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Cassidy Hubbarth is Focused on Engaging NBA Fans on ESPN

“When I look back on my career and I think, ‘What is the time when I was feeling at my best?,’ it was on the NBA Tonight desk.”

Derek Futterman

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As a midfielder, Cassidy Hubbarth was responsible for contributing on offense and defense for the Evanston Wildkits soccer team – and she had to maintain her stamina in order to perform at a high level. Thanks to her play and that of her teammates, the group won the Illinois High School Association Class AA State Championship for the 2001-02 season. Throughout her time in high school, Hubbarth played more than just soccer, as she also developed her skills on the hardwood and followed the Chicago Bulls at the height of their dynasty led by Hall of Fame guard Michael Jordan.

Even though she enjoyed playing sports, Hubbarth knew from her time in middle school that she wanted to pursue a career in sports media. One day when she and her family were watching Fox NFL Sunday, Hubbarth found herself captivated by sideline reporter Pam Oliver and her role on the broadcast.

“I remember seeing her do a talkback interview with one of the players and it just kind of finally opened my eyes to, ‘I’m not just watching the game but I’m actually enjoying coverage about the game,’” Hubbarth recalled. “That’s the moment I decided that this is what I want to do. I honestly don’t think I thought of any other career after that point.”

Although she was an athlete, Hubbarth made sure she maximized the opportunities available to her at Evanston Township High School to hone her broadcasting skills. She was a member of the radio, television and film club in the school and also did play-by-play for boys basketball home games when she had time in her schedule.

Hubbarth had always looked to attend Northwestern University located in her hometown of Evanston, Ill.; however, her family did not have the necessary means to send her there. Because of this, she went to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a freshman on several grants and worked at both the school’s radio and television stations. That year was especially difficult though because of her father’s diagnosis with throat cancer – and Hubbarth prioritized being there for her family through the arduous circumstance.

Fortunately, her father recovered from the disease and is a cancer survivor, but the hardship motivated Hubbarth and her family to find a way to afford tuition at Northwestern University. Once she was accepted, Hubbarth officially transferred as a sophomore to study within its acclaimed Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

During her time at the university, Hubbarth was a member of the Northwestern News Network and volunteered her time in the athletic department helping stream football press conferences. It was her earliest experience in digital media, an expansive niche in the industry that has been prominent throughout her career.

She received her first two jobs out of school from the university’s job fair – one as a traffic reporter and producer at WMAQ NBC5 Network in Chicago; the other as a producer and host for Intersport, a sports production company that created short content for Sprint Exclusive Entertainment on flip phones. Immediately working in both news and sports media, she gained unique perspectives and recognized the lack of dichotomy between these two ostensibly contrasting sectors of the industry.

“I think they kind of learn from each other [about] how to collect the right information and what question to ask [while] trying to capture the right emotions of certain stories,” Hubbarth said. “When it comes to that early part of my career, it was just kind of a grind doing traffic and really not knowing where the hell I was going but trying to tell people places to avoid. Then also working [in] sports media at Intersport, [I was] trying to figure out how sports media was changing digitally.”

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Cassidy Hubbarth has been with ESPN since 2010 working on several signature properties most notably the NBA Photo ESPN Press Room

Hubbarth joined Comcast SportsNet Chicago in 2008 working as an associate producer with wide ranging tasks and responsibilities. The movement from optimizing sports stories and information for nonlinear digital platforms to contributing to live television broadcasts gave her a new perspective on the ferocity and efficiency required when working on a deadline.

Additionally, it helped her develop aplomb in these types of situations, burgeoning her overall versatility. She describes it as her “grad. school,” expanding on what she learned and experienced as an undergraduate student at Northwestern University.

“Cutting voiceovers; writing shot sheets; making sure I was on deadline and making sure there were no typos in the scripts for the anchors; these were things that I learned in school,” Hubbarth said. “As far as having the intensity and the pressure of live shows happening, that experience taught me a lot about live TV essentially and all the work that goes into putting together a live broadcast.”

Starting in fall 2009 though, she only worked at the outlet four days of each week, ending each Wednesday by taking a flight from Chicago to Atlanta This was to work her other job overseeing social media for SEC Gridiron Live on Fox Sports South, a studio show previewing the upcoming college football action in the Southeastern Conference. Then she would travel to an SEC school to be among the fans and film “Cassidy on Campus,” a digital segment for the show giving viewers an inside look at the game atmosphere.

“To be exposed to SEC football was a different beast and understanding that fandom and being able to capture that fandom on social media which is really what social media has done for sports fans – it’s allowed them to have a voice and a say basically in the coverage of their teams,” Hubbarth said. “….I created comment sections on our Facebook pages and I was trying to engage with viewers and break down that wall between viewers and our show.”

While she enjoyed the early part of her career working both in front of and behind the camera, Hubbarth always coveted covering basketball and bringing viewers stories to enhance broadcast coverage. It is what enthralled her to sports media in the first place – and she knew ESPN would be just the place to do it. Out of college, Hubbarth had considered applying to join the production assistant program at the network and moving to Bristol, Conn., but instead decided to take opportunities closer to home that allowed her to get on the air.

During her time working at both Comcast SportsNet Chicago and Fox Sports South, Hubbarth felt she had the momentum necessary to move upwards in the industry, perhaps at a national level. Her feelings were validated when she received a call from ESPN inquiring about her interest to join the network as an independent contractor to help develop its digital platforms. Once she auditioned and subsequently landed the job, she moved to Bristol, Conn. within a month and put the wheels in motion to excel in the next chapter of her career.

“It happened quick; it happened fast,” Hubbarth said. “….[I was] basically hosting the simulcast of our college football games and college basketball games on ESPN3 before we had the app. As ESPN was launching their digital streaming network, I was essentially the face of it.”

From her early days at ESPN, Hubbarth established professional relationships with her colleagues and found mentors to help ease the transition in leaving her home market to join a distinctive, national brand. When Hubbarth was young, she found inspiration for watching Erin Andrews and Michele Tafoya work as sideline reporters on NFL broadcasts, reporting on what would otherwise perhaps be concealed storylines.

At ESPN, Stuart Scott, a longtime SportsCenter anchor who passed away from appendiceal cancer in 2015, had a profound impact on Hubbarth and encouraged her through his work ethic and dedication to the craft to endure and chase her dreams.

“I think so many times when I would be talking to him in the hallways at ESPN and he would not be feeling well and dealing with just all the emotions going in his head with his daughters and his health,” Hubbarth said. “He would step on to that studio floor, the light would go on and he would absolutely give it his all until the light went off.

“You could see that it was taking so much out of him, but it was also giving him so much that he took so much pride and so much joy into this business – which is such a gift to be able to do. I try to remind myself of that in times where I’m dragging or not feeling grateful for the opportunity I have.”

After hosting various shows across the network including Highlight Express with Jorge Andres; SportsNation with Christian Fauria and Jarrett Payton; The Word with Jemele Hill and Sarah Spain; and various digital series including This Day in Sports History, College Football 411 and NBA 411, Hubbarth made the move to covering the Association on a full-time basis.

In 2013, then-ESPN NBA coordinating producer Bruce Bernstein gave her the chance to host NBA studio coverage on both NBA Tonight and NBA Coast to Coast. At this stage of her career, Hubbarth was living out her dream – covering basketball nationally and serving as a vital part of the network to guide discussion and debate, informing and entertaining viewers.

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ESPN NBA host and reporter Cassidy Hubbarth has grown into her role with the networks coverage Photo ESPN Images

Over the years, she has worked with various analysts on these programs including P.J. Carlesimo, Chauncey Billups and Ohm Youngmisuk, and helped broaden her skill set on linear programming.

“The NBA is my favorite sport and it’s always been my favorite sport,” Hubbarth said. “….When I look back on my career and I think, ‘What is the time when I was feeling at my best?,’ it was on the NBA Tonight desk.”

Although both shows taped their final episodes in 2016, Hubbarth has continued to find opportunities to appear on the linear side of programming. Over the years, Hubbarth has served as a guest host across ESPN’s programming portfolio on shows including Get Up, First Take and SportsCenter, and has also contributed to Mike & Mike, a discontinued sports talk radio show that featured Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg and was simulcast on ESPN2.

“I’ve hosted basically every single show at ESPN except for NFL Countdown and College GameDay,” Hubbarth said. “I feel confident I can host anything in terms of seriousness or as formal as it needs to be…. I like to have a little bit more fun; have it be a little bit more loose; have it be more casual; more conversational. That’s typically my style.”

Part of that confidence was fostered in 2015 when Hubbarth was assigned to host Baseball Tonight. While she possessed knowledge about the game of baseball growing up as a fan of the Chicago Cubs, it was not her strength. As a result, the initial days hosting the show engendered anxiety resulting in her experiencing eye twitches because she never felt prepared enough for the show, which operated without a rundown.

Thanks to the team of analysts, producers and other ESPN personnel, Hubbarth assimilated into the role and consequently, started to feel increased sanguinity with each repetition.

“It got to a point at the end of the summer where I felt really, really confident that I could handle that desk. I was no Karl Ravech out there – I’m not saying I was good at it – but I think I did a decent job and I think I served the viewers, and I walked away from that experience very proud of myself. If I just work hard, put my mind to it and respect the role, I can do any job they put in front of me.”

Following that summer, in which she simultaneously hosted NFL Insiders and NFL Live, Hubbarth began hosting college football coverage on ESPN and ABC. She also explored the aural space, appearing on the NBA Lockdown podcast with Jorge Sedano and Amin Elhassan and on the first all-female ESPN podcast, The Hoop Collective, on Mondays with Ramona Shelburne and Chiney Ogwumike.

Today, she contributes to both NBA Countdown and NBA Today while covering the Association as a sideline reporter on-site during NBA on ESPN broadcasts.

Whether it has been LeBron James, Luka Dončić or Damian Lillard, Hubbarth has interviewed a countless number of NBA players, coaches and team personnel before, after and sometimes during games. In having this type of access, she strives to enrich viewers with contextual information through enterprising stories and using her journalistic instincts to identify focal points, applying her vast preparation to the specific nature of her job.

“It’s understanding what teams are dealing with and making sure as the game’s going on, how those stories can best be told that compliments the viewing experience and doesn’t distract from it,” Hubbarth said. “That’s always a delicate dance of doing sideline because you can prepare a million stories, but if it’s not in the natural flow of the game, then you’re not really helping the broadcast; you’re just helping yourself.”

The NBA is genuinely a year-round league, piquing interest from consumers whether or not games are happening. Social media is a new content avenue that has given fans unprecedented levels of freedom to curate the content they are exposed to and consume on a daily basis.

Moreover, it has afforded them the chance to consume content related to basketball culture, something that was, for a long time, principally covered through magazines and other sports lifestyle media outlets. Today, the culture of the game has become just as prominent as the games themselves; therefore, consumers are hungry for content pursuant to their interests.

ESPN+ is the company’s direct-to-consumer subscription-based streaming platform, and Hubbarth is a regular part of its NBA coverage hosting various digital shows related to the Association.

Before its launch in the second quarter of 2018, she was hosting shows designed for social media platforms, including SportsCenter on Snapchat and Buckets on Twitter, the latter which was co-hosted by Rob Perez. She also hosted SneakerCenter, a seven-part mini-series on ESPN+ underscoring the influence of sneaker culture in basketball at large.

“There’s so much content outside the lines of the game that it just continues to snowball for NBA fans who just can’t get enough,” Hubbarth said. “I think that’s at the heart of the success and then also the clips that you see on Twitter are easily digestible.”

Starting in 2018, ESPN+ launched Hoop Streams, a live, digital pregame show that takes place on-site supplementing its linear, national broadcast coverage before select matchups. Hubbarth has been the host of the show since its inception and is joined by a rotating cast of the network’s personalities, some of whom include Chiney Ogwumike, Kendrick Perkins, Gary Striewski and Jorge Sedano.

Before the suspension of the 2019-20 NBA season, the show was averaging 1.6 million streams per episode, reaching an all-time high of 2.4 million streams in February 2020.

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Cassidy Hubbarth has hosted virtually every show at ESPN during her run with the company Photo ESPN Images

This season, Hubbarth has helped launch her third digital show with ESPN/ESPN+ in the last five years; this one is called NBA Crosscourt. Co-hosted by Rosalyn Gold-Onwude, the production is pre-recorded and streams on ESPN+ on Wednesdays and Fridays, bringing fans focused digital coverage of the league.

Moreover, the program utilizes ESPN’s coast-to-coast network of NBA contributors to provide viewers with a genuine panorama across the league featuring compendious local and national perspectives tailored to the wide array of fan interests.

“We are following the trends and culture of the NBA – and the culture of talking about the NBA,” Hubbarth said. “….Our main goal is not to inform; it’s to engage. That’s what this show is; it’s just to engage the NBA fan in you who is informed and taking [very] informed viewership to engage with just your excitement about the league.”

Last season, Hubbarth continued working on ESPN’s coverage of the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, an exhibition contest featuring former NBA stars and personalities from the worlds of pop culture, sports and entertainment. She had worked as the event’s sideline reporter and host for many years, but largely interviewed event participants throughout the broadcast. This year, she continued to host coverage but, unlike in years past, provided play-by-play amid conversation with analysts Kendrick Perkins and Richard Jefferson.

“Us having fun on the air watching, I think, kind of breeds hopefully [the] viewers having fun watching it,” Hubbarth said. “That’s the whole point; the whole weekend is just the celebration of the league; a celebration of basketball, and…. I think not taking it [too] seriously is part of the way of being professional about it.”

As Cassidy Hubbarth continues hosting and reporting for ESPN, she looks forward to continuing to pioneer the growing emphasis on digital, direct-to-consumer content taking place throughout the sports media landscape. Launching her career working primarily behind-the-scenes amplified her viewpoint of the industry, and she makes it a point to understand everyone’s roles and the way sports media is changing at large.

“Take a professional approach just to how this business continues to grow because that will give you a leg up as employers are trying to figure out how they can continue to gain new viewers because that’s what everyone is looking for,” Hubbarth said. “….I had a genuine interest in how media was changing digitally. It allowed me to not just ride a wave, but to be a part of the wave.”

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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