ESPN and the NHL came to a landmark seven-year, $2.8 billion agreement, which will bring hockey back to the Worldwide Leader for the first time since 2004.
ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said no on-air talent has been discussed or figured out yet, but there’s one huge personality that has already thrown his name into the ring.
Gary Thorne is open to returning.
“I’d love to talk to them about it,” the 72-year-old Thorne said to The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch on Wednesday.
“I’d love to talk about it with ESPN and see what direction they’re going to take with it, what the schedule is going to look like, all of that,” Thorne added. “But from the primary foundational question of, ‘Is that something that interests me?’ Yes, it does.”
Thorne was ESPN’s lead play-by-play announcer from 1992–2004 and was always paired with former NHL player Bill Clement. Thorne called 12 straight Stanley Cup Finals, including the Capitals-Red Wings Final in 1998, and his unique voice became as synonymous with hockey as Mike Emrick’s. After the fact, Thorne was also tabbed to record the play-by-play for EA Sports’ NHL video games from NHL 07 through NHL 14.
A humbled Thorne said he got tons of text messages after news of ESPN’s deal was first reported by Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.
“I’m just so happy that people have remembered and have those kinds of positive memories about the time that myself and Bill and our crew were doing the games,” Thorne said. “It’s pretty amazing to me that after all these years that it still lives in the forefront of people’s minds, that connection with ESPN and the NHL and our broadcast.”
Since leaving ESPN, Thorne has done play-by-play for baseball and college football games. Most recently he called Baltimore Orioles games for MASN.
“I’m really happy for ESPN,” Thorne said. “I think ESPN had a real solid base and genuine interest in the NHL when we were doing it and I think they probably regretted that they didn’t continue with it. To have it back, certainly for ESPN, is a big deal. There were some great people who did a hell of a job in the production part of it when we had it and they get a chance again. It seems like it will fit better than ever at ESPN.”
Screenshot courtesy of the ESPN
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