, and that’s OK, I’ll never have to worry about matching Dog. Now it’s my career moving forward.

BC: There was the report a while back about you not wanting to work as part of a three-person show on WFAN, was that accurate?

JJ: I never wanted to work on a three-person show. I gave it a try for a week and let me be clear, I liked both people involved, I think they’re terrific, but a three-person show to me is a lot.

But this idea that’s been out there that I wouldn’t want to work with a partner is absolute garbage. If you look at my career, I did shows with Evan Roberts, Kim Jones, Chris Moore, Brian Jones, the list goes on, and I had a blast. I very much enjoy having a partner, but it’s important for me to always have my radio show be as organic as possible. The day after a Yankees game, I know the big talking points. I want to flip the microphone on and have mutual trust with my partner that we can just go. I can’t do a radio show before doing a radio show. I’ll always be prepared, I know what’s going on, but I can’t rehearse before a show.

BC: I remember Boomer and Gio made a big deal about it, because Gregg was more of the mindset to take the opportunity no matter what, and you said if you were offered a show with a co-host that you didn’t believe could be a successful pairing, you’d decline it rather than risk it being a bust.

JJ: And everybody’s entitled to their own opinion. There are so many different avenues for people to get where they want to be. To say it’s cookie-cutter like going to school to be a doctor or lawyer, sports radio and media isn’t like that. That’s where Gregg and I beg to differ.

I love Gregg, I think he’s super talented, we’re just not going to see eye-to-eye on that. You have to believe, going into a show, that it’s going to work. And I know there will be conflict, but you have to believe in the vision. And if you don’t, then I don’t think it’s the right fit for the talent.

BC: When you are paired up with a co-host, do you take a step back to try and build chemistry or are you yourself and it’s more on them to make sure they can keep pace?

JJ: I’ll step back from time to time, depending on who you’re working with. It also depends if they’re a radio person or not. When I worked with Bart Scott, I know the nuts and bolts, so I’ll handle more of the going to calls or the ins and outs of breaks. When I work with Evan Roberts, we’ll probably go back and forth. I’m always going to be me, no matter who I’m working with. That’s how I am, I’m the same guy down the street yelling about games that I am on-air. I’m more than happy to step back when I need to, but I’m still going to yell and get into it. You just have to get a feel for how the show is going.

BC: Callers were a huge part of JJ After Dark, a huge part of overnights at WFAN, I know the new podcast is planning on taking voicemails, but without that back and forth, can voicemails have the same feel?

JJ: I’m going to miss the calls like crazy. It’s been a big part of what I’ve done over the years. I know some radio hosts hate calls, I love it and I’ll miss the back and forth. We’ll have voicemails out of the gate and I can tell you we’re working on some things. For somebody like me, it makes it more important to use a lot of platforms. I can hop on Instagram Live after a game, especially if it’s a day that I’m not doing a podcast. I’ll also utilize apps like Clubhouse, and Spotify just acquired Locker Room, because those are avenues where I can have give and take.

BC: Have you thought about trying live calls? Even though it’s prerecorded, you can tweet out the topic and number while taping to let your following chime in instead of just reacting to a voicemail.

JJ: That’s something we’re absolutely thinking about, 100%. It’s not going to be immediate, but I’ve definitely pushed for it, because I’m not going to take two hours of calls the way I would on an overnight, but for 15 or 20 minutes, I think it would be great. It combines the old school aspects of what I did at WFAN and throws in the new age platform. I’m talking New York sports, but have the backing of Spotify to get some bad ass guests, mix in the interaction and gambling, and away we go.

BC: How much will gambling be an aspect of the new podcast?

JJ: It’s a big part of what I do, but let me be clear, this is not a gambling podcast, this is New York sports, still with my same style, and some gambling mixed in. If I’m doing an hour podcast, I might do seven to ten minutes on gambling.  And if I’m focused on Mets and Yankees for a show, the gambling section actually allows me to get into other topics like the NCAA Tournament. Once the NFL season starts, I’ll probably expand the gambling a bit, but it will be a case by case basis and depend on the season.

BC: With so many sports radio stations, networks, digital platforms all investing heavily in gambling, is that a content bubble you think can ever burst?

JJ: Anytime there’s oversaturation in anything, you’re concerned, but right now, there’s such a great demand for it. You’re seeing more legalization and betting companies are throwing lots of money at radio stations, TV, podcasts and even partnerships with the leagues. Did you ever think we’d be watching games and the ESPN bottom line would have betting lines and sponsors? 

When I started radio in 2011, I was walking on eggshells talking about this stuff, now almost every sports podcast in America has a partnership with some sort of gambling company. I get that it’s not for everybody, but if you’re an aspiring broadcaster, you should be learning about this sphere.

BC: Sports gambling itself is obviously an endless realm of money, but the reason I wonder if the content will reach a max one day is because people listen to talk radio for personality and unique opinions. Is there an endless need for that with gambling? Do I need another gambling show or do I need another list of picks?

JJ: The idea of doing gambling content without personality doesn’t work. You need to combine personality and entertainment in a relatable and charismatic way. I understand not everybody is as zany and off the wall as I am, but you still need to relate to the audience with this stuff. Mention a great win or a bad beat they can relate to, don’t make it so formulaic. If I’m showing personality about a bad beat, even if you didn’t have money on the game, you’re still invested in the fact that I got screwed on the game. It allows the listener or viewer to be connected in that way.

BC: Do you feel that you still had room to grow within WFAN if you stayed?

JJ: I do. Listen, I had a great run there. They allowed me the platform and let me fill in on every timeslot. They gave me five nights a week. I wasn’t actively looking to leave, but this came across my desk and my jaw dropped when I received the Twitter message from Bill Simmons. It’s all about The Ringer and what they’re providing me. Do I think I could have grown at WFAN? Absolutely, but this platform and opportunity just turned out to be the next logical step for me to grow to another level.

BC: Do you mind Gio’s impressions of you?

JJ: No! I absolutely love them! I love them! I think they’re great and I hope and pray that just because I’m leaving the radio station, those impressions won’t come to an end. I learned in this business, don’t take yourself too seriously and I get annoyed when people do take themselves too seriously. You can laugh at one another, you can go back and forth, it’s all in good fun as long as nothing gets personal or vindictive. I know the radio wars get good play, but I think they can be some of the dumbest nonsense known to man. But I think the impressions are great and hope it continues.

BC: Was it you who told the story about Bob Costas giving the advice at Syracuse where he essentially said be yourself, don’t try to change your voice?

JJ: Yes, very good memory! That is absolutely true and accurate. I was super stoked when I went to Syracuse, but I quickly realized how competitive the journalism school was, even just getting on their student radio station was competitive. And I have a very unique sound. 

So freshman or sophomore year I was at a student-seminar, and I asked Bob that question. I said ‘there are a lot of people here who are the buttoned up, polished broadcasters with perfect inflection in their sound and voice, is that something I have to change if I’m going to make it in sports radio?’ Bob said ‘no, if you have a sound and style, just let it roll.’ And when Bob Costas tells you that, you’re not going to do anything else.

BC: I always thought Joe Benigno wouldn’t be successful anywhere other than New York because he sounds so much like New York. Did you ever believe your style might be limited to New York only?

JJ: Interesting. I think I could have worked elsewhere. I had an opportunity about three years ago to work in Boston and I turned it down because it just wasn’t the right fit from a lifestyle standpoint.

BC: You did a few weekday shows at WEEI.

JJ: Yeah, I had a great time doing it too. I know my relationship with the audience and callers would have been drastically different. If you go to a new city, especially one that’s territorial, it’s going to take time to win them over. I probably would have been the bad guy for a while which is OK, it would have been interesting. But for the time being, I like the idea of doing New York content. I think I can work somewhere else, who knows if that opportunity would happen down the road, but at the end of the day, I’m a New Yorker through and through and that’s where I’ll be at my best.

BC: When you view the future of sports media, is talk radio still a major part of that landscape?

JJ: I think talk radio will absolutely still have a platform, but the media landscape is very different with so many avenues to stand out. The ability to listen whenever you want is paramount, and for me, the idea that I don’t have to wait until my shift to turn a microphone on is awesome. We’re scheduled to do three days a week, and if something crazy happens and we’re not planning to tape, you can bet I’m turning the microphone on even if it’s just for 20 minutes.

There’s a place for the new-age media to coexist with talk radio, I’ll always root for WFAN. That’s home and I wish them nothing but the best, but to be looking at the podcast industry as this plucky, spunky upstart, it’s just not that anymore. There’s too much money and media backing with on-demand content, it’s taken off already and I think it will continue to change in the next few years.

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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