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Tips From Fox Sports Radio’s Don Martin & Scott Shapiro

“In order to come up with unique talking points, you have to generally be curious in the topics and read as much as you can get your hands on and seek viewpoints from as many people as you can in order to craft your own unique argument.”

Brian Noe

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Fox Sports Radio

Many people believe that FOX Sports Radio has the best lineup in sports talk today. Don Martin and Scott Shapiro are two of these people. Both men have played key roles in positioning FSR to have major success. The network reaches 11 million monthly listeners on more than 400 radio stations. That doesn’t happen with weak leadership. It takes strong management and a vision to achieve this level of success.

I sat down with Don and Scott a few years ago for lunch. They offered to provide their feedback, coaching, and support. They’ve always followed through by taking the time to share their knowledge. The funny thing is that I was literally eating salmon during that lunch. Don coincidentally mentions why broadcasters need to act like salmon in this industry. It’s a tremendous comparison that appears below.

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The two kingpins continued the trend of offering their time — this recent occasion was to take part in a roundtable discussion. Both men have assessed a lot of talent over the years. They discuss the qualities of show hosts that they value most. It’s also fascinating to hear about the doubts they had early in their distinguished careers — something that many people can relate to. There are some great stories and tremendous viewpoints in this piece. I hope you enjoy it.

Noe: What initially got you interested in the radio business?

Don: I went to college originally to be a computer programmer because that’s what everybody was doing back in the days in which a computer was the size of a building. I was an athlete all my life. I blew my knee out, so I knew I couldn’t play. I said to my mother, “I need to get in the sports business.” I got into the game in Denver as an intern on the TV side. Then I was dubbing Christmas music from album to cart.

While I was doing that for a two-week period, the sports guy on that morning show got sick. Jerry Castro asked me if I would do the sports. I was still in school. I said absolutely. He then hired me two weeks later after I did the sports for a couple of weeks in morning drive. I was doing sports there. I was interning on television. I was doing metro traffic.

Then Irv Brown started one of the first sports stations in the country KMVP 1600. He put a midday show together with me, Dave Logan, Rich Goins, and a guy named John Marvel. Later on in life I worked with Billy Van Heusen, a former Bronco, from 9 to noon. A consultant took us off the air after two years saying we were too much like the afternoon show. I thought my career was over.

I became Irv and Joe’s producer. I found out that, “Wow, I liked that role,” and I did it well. While I was doing that, I was the TV play-by-play voice of the then Colorado Athletic Conference. Then a guy named Sam Pagano — a legendary high school coach in Denver out of Fairview High School in Boulder, Colorado — we bought our own time and we were doing high school games on television on Prime Ticket.

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We did anywhere from three to four games a week between football and basketball while I was doing the college stuff on the CAC and doing the talk with Irv. I had to balance a lot at one time. Sam Pagano’s boys you know — Chuck Pagano was the former coach of the Indianapolis Colts. John was the other son and he was my analyst. It just kept growing and growing and growing. Then one day I got a call from KOA and I became the sports guy on KOA as far as producing everything — Rockies, Broncos, Buffs. Then they asked me to program the station. That’s how I came off of the air and got into management.

Noe: What about radio initially appealed to you, Scott?

Scott: There’s something about radio that’s truly special and unique. Hosts on the radio build such an intimate relationship with the audience. Ultimately, it’s that storytelling ability where in other platforms you really don’t get that luxury to expand, to show personality, and to truly tell stories. That’s a lot of the connective fiber that drives a very unique connection with hosts and their audience because it’s long form. It’s your true personality coming out over the radio. You can’t fake it. You have to be your genuine self and the audience usually are tough critics.

This day and age, so much of the audience has ADD. They only want to listen to somebody who’s very compelling and that has something special to offer. In radio, like I said you can’t fake it. It’s your true self and people are deciding whether to spend their very valuable time with you. It’s an investment that the audience makes. When they do make that investment, it’s an emotional connection that’s made. 

There’s really something special on the radio where the goal is to make people think. You want to make people react. It brings out a lot of emotions in people and when you’re doing it right you really build that relationship with your audience. Yeah, at times it can be a one-way relationship, but it’s truly a special relationship. I feel like I know the folks that I listen to on the radio. I feel like I know them well. Really it’s just me typically listening to their product. It’s such a special medium where you have the ability to truly connect with your audience and be genuine at the same time.

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Noe: What would you say was your first major breakthrough in radio?

Don: Irv Brown putting me in middays on one of the first all sports stations in the country. I was able to work with — then brand new into the game — Dave Logan who is now the voice of the Broncos for three Super Bowl championships. A guy named Rich Goins who’s got a huge name in Denver as the guy that sat on the billboard for all those days and Bob Costas kept using him. Rich has got a big name in Denver. And John Marvel, when we were doing that midday show, it launched all of this. The key was I was doing TV and radio and everything all at the same time, so when you say what launched it, being platform-agnostic and trying to do everything. I was young and hungry so I tried doing everything. Then it kind of just settled into its own space.

Noe: When you were dubbing Christmas music did you have a favorite and a least favorite song?

Don: (laughs) I’ll tell you what. It was one of the most boring, mundane things I’d ever done in my life. I said, “Did you make the right decision saying you’re going to go from computer programming to do this because that was boring?”

I mean I’m dubbing down Nat King Cole. It was the oldies too because it was an oldies station. I was a young guy. I was going, “What the heck am I doing?”

By the grace of God, the sports guy got sick and then he quit. It was awesome. You never know when and where you’re going to get your break. That’s what I always tell young people — I say be a salmon. Just get in the stream. Be where it’s going to take you. I still believe a lot of this business is 90 percent what beats in your chest and 10 percent what’s in your head. You’ve got to have passion, man.

Noe: What has your career path been like, Scott, that’s led to you being the Vice President of FOX Sports Radio?

Scott: My first job in radio was producing morning radio in Atlanta. At the time it was a FOX Sports Radio affiliate. That’s where I really learned radio. I was a 23-year-old kid with zero radio experience and I was producing three guys who all had 15 years more experience than me and they were all 15 years older. I had no idea what I was doing. There were many times where I wondered, “My goodness, is this for me? Am I going to be able to add value to the show and to these personalities who are all pros?”

I busted my butt. I basically dove head first into the product really to try to prove myself more than anything else. Let’s try to make the show better. I’m competitive and I put my heart into everything I do. It was really just producing content and trying to produce the best possible show in the country. I did that in Atlanta for two and a half years.

Then I was hired to produce Mike & Mike up in Bristol in 2006. With that it was the same mentality — come in and just make that show the best show in the country. We had a great team in place, obviously very talented people on and off the air. We set all sorts of records on Mike & Mike on multiple platforms. I produced that show for three years and then moved up into the managerial ranks at ESPN Radio where I was up until four years ago when I came here.

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Noe: What are a couple of the qualities that show hosts possess that either cause you to tune in or tune out?

Scott: Hosts that are compelling — that’s the difference. You have to be such a great storyteller and you have to be compelling. Like I said earlier people have so many options for their entertainment value. Hell, in a car they can make phone calls to their family and friends. That’s competition. We are trying to garner people’s attention. Ultimately you have to be so interesting on the radio to keep people’s attention. That’s a very hard thing to do.

It’s rare when someone devotes more than five or 10 minutes to listening to one or two people speak uninterrupted. Somebody who is able to capture people’s attention, keep them interested, it’s a very difficult skill. You have to be thought-provoking on the air. You need to be well-researched, but obviously present in a style that’s entertaining, and you need to keep people’s attention while making them think and making them react.

The things that I think are tune outs are somebody who is dry, somebody who lacks credibility on a topic, and somebody who’s not presenting a unique perspective on a topic. Another thing is talking about something that I’m not interested in. That’s why playing the hits is very important to appeal to the broadest set of the audience possible. You need to bring a unique presentation to the table that’s different from what everyone else is offering. There is a wilderness of people out there offering opinions whether it’s live shows or podcasts. What we look for are hosts who present something entirely different and can do so in an entertaining fashion.

Noe: What qualities of a sports radio host appeal to you the most?

Don: When you do this long enough there’s an “it” factor that you can’t coach. There is an “it” factor that you can’t teach. You either have it or you don’t. Everybody gets into this game because they want to be on the air. I know you’ve got the anomaly that says, “No, I’ve always wanted to be behind the scenes.” God bless you, I love those people too. But everybody gets in because they want to do this because this is fun. There’s a special few that can. But when they can, they are dynamite.

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It’s an ingredient only given by God. It’s a wiring. You have to have a certain somethin’ somethin’ to get it done. As a host — I don’t care if you’re talking sports or if you’re talking news — you work your tail off to get to the top.

You’re hustling 4-5 jobs. Then when you make it, all you can do is fail. On the way up that ladder, you’ve got to be a little arrogant, you’ve got to be a little cocky and have a little somethin’ somethin’ in you because it’s what drives you to be that performer every day.

Then when you get there all you can do is fall so you become insecure. Those aren’t traits that live naturally together — cocky, arrogant, insecure, what? So we had to give them a name — we called them talent. It’s a special somebody though. There are a lot of people that try to do this and they work their tail off for a long time and they’re good, but they’re never great. You know great from the beginning. You don’t teach great. You don’t grow into great. You know it from the beginning.

Noe: Can you put your finger on what “it” is — what separates good from great?

Don: Yeah, what “it” is — it’s a magic that draws people to you. You’re a magnet for people. You give them an escape from reality. People work hard. People are beat up over politics. They’re beat up over their bills. They’re beat up over traffic and oh my God the stresses of raising your kids and your boss yelling at you. Our guys give them and escape.

Great for us is no different than — I just watched Bohemian Rhapsody — the lead guy in a band. You’ve got that magnetic thing that draws people to you so that when you’re performing whether you’re singing, you’re talking, you’re giving your opinion, they need to listen because you’re entertaining them. You’re teaching them, but you’re giving them some sort of solace and some sort of entertainment along the way that allows them to escape reality.

Noe: When you think about sports radio in general what could the industry use more of?

Scott: I would say the biggest thing in the industry is just creating great content no matter where it airs. Whether it’s live on the radio, whether it’s streaming, whether it’s podcasts, we’re in the content business and all we’re trying to do is create wonderful content.

I think people overthink it at times in terms of whether this is going to play to certain people, whether it’s going to play on certain platforms or not. Really it just gets in the way of creating great content.

I believe if you’re creating great content it really doesn’t matter what type of platform it’s on. It’s going to be unique. It’s going to be thought-provoking. It’s going to be fascinating for an audience.

Audio consumption is growing like crazy. There’s never been a time where audio consumption is really being utilized like the current day. Whether it’s live, terrestrial, streaming, or on-demand, there are more people creating audio than ever before. The ones that create excellent content are going to be the ones that are going to win and survive. I think at times people need to stop overthinking whether, “Oh boy, terrestrial radio is not going to work,” because every bit of evidence is showing that it is. Audio consumption as a whole no matter where you’re doing it is growing rapidly.

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Noe: The BSM Summit is right around the corner February 21-22. What does the industry gain from having an annual event that focuses on issues related to the actual job?

Scott: I think when you put all of these brilliant minds together, not only are there new ideas created, but I think everyone at a summit like this really should lean on each other to help grow the platform.

It’s not just competing in a local market station X versus station Y. When you put all of these minds together you’re going to learn key things that are going to help your individual station or network. But I really think when we’re able to think bigger picture about growing the industry and growing what sports talk radio is and figure out ways to really capitalize on that no matter what market you’re in, I think that’s the biggest thing.

Everyone’s in their silos working on their own objectives in each of their local markets, but when you put all of these brains together I think there’s so much to gain for the industry as a whole to really become that much more of an urgent product for the audience all over the country.

Noe: Why do you think it’s important for programmers to get outside of their radio stations and attend events like the BSM Summit?

Don: I think the biggest part about it is just camaraderie. If we’re going to win as a platform, we’ve got to quit taking shots at each other. We’ve got to go and get our audience from our sister stations, the news talk stations, the music stations. We’ve got to aim our guns out there and bring in a new cume that allows all of our sports radio boats to float higher.

It’s more of a camaraderie thing for me. We all talk anyway. There’s not a new thing that all of a sudden pops up that teaches you to do this with talent, or that with a podcast. We’re all talking all the time anyway within our companies. Everybody has their secret sauce. Summits like this are more for camaraderie. The Super Bowl is what we’ve been using lately. You go to the Super Bowl and everybody gets to see everybody for the one time all year — whether it’s talent or other programmers.

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I think it’s a come together, join arms as a platform, and raise the sports platform together. That’s the most important part of this. And then you know what, if you can gain a nugget here or there because of podcasting being able to drive this, or streaming being able to drive that, or helping change what Nielsen is doing on the ratings, God bless us all. But the main thing is so that we all join hands together, no different than an NFL or an NBA, and say, “Okay, how do we keep growing this platform?”

Noe: Speaking of camaraderie, who are some of the people in the business that have helped you the most during your career?

Don: Irv Brown basically gave me my start in this business. He just died by the way last week at 86 years old. He’s legendary in Denver. Greg Ashlock and Julie Talbott have been incredibly important in my career. Bob Martin got me in to cut my first tape. Bob Martin was the voice of the Broncos back then. I’ll never forget it. I said, “Bob, how can I repay you?” He said, “The only thing I want from you, Don, when you make it, the first young guy that comes to you and asks you for help, you help them.” I’ve done that my entire career because of what Bob did for me. 

There’s one other person I need to bring up, Lee Larson in Denver at KOA. I’ll never forget it. The greatest thing anybody has ever done for me in this business or said for me outside of Irv Brown getting me started — Lee Larson calls me into his office and says, “I want to mentor you.” I was the PD of the station at the time. I said, “Wow.” That was one of the coolest things anybody had ever said to me. It just blew my mind.

I never forgot that because I was a 38-year-old guy at the time. When we went looking for somebody to help me on the network side, I always kept that in mind. I said I need a young 30 something that’s going to keep me cool. The greatest thing that ever happened to me was when Scott Shapiro walked in the door. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing today. All I’m trying to show you is everything that we do and our lives, is because of something somebody did for you in a nice way in yours back in your day.

Noe: When you’re the one doing the mentoring and showing hosts a formula for success, what are the key things that you point toward?

Scott: I would say for any host — they have to be incredibly passionate about the subject matter on the air. If somebody’s not a big sports fan, there’s no way they’re going to be able to fake it. You need to be so deeply and inherently interested in the topics you’re talking about. You need to be so curious about it that you’re reading stories that come up during the day. It’s not something where you can just come in before a show, cram, and be able to deliver it right.

You need to have so many different areas of knowledge that’s based off of the curiosity. When you’re curious, you follow people on social media who provide depth to these stories. You read articles to be able to provide different insights. In order to come up with unique talking points, you have to generally be curious in the topics and read as much as you can get your hands on and seek viewpoints from as many people as you can in order to craft your own unique argument. To me it’s that curiosity.

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The prep work shouldn’t be considered prep work. It should be what you’re already doing because you’re so engulfed and impassioned in the subject matter of what you’re discussing. To me that’s a very important thing.

Another thing too, clearly without question anybody who does this well, they need a lot of reps. It’s very difficult to be able to talk on the radio for that long. Even somebody, if you go to a bar, somebody talking to you for seven minutes. It’s a very difficult thing for them to be interesting and compelling for that long. Then you throw in that you need to be interesting to thousands of people and you’re measured by ratings.

You have to be well researched and well prepped. You have to nail the PPM formatics and make sure there’s a takeaway for everything you’re doing. You’re never wasting time on the air. It’s basically valuing the audience’s time. I think that’s a very important thing.

The delivery is very important as well. You can’t be somebody who is monotone and sleepwalking through a segment. You’ve got to deliver a sense of urgency on the air. You need to have a certain energy level and strong pacing to take all of your great insight and make it presentable to the audience where they think they’re listening along to a buddy or eavesdropping on a conversation and not being lectured to the whole time.

Noe: I think that’s really interesting when you say have a takeaway for everything. There’s so much digressing that goes on in sports radio these days. Some discussions outside of sports are valuable, others not so much.

How do you gauge what is wasting time and what is valuable if the conversation goes beyond sports?

Scott: Listen there’s always room, but I think the biggest thing is when you do veer off you know how to get back. You’re not going too far down a path where you’ve taken so many left turns and then the audience is lost as well. You have to know what your mission is each segment. Yes, clearly you’re allowed to veer off. This is radio and we want people to be free without handcuffs because sometimes the best stuff is created that way.

I think also you are guiding the ship when you’re hosting a show. Sometimes that off-sports humor or story, there can be takeaways in that. But you’ve got to know if you’ve delivered on that, won people’s attention, and created something memorable, you do need to know how to steer the ship back and then get back to the meat and potatoes as well.

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Noe: What’s your best advice for broadcasters that want to improve?

Don: What you do is you pick 20 minutes of a show. That’s all. What I suggest you do for yourself once a week — and you’ve got to be honest with yourself — sit down with your producer and you’ve got to take an arbitrary 20 minutes and just listen to it. When you listen to it, be honest. There are five questions you’re asking yourself.

Do they know my name because I said it?

Do they know the call letters of the station that I’m on?

In that 20 minutes now, did the topic — if I were a listener — grab me and hold me?

Did I promote something forward coming up?

Did I reset if I had a guest?

Those are the only five things you need to know. If there’s any given 20 minutes within your show and you can’t answer those five, it lets you know what you need to work on.

Our average listener comes in for 10 minutes. That’s where you can help yourself too. You’re in a popularity game because of Nielsen. They can always go across the street. Don’t get confused — I can’t tell you how many times someone says to me, “Yeah, I listen to Petros [Papadakis] on ESPN.” What? Petros has never been on ESPN. Make damn sure they know where they get you.

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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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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