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Leah Hextall Felt Unwelcome in NHL Broadcast Booths

“It was just, to me, that I survived that, that I survived the mental attacks, I survived the outside attacks from social media, I survived the internal attacks from other people within the hockey world, I survived attacks from some of my colleagues not at ESPN but just different things I heard,” she said.

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Leah Hextall

Last year ESPN made its triumphant return as a media rights holder for the NHL, and among some of the more notable moves the network made was including female voices on its broadcast crews.

But Leah Hextall, who even led play-by-play during ESPN’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, said it wasn’t such a wonderful experience.

Talking to Richard Deitsch on his podcast Sports Media with Richard Deitsch, Hextall said she was unwelcome in a lot of different settings in the league. That compounded many of the vile and sexist messages and threats she received for just doing the job.

“To me, you add that on to the fact that then I didn’t feel welcomed in some press boxes, and I didn’t feel welcomed at some rinks and in some conversations,” she said. “I realized that I was once again the lone woman and the outsider looking in, and I wasn’t one of the boys and I wasn’t going to be no matter how hard I tried.”

Hextall gave a presentation earlier in the summer that spotlighted a lot of what she went through. She said she was a survivor and elaborated more on what she meant by that.

“It was just, to me, that I survived that, that I survived the mental attacks, I survived the outside attacks from social media, I survived the internal attacks from other people within the hockey world, I survived attacks from some of my colleagues not at ESPN but just different things I heard,” she said.

The comments, threats and treatment she received took its toll. Hextall said she struggled with having to keep all of that stuff private.

“I have been really taught that in this industry, keep your head down, do the work and don’t draw attention to yourself because this is just something you have to deal with. You have to deal with it,” she said. “But I’ve also never wanted to draw attention to myself in that way, because I didn’t want to give that person the satisfaction of retweeting that or sharing this on my social media platform because I also don’t want people to think I’m complaining. I know I’m not complaining but that’s how it looks like.”

“Because of that, I kept a lot of this silent,” she added.

But with a new season on the horizon, Hextall said she’s going to have a different approach. She’s not going to be fearful of making sure people know the types of things she’s subjected to.

“This season I think I will have a different mentality about it,” she said. “I would think more about passing it along when somebody references a threat or knowing where I live or something like that because at the end of the day, as my brother in-law who’s a cop says, you don’t know that they don’t need this. And if you get enough of them, maybe it’s time to start making people be held accountable for what they think is OK and how they treat people.”

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ESPN Broadcast of Rangers-Islanders Stadium Series Game Is Its Most-Viewed NHL Regular Season Game Since 2021

The Stadium Series game between the Rangers and Islanders averaged 1.6 million viewers, the most for a regular season game since the league returned in 2021.

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The NHL on ESPN got a major win under its belt with news that the Sunday, Feb. 18 Stadium Series matchup between the New York Rangers and New York Islanders amassed about 1.6 million viewers, the most for a regular season game since the league returned to the Worldwide Leader in 2021. It was also the most-watched Stadium Series game overall since 2019. The Sunday night broadcast peaked at 2.38 million viewers, an increase of 31 percent vs. last year’s Stadium Series game.

Combined with the Saturday night tilt between the New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers, both games averaged 1.37 million total viewers and 448,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic – both figures up 21 percent from last year’s Stadium Series game. Flyers/Devils averaged 1.13 million total viewers and 401,000 viewers in the 18-49 demographic, which was flat and up 8 percent versus last year’s Stadium Series. The game’s audience peaked at 1.38 million viewers.

Like most sports, NHL viewership has gone up this year — both locally and nationally. Local channel viewership figures are up three percent across the board, while NHL viewership on ESPN is up 40 percent compared to last year.

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Report: Matt Barnes No Longer Part of Sacramento Kings Broadcasts

Barnes, the former 14-year NBA pro who played for the Kings twice, will no longer appear on NBC Sports California’s pre-and post-game coverage of the Kings.

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Former NBA player and All the Smoke Podcast host Matt Barnes
Credit: USA Today

According to reports, Matt Barnes has been removed from his analyst position on Sacramento Kings broadcasts. An NBC Sports California spokesperson told the news to The Sacramento Bee.

According to The Bee, Barnes, the former 14-year NBA pro who played for the Kings twice, will no longer appear on NBC Sports California’s pre-and post-game coverage of the Kings. NBCSC and The Bee gave no concrete reason for Barnes’ dismissal, but the publication did mention a recent incident between Barnes, AAU referees, and a student broadcaster.

Weeks ago, Barnes attended a youth basketball game between Crespi Carmelite High School and Harvard-Westlake School. The Los Angeles Times reported Barnes interacted with Harvard-Westlake student announcer Jake Lancer after one of his sons was whistled for a technical foul. Video posted to X showed Barnes and Lancer interact, though the noisy arena makes it difficult to hear what’s said.

Barnes gave his side of the story on The Dan Le Batard Show with Stugotz.

“I was yelling at the refs, Dan. I’ve yelled at the refs my entire college career, my 15-year NBA career,” Barnes said via The Bee. “I coach AAU in the summertime, I have high school boys, and I have a 5-year-old coming down the pipeline, so I’m going to be doing a lot of yelling at the refs. This particular incident — I will say my one mistake was putting my hand on (the student broadcaster’s) shoulder. A lot of people want to say I grabbed this kid or I did this — I literally put my hand on this kid’s shoulder because it was almost like I was talking to my son.

“He told me to sit my a– down. I was just like, ‘Why do you feel comfortable to be able to tell a grown man to sit his a– down?’ So he and I had a little back and forth, and obviously, admitting my faults to even touch him was wrong of me. But I want to make clear that the narrative of me as some guy that beats up people, I want people to know I didn’t body slam this kid. I didn’t choke slam him. I didn’t do any of the sort. I literally put my hand on his shoulder like I was talking to one of my sons. And, again, for touching him, I was wrong. But I just didn’t like the disrespect that came with the entitlement where they felt like they could say anything to me.”

The situation escalated but Lancer maintained that he was never disrespectful. “I want to make it very clear that I never told him to ‘shut up’ or anything close to that, he came up to me,” Lancer said. “All I wanted to do in the moment was get back to announcing the championship game.”

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Nick Wright Lambasts JJ Redick in Tweet Storm — Without Directly Saying His Name

“I will never understand someone who is incredibly wealthy, opts into working in the space, and then simply…complains about how useless the space is.”

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Nick Wright on First Things First

Nick Wright just inserted himself into the war of words surrounding JJ Redick — but never mentioned the former Duke guard by name. Before Wright headed to the set of First Things First, he took to X to let his opinion known of certain individuals who insult sports media while working in it.

“I totally understand folks who aren’t into televised sports discussion/debate. It’s not for everyone,” Wright said via X. “I will never understand someone who is incredibly wealthy, opts into working in the space, and then simply uses the platform to complain about how useless/dumb the space is.”

Wright continued, “As I told [NBA Writer Ethan Strauss], if I’m hosting an Uno party & invite you, and you eagerly show up, and then spend the whole party explaining how incredibly stupid you think Uno is, how it’s a waste of everyone’s time, and how we should all be playing chess, you’re the problem!”

“The great thing about modern sports media is there’s literally an audience/platform for ALL TYPES of coverage. You can do anything! And folks can create their own lanes/platforms where they do literally whatever they want! It’s really an exciting time!”

“But personally, I’d be a little embarrassed if, for example, [WNBA writer Nekias Duncan] invited me on to talk deep Xs & Os & I just yelled at him ‘This is boring! Let’s rank players!’ To know exactly what you signed up for, take the check, then whine about how beneath you it is wild to me.”

Wright may have been prompted by Redick’s latest appearance on First Take, when he asked whether or not it’s up to the players or the media to educate basketball fans.

“Since when is it player’s jobs to educate people on basketball,” Redick said. “Isn’t that our job? It’s our job to educate people on basketball, and here’s the reality: I can do a video on my podcast where I break down the last nine games the Pelicans have used Zion Williamson as the primary ballhandler…I looked it up this morning, 54,000 views on YouTube. But I want to call out a coach yesterday, that gets tens of millions of engagements — that’s the ecosystem we live in. So do fans actually want to be educated or not?”

Redick referred to yesterday’s comments he made about his former Clippers coach Doc Rivers, who now coaches the Milwaukee Bucks. Redick said there’s “never accountability” with Rivers, words that drew the ire of Barstool Sports podcaster and current Milwaukee Bucks guard Patrick Beverly.

From Wright’s perspective, it seems like it’s up to the individual to decide whether they want to educate or entertain.

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