A day after the NHL announced the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft and the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft will be aired on ESPN in July, the Worldwide Leader announced its commentators, analysts, and reporters for the NHL’s 2021-22 season. In March, ESPN reached a seven-year television, streaming, and media rights deal with the NHL.
According to a release from ESPN PR, ESPN’s play-by-play commentary will be led by Sean McDonough. Steve Levy, who will lead the studio team, will also do play-by-play during the season while John Buccigross (the guy behind Bucci’s overtime challenge and promoting college hawkey), Bob Wischusen, and Leah Hextall will also contribute their talents. While many sentimental hockey fans hoped Gary Thorne would return along with his longtime running mate Bill Clement — it appears at this point neither will be — there are several contributors from ESPN’s yore that will be coming back.
ESPN’s talent roster
The mulleted one, Barry Melrose, is back to contribute coverage. Melrose, a fixture of ESPN’s coverage in the 90s, is a former NHL player and coach, who helped lead Wayne Gretzky’s Los Angeles Kings to the 1993 Stanley Cup Final. Meanwhile, Linda Cohn will host In the Crease, a nightly hockey program on ESPN+, and contribute to NHL coverage and programming across platforms during the season.
— ESPN PR (@ESPNPR) June 29, 2021
ESPN has also hired Hall of Famers Mark Messier (six-time Stanley Cup champion) and Chris Chelios (three-time Stanley Cup champion) as well as current and former players Ray Ferraro, Brian Boucher, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Kevin Weekes, Ryan Callahan, A.J. Mleczko, Rick DiPietro, and Hilary Knight.
“This new and groundbreaking lineup will bring the NHL to an expanding legion of passionate fans,” Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of ESPN and Sports Content, said in a release. “We set out to put together a roster that would excite, engage and educate the entire range of fans – from diehard to casual – while inspiring the next generation. With this lineup, we believe we have done just that. We could not be more excited to welcome this talented and diverse group to the ESPN hockey family.”
Hockey fans, who consume ESPN’s online NHL coverage, will also notice that Greg Wyshynski (formerly of Puck Daddy) and Emily Kaplan will handle reporting duties along with Blake Bolden, a scout and growth and inclusion specialist for the Los Angeles Kings.
NHL Play-by-Play Commentators
Benezra serves as SportsCenter anchor for ESPN Deportes. He also provides play-by-play commentary for multiple events across Spanish-speaking Latin America, including the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship, NFL, MLB, Mexican Baseball League, Mexican Pacific League, the Caribbean Series and the Little League World Series. Benezra has also provided commentary for FIFA and Madden E-sports tournaments for ESPN in Spanish-speaking Latin America.
Buccigross joined the company as an ESPNEWS anchor in 1996, and was the primary host of NHL 2Night, ESPN2’s 30-minute program dedicated to hockey highlights and news from 1998-2004. He currently serves as the play-by-play voice of the NCAA Men’s Division I Hockey Championship (“The Frozen Four”). “Bucci” also sometimes fills in as host of the nightly hockey highlights program In the Crease on ESPN+, in addition to serving as co-host of SportsCenter weeknights at 11 p.m. ET.
Garay, an award-winning sports TV and radio commentator and director with more than 25 years of experience, will handle play-by-play duties for NHL games on ESPN Deportes. In addition to NHL, he covers soccer, baseball, basketball and college football, among other sports. Garay joined ESPN in August 2005, and prior to that, was a commentator and sports director for Radio Caracol in Miami, Florida from 1995-2005.
Hextall made history in March 2020 when she became the first woman to call play-by-play for a nationally televised NHL game as part of SportsNet’s first all-female broadcast team. She had previously made history as the first woman to call a NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Championship game for ESPN in 2019. Hextall worked for CTV Winnipeg from 2005-2012 and for NESN as host of NESN Today from 2012-2014. She joined SportsNet as a studio host and rinkside reporter on Hockey Night in Canada, before pursuing a career in hockey play-by-play. Hextall is part of a hockey lineage that begins with her grandfather, Bryan Hextall, who is a Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Famer with the New York Rangers. Her uncles, Bryan Lee and Dennis Hextall, played more than 20 NHL seasons at the forward position, while her cousin, Ron Hextall, was an NHL goaltender and executive currently serving as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Levy, one of ESPN’s signature voices, has handled a variety of play-by-play assignments, including the World Cup of Hockey, NHL and Stanley Cup Playoff games (1995-2005) on ESPN, ESPN2 and ABC Sports and the NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Semifinals and Finals (“The Frozen Four”) in 1998 and 1999. Levy joined the company nearly three decades ago in August 1993 and emerged as one of ESPN’s leading play-by-play commentators for his work on college football, NFL, NHL and the XFL. In studio, he is widely known for anchoring SportsCenter throughout his career. Levy enters his second year as play-by-play commentator for Monday Night Football in the upcoming 2021 NFL Season. Prior to MNF, Levy called weekly ESPN and ABC college football games from 2016-2019.
McDonough is an award-winning play-by-play commentator, and is one of sports television’s most versatile broadcasters. He is a leading play-by-play commentator for ESPN college football and basketball games, in addition to calling the annual Par 3 Contest at The Masters. McDonough returned to ESPN’s college football broadcast team in 2018, where he calls a premier game each week, as well as one of the College Football Playoff Semifinals, and the National Championship on ESPN Radio. Previously the voice of Monday Night Football, McDonough has covered the World Series, NCAA Final Four, the Olympic Games and all four major golf championships, among other marquee events during his accomplished career. He has also voiced ESPN’s Major League Baseball Monday Night Baseball telecasts, served as a host and hole announcer on ESPN’s coverage of the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and other golf events, and he has provided play-by-play on the network for NHL, tennis, the College World Series, college lacrosse, soccer and hockey. From 2013-2015, he also called NFL games for ESPN Radio.
Wischusen has been a play-by-play voice on ESPN’s college basketball and football telecasts since he joined the network in 2005. He also called play-by-play for ESPN’s Arena Football telecasts for two years (2006-2008), as well as radio/TV coverage of U.S. and British Open for golf and college baseball. Wischusen has been the radio play-by-play voice for the New York Jets since 2002. He also worked from 2001-2008 for the MSG Networks where he handled play-by-play on TV and radio for select Rangers, Knicks and Liberty games.
NHL Analysts and Reporters
Blake Bolden, Reporter
Currently a scout and growth and inclusion specialist for the Los Angeles Kings, Bolden joins ESPN as a NHL reporter. Breaking down barriers from an early age, Bolden became the first Black woman to play professional hockey when she joined the NWHL’s Boston Pride. In 2016, she helped the Pride win the inaugural Isobel Cup and is a three-time NWHL All-Star. Bolden played collegiate hockey at Boston College, where she was named Hockey East Defenseman of the Year, First Team Hockey East All-Star, New England All-Star and Second Team All-American. Dedicated to using her platform to diversify the game of hockey, Bolden has provided analysis on NHL Network, NBC Sports and Rogers SportsNet.
Brian Boucher, Analyst
Boucher played 13 seasons as a goaltender in the NHL before transitioning to color commentary and analysis for the Philadelphia Flyer’s regional broadcasts upon retiring in 2013. He then worked as an analyst for NHL Network for the 2015-16 season. Most recently a game and studio analyst for national NBC and NBCSN, Boucher has covered Stanley Cup Playoff and Final games as well as the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. The former first-round draft pick still holds the NHL’s modern era record of the longest shutout streak at 332:01 – set during the 2003-2004 season with the Phoenix Coyotes.
Ryan Callahan, Analyst
Callahan played 13 seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning. Drafted by the Rangers in 2004, Callahan registered 186 goals and 200 assists in 757 regular season games, while collecting 20 goals and 19 assists in 121 Stanley Cup Playoff games. In 2011, Callahan became the 26th captain of the New York Rangers – the first New York native to serve as Rangers team captain. In addition to his NHL play, Callahan was named to Team USA twice for participation at the 2010 Winter Olympics, where he earned a silver medal, and in 2014. He began his broadcasting career in 2019 with the NHL Network as a studio analyst, and has also provided analysis for the NHL on NBC.
Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Analyst
Campbell-Pascall is a three-time Olympic medalist and was the only captain, male or female, to lead Canada to two Olympic gold medals, and a silver medal before that. Also a six-time IIHF World Champion gold medalist, Campbell-Pascall was captain of Canada’s National Women’s Team from 2001 until her retirement in 2006. After retiring, Campbell-Pascall became the first female player inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. As a color commentator for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, she became the first woman to hold the position when she joined their broadcast team in 2006.
Chris Chelios, Analyst
Chelios played 26 seasons in the NHL before retiring as the all-time leader in games played as a defenseman. During that time, he won three Stanley Cups and was awarded the Norris Trophy three times as the NHL’s best defenseman. In addition to his NHL play, Chelios was a member of Team USA in four Winter Olympic Games, including captaining the 2002 silver medal team. He also served as an assistant coach for the 2018 U.S. Olympic Men’s Ice Hockey team. Most recently serving as an ambassador to the Chicago Blackhawks, Chelios has also worked as an analyst for ESPN calling the World Cup of Hockey. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2013.
Rick DiPietro, Analyst
DiPietro is a former All-Star who played 11 seasons in the NHL, and was the first American-born goaltender to be drafted number one overall. The New York Islanders selected him with the first pick in the 2000 NHL Draft, when he became the first goaltender taken number one since 1968. From 2005-2008, DiPietro was statistically one of the top 10 goaltenders in the NHL, and he represented Team USA at the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. DiPietro began his radio broadcasting career in 2014 and currently appears on DiPietro, Canty & Rothberg on 98.7 FM ESPN New York.
Ray Ferraro, Analyst
Ferraro played 18 years as a NHL center, scoring a total of 898 points during his career, and is in the top 100 goal scorers in NHL history and earned a NHL All-Star Game invite in 1992. Most recently a game and studio analyst for NHL on TSN, Ferraro began his broadcast career providing analysis for NHL 2Night on ESPN alongside John Buccigross and Barry Melrose while he was still an active NHL player. He retired in 2002, immediately moving to the broadcast booth as an analyst for Oilers broadcasts on SportsNet. In 2008, he joined the TSN broadcast team fulltime and has become one of Canada’s most respected hockey broadcasters. He will continue to contribute to TSN’s hockey coverage while a member of ESPN’s NHL commentator team. Ferraro has also provided analysis for the NHL on NBC and color commentary for the Toronto Maple Leafs and Ottawa Senators games on TSN. Additionally, he has provided commentary and analysis for CTV during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games and was the lead color commentator for the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. Since 2012, Ferraro has served as TSN’s game analyst for the IIHF World Junior Championships, Canada’s beloved holiday hockey tradition, with multiple games ranking among the most-watched broadcasts ever on specialty television in Canada. Ferraro is a two-time Canadian Screen Awards winning analyst, being named Best Sports Analyst in a Sports Program or Series in 2015 and 2016.
Emily Kaplan, Reporter
Kaplan joined ESPN in 2017 as a national hockey writer and reporter for ESPN.com. Last season, Kaplan provided coverage from the Stanley Cup Final as the only in-arena reporter for ESPN, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She and fellow ESPN NHL reporter Greg Wyshynski co-wrote “NHL Bubble Confidential,” an eye-opening look at life inside the 2020 NHL bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton. Kaplan also reported on the NHL’s struggles with mental health and how players confronted anxieties and isolation during the 2021-2022 pandemic season. She also makes regular appearances on ESPN’s Around the Horn, the weekday program that consists of a satellite roundtable discussion of topical sports issues with journalists from around the nation. Prior to joining ESPN, Kaplan worked at Sports Illustrated, the Boston Globe, Associated Press and the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Hilary Knight, Analyst
Knight is an American ice hockey forward known for her many accomplishments as a member of the United States women’s national ice hockey team. In 2006, she joined Team USA, and in both 2010 and 2014 helped lead her teams to silver medals at the Winter Olympic Games. At the 2018 Winter Olympics, Knight won gold in her third Olympic appearance. Knight also won the IIHF World Championships in 2008, 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2016 and 2017. She was named the 2013 CWHL MVP and the 2014 Bob Allen’s Player of the Year, and in 2016 won the inaugural NWHL Isobel Cup and was the league’s leading scorer. As a collegiate athlete at the University of Wisconsin, Knight earned two national championships, the all-time goals record and became a three-time All-American. Knight served as a guest studio analyst during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs and again in 2020 as NBC Sports Washington’s inside-the-glass analyst.
Barry Melrose, Analyst
Melrose played 11 years professionally as a defenseman before transitioning to coaching, and then joining ESPN in a number of broadcast roles beginning in 1994. His first full-time stint with ESPN began in October 1996, when he called regular-season and playoff games for ESPN and ABC Sports until 2002. From 2003 to 2004, he provided studio analysis for ABC Sports’ NHL telecasts. Prior to joining the network in 1996, he was the head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1992 to April 1995. In his debut season, his team advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history. Melrose left the network in 2008 to accept a head-coaching job with the Tampa Bay Lightning, and rejoined ESPN in 2009, coinciding with the NHL’s Winter Classic game.
Mark Messier, Analyst
Messier played 25 seasons in the NHL, and is a six-time Stanley Cup champion and only player to captain two teams to Stanley Cup championships. The 15-time NHL All-Star is the third-most prolific points scorer in regular season NHL history and second-highest in playoff points. He was awarded the Hart Memorial Trophy in 1990 and 1992 as the league’s most valuable player, and won the Conn Smythe trophy in 1984 as the most valuable player during the NHL Playoffs. Messier was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2007, and has occasionally worked as a studio analyst on NHL on Versus, and served as an in-game analyst for the NHL All-Star Game on Versus. He has also been a guest commentator for NHL on NBC, and in 2014 joined Rogers Communications as a spokesperson and occasional analyst for Rogers’ national NHL coverage.
A.J. Mleczko, Analyst
A member of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame, Mleczko helped Team USA win the first-ever gold medal awarded in women’s hockey at the 1998 Winter Olympic Games in Nagano, and four years later the silver medal at the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. In 2018, Mleczko made broadcasting history when she became the first woman to work as an in-booth analyst for an NHL postseason game, and was thereafter a member of NBC Sports’ NHL coverage team during each subsequent season, including on the Stanley Cup Playoffs. She has also been an analyst from both the studio and rink-side vantage points on MSG Network’s New York Islanders telecasts since 2018. Mleczko played collegiate hockey at Harvard University, helping lead the Crimson to the 1999 Women’s National Championship. She was the winner of the Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award that year for being the top female college ice hockey player in the United States. Mleczko worked as an analyst for NBC Sports’ hockey coverage since 2006, covering four Winter Olympic Games during that span.
Carlos Rossell, Analyst
Rossell has been an analyst on ESPN’s Spanish-language telecasts in Latin America for the NCAA Men’s Division I Hockey Championship (“The Frozen Four) since 2017. Prior to joining ESPN, he handled color commentary for NHL on Fox for Spanish-speaking Latin America from 1994-1999. A 20-year broadcasting veteran, Rossell has lent his voice to some of the NHL’s most coveted events, including providing Spanish-language commentary of the NHL All-Star Game for ABC’s second audio programming (SAP) in 2000 and the World Cup of Hockey 2016 for ESPN Deportes. In 2006, Rossell provided color commentary for the NHL’s first pre-season exhibition game between the New York Rangers and Florida Panthers, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. A graduate of Elmira College, Rossell was a member of The Soaring Eagles, Elmira College’s men’s ice hockey team.
Antonio Valle, Analyst
Valle joined ESPN in 2010 as a reporter for ESPN Deportes Radio, and currently serves as a reporter for SportsCenter. Throughout his career, Valle has covered events such as the Gold Cup, Copa Libertadores and CONCACAF Champions League as a reporter, sideline reporter and analyst. He has also provided analysis for various Olympic Game disciplines, including archery and modern pentathlon and most recently provided analysis for ESPN’s Spanish-language telecast of the 2021 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship.
Kevin Weekes, Analyst
Weekes played 11 seasons as goaltender in the NHL, after being drafted 41st overall by the Florida Panthers in the 1993 NHL Draft. Shortly after retiring in 2009, Kevin made history when he became the first Black lead analyst in ice hockey. Weekes provides lead color commentary and analysis for games and in-studio on the NHL Network, and previously for Hockey Night in Canada. In The Hockey News 2011 edition of the 100 Most Powerful people in ice hockey, Kevin was recognized as one of the Top 40 under the age of 40.
Greg Wyshynski, Reporter and Senior NHL Writer
Wyshynski joined ESPN in 2017 to be a leading voice for NHL content, covering the league as a reporter, columnist and analyst across platforms. Along with fellow ESPN hockey reporter Emily Kaplan, Wyshynski covers NHL news and analysis and can be seen and heard across platforms, including Daily Wager, the ESPN Daily podcast and SportsCenter. Wyshynski previously spent nine years as editor-in-chief of the popular Puck Daddy blog on Yahoo! Sports and 10 years as a writer at The Connection Newspapers in Virginia, where he received more than 50 Virginia Press Association awards.
Per ESPN PR, additional live game and studio coverage details, along with programming plans, will be announced in the months ahead of the 2021-22 season.
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