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Noah Eagle Brings a Hardcore Attitude Everywhere

“It wasn’t necessarily the glitz and glamor. It was the relationships; it was the preparation; it was the craft.”

Derek Futterman

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If you have ever been on a job interview, the thought of having to field questions from a hiring manager or executive can be intimidating – especially if it is in your first search for a job, internship or some professional occupation. At the end of his interview for a broadcast position with the Los Angeles Clippers, Noah Eagle was given the opportunity to ask questions in return. He asked what qualities the team was looking for in a broadcaster. His interviewer looked him dead-on in the eyes and replied, “Someone who’s hardcore.”

His interviewer happened to be former Microsoft CEO, business mogul, and Clippers Owner and Chairman Steve Ballmer. Eagle had taken a business trip across the country to partake in this interview as one of the finalists to join the Clippers’ broadcast team out of college.

Eagle, 25, had prepared for this moment from the time he was young growing up around his father: sportscaster Ian Eagle. Whether it was through osmosis or inquisitiveness, Noah became infatuated with sports media at the age of 13 and knew he would find a way to work in the field. On top of that, he knew he had limited athletic ability and yearned to find a way to remain involved in the world of sports.

“I saw him every morning wake up and be excited to go to work; to be excited to do the prep; to be excited to interact with people,” Eagle said of his father. “That’s what drew me to it. It wasn’t necessarily the glitz and glamor. It was the relationships; it was the preparation; it was the craft.”

Eagle was ambitious and adopted a growth mindset, looking to parlay his early experience accompanying his father at games and knowledge regarding how to conduct himself in a professional environment to move ahead in the industry.

On top of that, he began to study his father and other broadcasters to try and determine what made them stand out from others. He would then identify unique parts of their styles and incorporate them into his own. Moreover, he asked his father to provide his opinion on certain aspects of his findings, accessibility to a professional that helped him immensely in his development.

“I was fortunate with him that then I had somebody to bounce that off to now share my findings with and say, ‘Is this how you see it? How do you think that this could work?,’ and he’s always there,” Eagle said of his father. “I know that’s not just for me. He’s that way with a lot of people; a lot of young broadcasters [and] he’s very gracious with his time. I was very fortunate for so many reasons and him being probably the number one reason on that list.”

As a high school student, Eagle recognized his abilities as a public speaker and sought to develop them by serving on the school’s student council and writing the sports column in its newspaper. Yet Eagle did not genuinely immerse himself in sports media until he reached college, but the process of selecting Syracuse University, a place where both of his parents matriculated, was not a foregone conclusion from the start of his college search.

After his first visit to Syracuse, on a day where it was 75 degrees Fahrenheit, he did not believe he could go there simply because it did not feel right to him. His parents were determined in helping him find a place where he would be comfortable and that had a robust sports media program; therefore, they traveled to several schools throughout the country including UCLA, Indiana, and Miami.

Yet Syracuse was always in the back of his mind as a potential landing spot and he gave the school a second chance by visiting before the start of his senior year of high school. During that visit though, his mother gave him an experience deviating from the standard recruitment proceedings during which she took him on a personalized tour of the school from her perspective as a former student.

“About 15 minutes into our drive home… she said, ‘Well, what do you think this time?,’” Eagle remembered. “I said I would apply early decision. It was just that extra viewing of some of the other spots…. [and] that feeling [that] you know it’s the right spot for you.”

From the moment he began at Syracuse University, Eagle’s goal was to join the campus radio station, WAER-FM, as soon as he possibly could. He arrived early to the information session, adding his name on a list with an indefatigable mindset of doing whatever it would take to quickly establish himself and gain experience. Syracuse University is well-known for its alumni network in sports media, attracting many students to its campus each year. As a result, it is a competitive environment in which students gain real-world experience and are required to go the extra mile to earn air time.

“I think the competitive nature pushes you to be the best version of yourself every day just because you know the man or woman next to you is doing the same thing,” Eagle said. “It is also very supportive. Everybody, at least in my experience, is supportive and wants to see everybody succeed. That’s a healthy competition; a healthy drive to be the best.”

Part of joining WAER-FM was having to wake up at the crack of dawn once per week to go to the station to record a sportscast that would not hit the airwaves. He knew from his father, who initially decided not to join the station because of it, that it was a necessary inconvenience to embrace and make the most of.

From there, he called Syracuse Orangemen basketball, football and lacrosse games on the station and became involved with other student media outlets such as CitrusTV and Z89 (WJPZ-FM). Eagle not only sought to develop his skills in sports broadcasting, but also in performing other types of roles in media – including anchoring news coverage and in-arena hosting for events ranging from new student welcomes to midnight madness.

“Every sport; every category; anything else in-between – I just said, ‘Give it to me. I’ll try the challenge. I’ll see if I can make it work,’” Eagle said. “That was the best thing I did because it allowed me to learn what I really like; what I really don’t like; what I want to do long term and then I went from there.”

During his early days at Syracuse University though, Eagle decided not to use his last name, introducing himself to colleagues and friends simply as ‘Noah.’ Once his father heard this, he had a conversation with his son that changed his perspective, saying he had nothing to be ashamed of and that he should embrace his roots. On top of that, it was and remains best practice to divulge your surname in professional environments.

“I should be very proud not just of him but of my mom and my sister and where I come from and the people [who] came before us and the generation before us,” Eagle said. “I shouldn’t run away from that.  He’s well known as a really good person, first and foremost, and that’s what I care about more than anything else. I am proud to be attached to that and I am proud to continue that legacy the best I can.”

In his junior year, Eagle had the opportunity to host his own radio show on SiriusXM’s ESPNU and ACC channels. Moreover, he covered events for NBA Entertainment, such as the NBA Summer League, NBA Draft Lottery, and the G-League Winter Showcase – and worked at the U.S. Open for the Tennis Channel. Gaining this professional experience helped further enhance his portfolio and made him a multi-faceted, skilled broadcaster on the marketplace – although he did not remain there very long if at all.

Eagle became just the second Syracuse University graduate to start broadcasting in the NBA immediately after his graduation (Greg Papa joined the Indiana Pacers’ broadcast team out of college in 1984). Just how this all came together was a combination of extraordinary talent and timing, the latter which was simply out of his control.

As an undergraduate senior, Eagle was told to send his résumé and demo reel to Olivia Stomski, the director of the Newhouse Sports Media Center at Syracuse University. He was not aware that the opening was to broadcast games for the Clippers, but nonetheless provided the materials requested from him. 

Approximately a month-and-a-half later, Eagle received a call from a Los Angeles area code on his cell phone. After some initial hesitation regarding answering the call, he decided to accept and heard Nick Davis, vice president of production for FOX Sports West and Prime Ticket, on the other end. He told him that the network was looking to compile a new broadcast team for the Clippers and that they were interested in flying him in to Los Angeles to audition for the television play-by-play job.

Following calling a pre-recorded Clippers game against the Boston Celtics, he flew back to Syracuse, unclear of how he had done – but if anything, had just gained invaluable real-world experience in landing a job. It turns out he did well enough to make it to the next round of interviews, which would be with team owner Steve Ballmer, and possessed the same mindset that even if he did not land the job, he at least was becoming familiar with the process of a job search.

“I went in with this mentality and I think it helped me because the nerves were just gone,” Eagle said. “I didn’t have any nerves. I walked in there and just said, ‘I’m going to be me and whatever happens happens.’ I got very fortunate in that point just because whatever I did worked. Once I realized that whatever I did worked, I just kept doing it.”

Once he concluded his interview with Ballmer, Eagle remembered calling his parents and saying that he was unsure if he would land the job, but at least he was completely honest rather than telling the team owner what he wanted to hear. Speaking with candor and probity kept Eagle grounded, refusing to abandon his moral principles throughout the process of trying to land a coveted role in the country’s second-largest media marketplace.

“Steve is probably the smartest guy in every room that he’s in, but you would never know it,” Eagle said. “He’s very normal [and] just down-to-earth. He wants knowledge; he’s naturally curious [and] genuine. He was asking me questions and actually wanted to know the answers, [such as,] ‘What do you think of the future of broadcasting? Where do you think this is going? Do you take classes on this? How do you feel about this?’”

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In addition to his work with the Clippers Noah Eagle has served as the preseason voice of the Los Angeles Chargers Photo provided by Eagle

In the end, the organization decided to move radio play-by-play announcer Brian Sieman to the television broadcast, replacing Ralph Lawler. That created an opening on the radio side, distributed to multiple broadcast outlets on terrestrial and digital platforms, and one the organization decided Noah Eagle was best suited to fill. As soon as he received the formal job offer, Eagle emphatically accepted and prepared to make the move across the country to the “City of Angels.”

As is in the case in most new jobs, there is a lot to quickly grasp and learn to effectively perform your role. Having his father as a resource was especially helpful in determining how to best prepare, conduct himself and adjust to his new lifestyle. Whenever he did not know what to do, he fell back on Ballmer’s answer of being “hardcore,” and that state of being uncomfortable began from the onset – as Eagle was hired to do the games solo.

“It’s not just by yourself for a game or two; it’s 82 games plus preseason plus playoffs,” Eagle said. “That part was the most daunting where I looked at it and it’s like, ‘How am I going to fill an entire game alone?’ Now I look at it and laugh that I was even ever questioning it because it’s just become second nature.”

Keeping an audience interested and focused on the game throughout the duration of a radio broadcast can be difficult with the amount of external distractions and sources of entertainment available to consumers today.

For Eagle, broadcasting in a city with regular congestion and standstill traffic jams certainly works to his benefit. However, sports are far from the only format on terrestrial and satellite radio – plus there are audiobooks, podcasts and other forms of aural entertainment with which to compete. As a result, Eagle does his best to make the broadcast sound as if there are multiple voices behind the microphone telling the story of the game, almost maintaining different characters.

“Most people that talk to [themselves] get labeled as insane; I get paid to do it,” Eagle remarked. “It’s a pretty good gig [and] I’m lucky [that] I’ve got good people around me. I’ve got a lot of help from engineers and our host Adam Auslund does great work.”

When Eagle was broadcasting within the auspices of a college radio station, the broadcasters were often relegated to locations with vantage points that were not always the easiest to work with. A part of Eagle’s development, therefore, was to find other ways to see the game and depict what was going on to the audience.

Although the vantage points for NBA broadcasts are usually better than those at the college level, they do not all have an unimpeded view of the game. Oddly enough, it gives Eagle somewhat of an advantage over more seasoned broadcasters placed in a similar situation – as he is not too far removed from participating in college broadcasts.

“[In] my first year, I was still so conditioned in that it was like second nature,” Eagle said. “Now I’ve only gotten better with it because I know…. you have to rely on all those tricks that you had learned for yourself over the years.”

Attempting to humanize the game on the court is part of how Eagle has contributed to the rapid and sustained growth of the game of basketball, helping the sport dominate the conversation whether or not games are on the slate. He has also helped foster lifelong connections between the players and the fans both as a radio broadcaster and host of several events for the team.

“Basketball has been a passion of mine since I was a kid,” Eagle said. “Being around the NBA and my dad from a very young age helped spark that love for the game. I played it as long as I could through high school and I was around it as much as I could be.”

Social media permits the real-time transmission of the game through highlights, which generally get posted right away. It is the broadcasters, though, who provide the soundtrack to the moments on the screen mixed with the mellifluous tones of a zealous crowd. Eagle remembers the excitement of his first regular season broadcast with the Clippers in a matchup against the rival Los Angeles Lakers; in fact, he took his headset off to look around and take in the atmosphere at Crypto.com Arena, simultaneously adjusting to his new home court.

“The one good thing… of me starting when I was so young is they’re used to that in L.A. They’ve had a lot of people do that,” Eagle said. “….I think people were just looking forward to what my career was going to turn into – whether that was staying in one spot or doing all these other things. I think people just were there to root [for my] success.”

Now in his fourth season with the team, Eagle has had the chance to call various memorable moments both in the regular season and in the playoffs. With a robust roster including superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, along with a new arena in the Intuit Dome projected to be just a couple of years away from opening, Eagle will provide the dialogue and effectively write the words to all of the action surrounding the team.

It is crucial, though, that Eagle dictates the action rather than letting the action dictate him. Sure, Eagle cannot impact what happens on the court in real time – but what he can do is stay on top of each play, give the location of the ball and try to anticipate what may happen in advance to be ready to make an appropriate call. All of that occurs while being ready to adjust to unforeseen action at a moment’s notice and being authentic in his love of the game and the craft.

“You can sense when someone has control of the action or control or command of the broadcast,” Eagle said. “That’s crucial and it comes with just more and more reps. It comes with practicing and doing it and having a better understanding of, ‘Oh, I need to push it here. I need to pull it back here.’”

Those traits of a play-by-play announcer carry over to announcing gigs outside of the Clippers, although the preparation process differs by sport. Eagle closely follows the Clippers throughout the regular season, making it easier to stay informed about the latest going on with the team down to the minute details.

Conversely when he is broadcasting NFL on FOX games, Los Angeles Chargers preseason games, or college football matchups on FS1, he has to learn the players on the roster, read about the current events of the team, watch press conferences and speak to the coaches to get a broad picture of the team itself.

“I was around the Syracuse football team all the time,” Eagle said. “I knew those guys inside and out; I knew about those guys inside and out. Now you’re preparing for two teams altogether and you’ve got 100 kids essentially on a football roster in college. It’s a lot; there’s a lot more work and just a lot more to learn.”

NFL football, according to Eagle, is the sport most optimal for television broadcasts because of its regular cadence established from the opening kickoff. On the other hand, college football teams often play a hurry-up offense, requiring broadcasters to be set for a play to commence at any moment.

It is something Eagle will have to adjust to, as he is reportedly set to become the primary play-by-play announcer for Big Ten football on NBC, according to Andrew Marchand of The New York Post, in which he will work with analyst Todd Blackledge. While Eagle declined comment regarding this news, he did elaborate on the nature of a typical college football broadcast.

“I worked with Mark Helfrich this year and when he was at Oregon…. They were getting right back to the line,” he said. “They were going to just keep going; they were as conditioned as they possibly could be, and they were going to score on you and they were going to go for two [points] and that was that. It can be really, really exciting but you have to be ready.”

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Noah Eagle has called each of the NFL broadcasts that have aired on Nickelodeon Photo provided by Eagle

Aside from standard football broadcasts, Eagle has been the voice of the NFL on Nickelodeon alternate broadcasts produced by CBS Sports. He recently broadcast the Christmas Day matchup between the Denver Broncos and Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif. – and he was joined in the booth by Nate Burleson and various Nickelodeon sitcom stars.

By following the shrewd advice of Syracuse alumnus and sportscaster Marty Glickman regarding considering the audience, he prepares for this alternate broadcast and others like it by thinking about what a typical viewer may want to hear.

“I just think you can now create a different audience,” Eagle said. “Isn’t that we want at the end of the day for sports or any of the stuff that we cover? We want as large or as vast of an audience as possible. If that can create this at all, it’s all good. It’s fun; you just have to approach it [in] the right way.”

Broadcasting sports is considered a “dream job” for many sports fans; yet if you are afforded an opportunity to do that on a regular basis, the law of diminishing marginal utility may start to take effect. Keeping Eagle motivated, outside of loving sports, is finding ways to improve.

“My goal, and it remains the same from when I first got the job [to] today and all the way through the rest of my career, is ‘Can the next broadcast be better than the previous one?,’” Eagle shared. “As long as I’m doing that whether it be with the Clippers or other jobs that I have right now, then that’s all I care about.”

Being a well-rounded person with interests outside of sports and media help Eagle on these broadcasts as well, and it is sagacious advice for young broadcasters. While he had the chance to see broadcasting from a different perspective as the son of an accomplished sportscaster, Noah Eagle enjoys his work and is excited to embark on his career.

At the same time, he treats everyone with dignity and respect, modeling after his father and displaying professionalism in whatever job he may be working.

“If you’re going to do this, do this for the love of it,” Eagle expressed. “Don’t do this for the prestige or whatever else comes with it. Do it because you thoroughly enjoy it because that’s the only way you’re going to reach that height that you eventually want to…. If you’re excited about it and you’re ready to have fun with it, then a lot will take care of itself.”

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BSM Writers

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

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

Derek Futterman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NHL ON TNT STUDIO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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LUNDQVIST 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Should the NBA Nationalize Local TV Rights Like MLS?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do You Have Affirmations Of Gratitude?

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

Jeff Caves

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

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

“I HAVE A JOB.”

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

I AM A PROBLEM SOLVER.”

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

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

I WORK IN THE PEOPLE BUSINESS.”

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

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

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

I HAVE COMPETITION!”

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

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