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ABC is Ready for a Stanley Cup Final 18 Years in the Making

Before this season, ABC/ESPN last had playoff hockey in 2004. Now, Sean McDonough will call the first Stanley Cup Final for the network in nearly two decades.

Derek Futterman

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Stanley Cup Final ABC

Three years ago, Sean McDonough attended Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues from TD Garden with a few of his friends. From his seat, he looked up towards the ninth floor of the arena. There he saw the widely-regarded voice of Mike “Doc” Emrick calling the action. It had been nearly 15 years since McDonough had donned the headset for ESPN calling hockey after the network lost the broadcast rights following the 2004-05 National Hockey League lockout. He always aspired to one day be calling hockey games once again. Now he is and will call the biggest series of the season on ABC.

Three years later, McDonough will be the voice on the microphone bringing hockey fans the action during the Stanley Cup Final. A lot has changed since McDonough last broadcast hockey on a regular basis seventeen years ago.

“The game is a tremendous amount faster; the players’ talents are on display – speed and skill,” McDonough said. “From a broadcasting standpoint, there was [a] kind of adjusting to [the fact] that you don’t have time to look at your notes… the play goes too fast.”

In the first season of the new media rights agreement, he has worked alongside two new broadcasting partners: reporter Emily Kaplan and analyst Ray Ferraro. During the first few games of the season, McDonough and Ferraro would call games together in the broadcast booth, while Kaplan would be stationed between the benches reporting on the action throughout the game. ESPN executive Mike McQuaid heard Ferraro do a game from ice level once and was impressed. After that, team decided to permanently adopt the format. It’s something that has paid dividends and helped differentiate the broadcast during the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“I think I can see the game better on the ice; I think I’m more connected to it. I think I can catch things that are available that you can’t see how ever many feet above the ice Sean [McDonough] is in each game,” Ferraro said. “The negative is that you don’t have the access of just putting your hand up a little bit and going, ‘I think I can add here.’ I prefer, personally, to be on the ice, but if the decision was to go upstairs, I’d go upstairs.”

The media rights agreement between the NHL and ESPN is multi-platform in scope. It aims to bring the league and network to the forefront of innovation through the adoption of cutting-edge technologies and unparalleled access. The issue that hockey presents for live broadcasts, perhaps more so than any other sport, is it’s pace. As a result, it has been incumbent on the production team to be judicious in the implementation and execution of new wrinkles of the broadcast, including live score bug graphics, ambitious camera angles and the synthesis of analytics-based information.

“You can have all these fancy toys, [but] the game goes so fast [that] you can’t use half of them,” Ferraro said. “If you’re trying to show something and the puck goes 200 feet up the ice and there’s a goal while you’re showing some animation, then it’s gone [and] you missed the goal. There’s a tough balance… to try to make [the broadcast] new and entertaining, and use analytics and do a coherent show.”

Another part of the broadcast that has the potential to interfere with game play is Kaplan’s commercial break interviews with coaches. The interviews take place either on the bench or via headset depending on building logistics. Each interview runs the risk of being played back while a goal is scored in real time, meaning that Kaplan’s reporting needs to be concise and efficient.

“I do think it’s a tough assignment because it’s such a tiny window,” said Kaplan. “At the same time, I think it’s such unique access… I try to get real-time reactions; real-time moments that can support Ray and Sean on the broadcast.”

Nearing the end of their first season together, the lead trio for NHL games on ESPN figures to continue to grow and maximize their potential, helping to augment the network’s coverage of the sport and it’s overall growth.

“ESPN has been out of the game for so long, and we want to come back in a big way, but these things do take growing pains,” said Kaplan. “We’re in year one of seven right now – and I know we’re in a really good place – but it will only get better.”

“I don’t think we’ve experienced the high yet,” added McDonough. “I think the chance to do the Stanley Cup Final is a dream come true for me.”

Sports TV News

Kathryn Tappen Joining NBC’s Big Ten Coverage

“Tappen was in line to replace Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football but was passed over by the network in favor of Melissa Stark.”

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NBC has tabbed Kathryn Tappen as its sideline reporter for the network’s upcoming coverage of Big Ten football, according to a report from Andrew Marchand of The New York Post.

According to Marchand, Tappen was in line to replace Michele Tafoya as the sideline reporter for Sunday Night Football but was passed over by the network in favor of Melissa Stark.

Tappen has hosted Notre Dame football’s studio coverage and Peacock Sunday Night Football Final. She also worked as NBC’s lead interviewer for its coverage of the PGA Tour, but left that broadcast team at the end of 2022 as part of the network’s larger shakeup of its golf coverage.

The appointment of Kathryn Tappen conceivably concludes the Big Ten on NBC broadcast crew. Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge are expected to pair as the network’s play-by-play announcer and color analyst, respectively. NBC has yet to officially unveil its coverage plans for the 2023 college football season.

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Sports TV News

Peter King: Sean McVay Wants to be a Star, ‘Not Just Some Guy on TV’

“I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

Jordan Bondurant

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L.A. Rams head coach Sean McVay will remain at his post for the 2023-24 season. The team tweeted that news Friday afternoon, seeming to, at least for now, put the rumors of McVay leaving coaching for a TV job to rest.

ProFootballTalk’s Peter King wrote in Football Morning in America on Monday that McVay understands the kind of position on television he’s looking for may not necessarily be there for him.

“I don’t think that was the only thing about TV that appealed to him, but I don’t think McVay was interested in being Just a Guy on TV,” King wrote. “I do think he had some regret over not taking a two- or three-year hiatus last year and taking one of the big TV jobs. Amazon? Maybe FOX? But if he really wanted to jump after winning the Super Bowl, he would have.”

King noted that McVay has been told to “Do what makes you happy” by folks with the Rams. He also said he believes coaching is what Makes McVay happy. Especially with a chance to shake up his coaching staff and being involved in trying to bring the team back from a 5-12 season in their follow-up campaign to winning the Super Bowl.

“He wants to be challenged, and this staff wasn’t doing it,” King said. “Offensive coordinator Liam Coen may not have been what McVay wanted in an OC—a coach who would challenge him and bring new ideas to him—and that could be why he’s going back to the University of Kentucky as a coordinator.”

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Sports TV News

Lisa Salters Makes Monday Night Football History Completing 11th Season on Sideline

“Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.”

Jordan Bondurant

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Monday night’s Cowboys/Bucs wild card playoff game set a new milestone for ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters.

The network tweeted that Salters completed her 11th season in that role. That makes her the longest tenured reporter in Monday Night Football history.

Salters has been with ESPN for almost 23 years. She started as a general assignment reporter before moving to sideline reporting in 2006.

“When I first got the call to do Monday Night Football, I would have never thought that 10 years later I would still be doing it,” Salters said last year in a video reminiscing on ten years on Monday Night Football. “I was at home and I got a phone call from my boss Vince Doria and he said, ‘Hey, I was wondering if you would be interested in being a sideline reporter for Monday Night Football‘, and I couldn’t believe what he just asked me.”

Salters is also featured on network coverage of the NBA, something she’s been doing since 2005.

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