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John Sterling Isn’t Going To Quit Telling Stories

“I’ve been able to find something for the home run calls and it’s fun, but it’s not the end of the world. People get so excited about everything, it’s just a zany thing to do on the games.”

Brandon Contes

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John Sterling

At 81-years old most people would gladly settle into retirement, but Yankees radio voice John Sterling chose the opposite route. Instead, he’s adding a job.  Sterling recently launched a podcast, Pinstripes and Bright Lights on RADIO.COM.

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One of the best broadcasters in the country for his ability to tell a story, Sterling flips the microphone on to share an interesting memory, anecdote or behind-the-scenes look at America’s pastime for the podcast.  His unique and colorful style endeared Sterling to Yankees fans as his voice became synonymous with the club.

Having been in the booth for every inning of every Yankees game in the last three decades, Sterling certainly will never run low on material for his podcast.  The iconic voice of the Bronx Bombers called a remarkable 5,060 consecutive games for the Yankees before taking a few days off earlier this year, but even at the age of 81, Sterling has no plans of slowing down.

Brandon Contes: Let’s start with the podcast, Pinstripes and Bright Lights, was this your idea or was it something Entercom presented to you?

John Sterling: Actually, it was two outside producers from Boston who came to me with the idea of doing a podcast. I’m not an internet kind of guy, but they explained what they wanted and I said sure! Frankly, they do all the work, they produce it, they sell it and they style it. All I do is give them content.

Last year I did maybe 10 stories, long stories. One story was about Joe DiMaggio, one was about Ted Williams, another about Willie Mays and so on.  They put this package together, Pinstripes and Bright Lights and I hope it attracts a lot of listeners and that we’ll continue it for a while.

BC: You mentioned long stories, but the episodes are quick, which personally, I love. I look for podcasts that are in the 10 to 20 minute range, because no matter what I’m doing or where I’m going, even if I’m going around the corner, by the time I grab my wallet and keys, get in the car and go, I always have time for a 10 to 15 minute podcast. If it’s an hour long, I have to find time for it. Was the timeframe by design?

JS: I don’t really plan anything, I live by the seat of my pants and I broadcast by the seat of my pants. I told these stories and I didn’t time them, I don’t do any of those things, I’m not a stat guy if you ever hear me call a game.

I’ll use the DiMaggio story as an example. In 1949, Casey Stengel’s first year, DiMaggio missed the first 65 games because of a heel injury and it was a very dramatic story that I’ll shorten for this interview.

One beautiful late June morning, DiMaggio woke up in his suite in a Midtown hotel, and he had been wearing a carpet slipper on his bad heel because he couldn’t put any pressure on it. He stepped out of bed and nothing happened, he didn’t feel anything, he couldn’t believe it, he walked around the suite and didn’t feel any pain. The Yankees were playing an exhibition game that night, a Thursday, and then they were heading to Boston for a three-game series.

And this of course is Joe DiMaggio now. He called them and said, ‘I need pitchers to throw to me and I need kids to shag.’ As the story goes, he went to Yankee Stadium and hit until his hands bled and he told the Yankees I’m ready to go to Boston tomorrow. The Yankees left that night and he flew up the next day and walked into the clubhouse at Fenway Park telling Stengel I’m ready to go.

You’ll have to listen to Bright Lights and Pinstripes for the rest, but it was a tremendous weekend for DiMaggio and the Yankees. The Yankees won the pennant by one game and the final two games of the year were against Boston at Yankee Stadium. They won Saturday to tie Boston and they won Sunday to win. That was the first of Stengel’s and the Yankees’ five straight World Series Championships. It’s a pretty good story, at least I’d like to think so.

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BC: Were these all stories you already knew of and chose to share on your own, or were they suggested and given to you by the producers of the podcast?

JS: I had read about all of them, certainly, but nothing is written down. I don’t know what that proves, but I just do them from the top of my head and I hope they work.

BC: You’re a fantastic story teller. Whether you’re doing a game, or the podcast, or just talking to me right now. And I know you introduce the podcast by saying ‘hello fans’ as if you’re talking to a group, but when I’m listening, it feels like you’re talking to me one-on-one. I think that’s true for the way you and Suzyn Waltman call a game together also. The way you engage with each other, there’s an easiness to it. It’s such a great way to build that unique connection with fans whether it’s through a game broadcast or your podcast. So it might only be a 10 minute long podcast, but it resonates with listeners.

JS: I began like everyone else. I had a very formal upbringing in broadcasting and I started in a really small town at a small station, and I worked my way up. But when you go on the air that’s what you’re supposed to do, you’re supposed to envision that you’re talking to one person and that’s how I’ve envisioned it since the beginning as Boy Disc Jockey. So thank you for saying it because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

BC: You welcome fan engagement with letters on the podcast, do you think you’ll ever include a guest?

JS: I don’t think we’ll have guests, we certainly haven’t spoken about that. I will read a letter, or two or three and answer them on air. Then I’ll go into whatever story I have that day and I hope that it will be interesting.  If I was driving, and I heard someone tell a really good story about these different people, I would be interested, so I really hope the listening audience is.

BC: Did you grow up a Yankees fan?

JS: Actually I did, but I do want to say this. I broadcasted the Braves before the Yankees. Well, I wouldn’t care who I’m broadcasting, when you work for a team and you’re investing your career in that team, you want the team to win! Why? Because you have more listeners, you have better ratings and the station can charge more for advertising, so it’s more financially successful.

The old line its good for business – well – it’s good for business! I never dreamed I could get the Yankee job and here it is, 31 years later and they have a terrific team and it’s been a heck of a year. The Yankees are a hugely successful franchise and I’m glad to be part of it.

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BC: Your consecutive games streak was 5,060 games with the Yankees? But it goes back even before that with Atlanta, correct?

JS: I was a little run down near the All-Star break and the London trip didn’t do me any good, so I was persuaded by my program director Mark Chernoff to take some games off. He kept saying to me, ‘I don’t want you to get sick and be out for a long time.’  So I took four games off and they dovetailed with the All-Star break, which gave me four more days off. That’s the only games I’ve missed in 38 years. With the Atlanta Hawks and Braves I had five years doing them together, I was doing about 220 games a year!

I got to the Yankees in ‘89 and didn’t miss any games until this year’s All-Star break, so I’m proud of it, but I also never really cared about the streak.

BC: Were you surprised how many others did care?

JS: Yes!  Oh my goodness, I couldn’t believe the reaction, people thought I was dying, but yes, I was surprised.

I missed two games in my first year with the Yankees, when I had to lay my sister to rest so I don’t consider that missing two games, those days were for a death in the family. Those are the only games I missed in 38 years, from my first Hawks game beginning in November 1981, until this All-Star break.  But you know what? When you think about it, it’s not important. I’m not getting anything out of it and it’s amazing how many people cared about it which is wonderful. But I never went to work every day thinking, ‘Oh, I’m adding one more to the streak,’ I never thought about it. I was healthy and that was my job, so I went to broadcast the game. 

Also, I go to the game because I love the games, I get into the games. So it was very easy for me to go and do a baseball game or basketball game, or even college football and college basketball, I get a big kick out of them.

BC: Obviously you love going to games, I love going to games, but I’m 31 years old and I think about the amount of hours you put into a broadcast and the amount of travel that you have to do throughout the entire season.  It seems a little daunting.

JS: Yes, that’s the toughest part of it, without question. And it’s even tougher being with the Yankees because baseball doesn’t give the Yankees a lot of getaway day games and as a result, we keep getting into these cities at four in the morning. I call it Yankee time.  And I would say that’s the tough part of the job. I also don’t go to sleep right away, it takes me a while to unwind after a flight, so I go to bed even later than other people. That’s the tough part, of the job.

BC: You did 30 straight years without missing a game which means you were never able to listen to a Yankee call on the radio or sit back and watch them live on television. So when you did take a few days off, did you get to do that?

JS: I sure did, I didn’t want to listen on the radio because I didn’t want to have to answer what I thought of the people who replaced me, who I understand did a really great job. At home I have two big screens on the wall of my bedroom side by side, so I actually watched the games without sound, I would watch the Yankee game on one screen and the Mets game, on the other screen and I really enjoyed it.

People would ask, ‘Did it bother you missing games?’  No, I never had any problem in missing those games. I have a host of friends in the business who do the same thing. Tom Hamilton in Cleveland, Denny Matthews in Kansas City, Michael Kay of course on YES, Howie Rose on Mets radio and Gary Cohen on television, they all miss games and they’ve been telling me, ‘John, you gotta take time off, you have to take games off,’ which is now an accepted thing and I never did it until this year. I can’t say it bothered me at all.

BC: So will you schedule games off next season?

JS: No. No I’ll go and see how I feel that’s all.

BC: Was that the same time Michael Kay was out?

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JS: Michael’s surgery was just after the games I missed.

He missed four or five weeks and as a matter of fact, I had the same surgery back in 1980, so I told him – here I am, fine. You have to learn how to use your voice, I hurt my voice because I was doing a three-hour daily talk show and Nets basketball and Islanders hockey and Morgan State football, my goodness it was a lot. I had the operation and got a few ideas on how to use my voice correctly and I haven’t hurt it since. I told Michael, imagine in 40 years how they must have improved the technique, so you’re going to be great. And of course, he came back great.

BC: Do you think about the Hall of Fame at all? Being the voice of the Yankees for so long, the streak, the home run calls and their popularity, is that something you think about?

JS: Well, it’s brought up all the time. I don’t think I’ll ever get in.  I remember Harry Caray, before he got in, he never thought he would make it because his style was so different and I kind of think the same way of myself. They seem to bring in people who have a different style than I have.  If it ever happened, I’ll be very happy, but if not, I’m fine.

BC: I think the uniqueness is what makes you so popular and generational. People that were listening when they were in grade school are now in their 40s and their kids are listening. You’re one of the sounds of summer and I think the uniqueness of what you bring to a broadcast helps build that connection I mentioned earlier.

JS: Well, I wish you were voting!

BC: Do you remember which of your creative homerun calls came first?  Was it Bern baby Bern?

JS: It was without question Bernie Williams, but I had done this for other athletes in other sports. I had one with Dominique Wilkins on the Hawks, he would do something great and I would say ‘Dominique is Magnifique’ and it caught on, he loved it. I do everything by the seat of my pants, I’m not thinking these things out. One day when Bernie did something great, I said, Bern baby Bern. It caught on, he loved it and then there was Bernie goes Boom. [Laughs]

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It was never meant to be for every player.  But it turned into that, I’m very proud and happy about it, but it’s become as they say, a cottage industry so now I’m supposed to do something for everyone and I try.

BC: What do you think led to that becoming the case? Was it radio shows replaying them? Or the internet and the way everything gets shared on social media?

JS: The answer is yes!

BC: Is there pressure now that you need to create one for every player?

JS: I don’t know if its pressure, I don’t think they’re going to put me up in a tree if I don’t come through. [Laughs] But yeah when the Yankees acquire a new player in the offseason, people start wondering about the call, so we try to find something, some are very good and some aren’t.

BC: Did you have calls in your back pocket for Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?

JS:  [Long Pause] I did not. [Laughs]

I thought the Yankees were right in not going after them and tying up all that money in one player. Brian Cashman has had the best year that any GM has ever had. That’s why the Yankees have survived with the incredible injuries, not just the number of injuries, but injuries to their biggest and best players.  The things Brian has done are sensational, whether it’s Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman or Cameron Maybin. I’ve been able to find something for the home run calls and it’s fun, but it’s not the end of the world. People get so excited about everything, it’s just a zany thing to do on the games.

BC: Were you surprised how quickly the Yankees were able to rebuild in the last few years? It looked like they were headed for a down period and it just never got that bad before they built championship aspirations again.

JS: Even when they really weren’t very good, Joe Girardi did a phenomenal job, he was winning games in the mid-80s. So when they were having their down year, they were still over .500 and they were very competitive teams. Then Brian Cashman made these great trades and Judge came up through the farm system, and Gleyber Torres was traded for. Gary Sanchez also came up through the farm system and they’ve built up a terrific ball club.

BC: As the voice of the Yankees, do the playoffs still generate extra excitement? Or because the Yankees were there so many times, are you immune to the added energy and new expectations?

JS: Oh no, you react to the game. I’m really good at that, I react to the game that day. A couple of years ago, the Yankees went to the ALCS, and lost in seven to Houston, the eventual champion. The Yankees played six playoff games at home that year and the new Stadium was just as loud as the old Yankee Stadium, it was thrilling, absolutely thrilling.

BC: Some TV play-by-play voices have joined the local radio call for the playoffs. Kay being on ESPN and the Yankees on WFAN make the hypothetical even harder, but has Michael ever expressed an interest in doing that? Joining you and Suzyn for a few innings during the playoffs?

JS: No, not to me anyway.  And Michael would tell me before anyone else.  Michael knows how it works. If you do television, you wind up not doing the playoffs because they’re all on national TV. They do allow home radio and if they didn’t I would be very unhappy, I don’t want them to play these big games in the playoffs without my broadcasting them and Suzyn feels the same way.

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BC: How do you view the rest of your career? Is it a goal of yours to retire on your own? Some professional athletes have retired as an All-Star, others say they’ll play until their uniform is ripped off.

JS: At the present time, I have four kids in college so I have to work. [Laughs]

When that’s over, I’ll think about it, but I’ll take it year by year. I don’t want to go on-air if I can’t do it, but I honestly don’t know. I can’t imagine retiring, but I guess there will be a day when I just – even Vin Scully finally retired and he was 88 or 89, so I have some years left.

 Brandon Contes is a freelance writer for BSM. He can be found on Twitter @BrandonContes. To reach him by email click here.

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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