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MSG Networks Pairing of Sam Rosen, Joe Micheletti Is Music to Rangers Fans Ears

“Mistakes are not acceptable. Not that anybody is standing there and hitting you over the head if you make a mistake, but you have to strive for perfection. You want to bring the best out of yourself and to the broadcast, and I think that’s always been the case.”

Derek Futterman

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The location a hockey broadcast is called from can have an effect on the way the game is presented and subsequently understood by viewers. Newer arenas around the NHL have had a focus on creating premium seating options to increase ticket sales and revenue, putting some broadcast teams at a disadvantage. Perched high above the ice on the Chase Bridge at Madison Square Garden, Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti broadcast New York Rangers hockey on MSG Networks to millions of fans around the world.

Their broadcast booth is situated adjacent to other broadcast locations for home and visiting networks on television and radio and is suspended approximately 50 feet above the playing surface. The Chase Bridge, which runs parallel to the upper level, was created as part of a $1 billion transformation of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” completed in 2014. Most of the bridge’s south side is reserved for members of the media, giving them arguably the best view of the game whether it be basketball or hockey and enabling them to do their jobs well.

“We may have, arguably, the best broadcast location in the league,” Rosen said. “….Our location at The Garden has been moved in. It’s at a good level where you can see the game, see plays develop and feel the game.”

Being able to have clear sightlines of the game is important for both Rosen and Micheletti, both of whom prefer to call games in person rather than off of a monitor. Before the creation of the Chase Bridge, MSG Networks’ broadcast location was in the very back of the arena’s upper level, sometimes making it difficult to see the action and identify the players.

“The old position at the Garden used to be one of the worst because we were way back, high [up] and [did] not [have] good sightlines,” Micheletti said. “That was more difficult and even then I still wouldn’t watch [the game] off the monitor.”

Rosen and Micheletti are in the midst of their 17th season calling New York Rangers games together and have not just become one of the most prominent broadcast duos in the National Hockey League, but in all of professional sports. From their first broadcast together in the 2006-07 season to the present day, they have fostered chemistry and enthralled sports fans, helping spread the appeal of hockey to the masses.

That first broadcast, however, was not the first time Rosen and Michletti shared the booth – as the duo had previous experience calling games together as the secondary team for the NHL on FOX, national coverage of the league that lasted five seasons spanning from 1994 to 1999.

Their previous experience eliminated most of the difficulties that may have otherwise presented themselves due to John Davidson’s departure after 20 years working with Rosen. In essence, it allowed Rosen and Micheletti to be able to maintain the high standards that came with broadcasting games in the media capital of the world, doubling down on presenting a network-type product.

“We have always strived to present the highest-quality broadcast,” Rosen said. “Mistakes are not acceptable. Not that anybody is standing there and hitting you over the head if you make a mistake, but you have to strive for perfection. You want to bring the best out of yourself and to the broadcast, and I think that’s always been the case.”

“It’s like being in a top organization where you expect to win,” Micheletti added. “They do things right; they treat people right; and they provide whatever you need to be successful.”

From a young age, Sam Rosen was infatuated with sports and all they had to offer, listening to radio broadcasts and playing on the streets surrounding the Borough Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. Rosen had been born in 1947 in Ulm, Germany and immigrated to the United States with his parents and brother Stephen two years later.

By the time he was attending Stuyvesant High School, he was not only the captain of the baseball team, but also a track and field athlete and intramural basketball player. If you could not find him at school or around his neighborhood, the next best place to look would have been Madison Square Garden – but not the current structure (Madison Square Garden IV) above the metropolitan transportation hub, Pennsylvania Station, that houses the New York Rangers and New York Knicks.

Madison Square Garden III sat within the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood in Manhattan and was the home of the Rangers for the team’s first 41 years of existence. As a high school student, Rosen and his friends received general organization cards which allowed them to receive discounts around New York City, including for tickets at the arena.

At the time, hockey was generally played on Wednesdays and Sundays – and Rosen and his friends would make sure to board the subway train to arrive at the venue by 4:30 p.m. They wanted to make sure they would be the first ones inside so they could grab the best general admission seating and devised strategies based on which locations would allow them to see the complete sheet of ice.

“The doors would open and we would race up the stairs at the Garden to try to get to either the first two rows of the side balcony because then you could see the entire ice,” Rosen recalled. “Further up, you missed the near side of the ice. Or we went to the end balcony where you could see the entire game but one side was farther down; the other side away from you was pretty far away.”

Rosen has never been able to ice skate without holding on to another person or an object but even so, he found himself attracted to the game of hockey more so than other sports because of its speed and physicality. The unpredictable nature of athletic competition in particular drew him to want to build a career in sports media and is a motivating factor that eliminates the mundane of the long season and sustains his nascent enthusiasm for each and every game.

“You never know when you’re going to see the next great goal; the next great save in hockey; [or] the next great player,” Rosen said. “….You never know when that next great moment is going to happen and that’s what makes live sports as compelling as they are.”

Once he began matriculating at City College of New York, Rosen’s parents wanted him to study to work in a job typically associated with high stature, such as practicing law or working as a doctor or accountant. Yet he realized the subjects and topics within those professions were not of strong appeal to him in his early college years; therefore, he decided to pursue broadcasting by majoring in speech and minoring in journalism. On the side, he was taking weekly classes focused on television production at Brooklyn College where he would rotate studio roles with other students to learn the fundamentals of the industry.

Following the fall semester of his sophomore year, Rosen landed a part-time job as a desk assistant at the all-news station 1010 WINS where he would work with reporters, edit tape and observe how professionals did their jobs both in and out of the newsroom. It was during this time that Rosen met Jim Gordon, a broadcaster who worked a shift at the station by day and worked as a sportscaster by night for various New York teams, including the Knicks, Rangers – and as one of the original television voices of the Islanders on WOR.

Gordon, who Rosen affirms helped him the most throughout the early stages of his career, listened to his tapes and, through inculcation, offered feedback and pointers so he could improve at the craft. Eventually, Gordon hired Rosen to work as his statistician for New York Knicks radio broadcasts beginning in the 1969-70 season and helped him learn more about the industry. Rosen also continued to work in news for WNAB-AM in Bridgeport, giving him additional exposure into media and simultaneously expanding his skillset across different formats.

By 1971, Rosen was continuing working in both radio and television as a news broadcaster on WICC-AM in Bridgeport and weekend sports anchor on WTNH-TV in nearby New Haven. Two years later, he joined the United Press International Radio Network as an on-site reporter, covering sporting events from the venues at which they occurred. Most of Rosen’s responsibilities in that job took place before and after the event leaving him a large gap of time just to watch the game.

Since he aspired to be a sportscaster though, Rosen would use that time to practice his broadcasting skills and effectively compiled a demo reel. In fact, he was promoted to work as the radio network’s sports director in 1979 and reported with his colleague and future ESPN SportsCenter anchor Keith Olbermann from the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, NY at the iconic “Miracle on Ice” game where the U.S. Olympic ice hockey team defeated the Soviet Union en route to a gold medal finish.

“I would just go off to a quiet area; a lowly area in the press box, and I would do play-by-play for a period – whether it was hockey that I was covering or basketball,” Rosen said. “Whatever that was going on at the Garden, I would do that and use that. Jim Gordon being my mentor – he was a guy that would listen to my tapes and give me tips on what I needed to do to improve. That was basically my practice work – by being around professional sports, that was a positive.”

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Sam Rosen has worked as the lead play by play announcer for MSG Networks since 1984 Photo MSG Networks

Early in his career, Rosen was trying to make connections around sports media and was doing so through his time covering games at Madison Square Garden. Similarly, he was remaining open to external opportunities, including learning about new sports for which he could provide commentary. One of the media executives Rosen had been trying to connect with during his formative years in the industry was Scotty Connell, who had been with NBC Sports. As if it were by chance, Rosen received a call from him one day after covering the U.S. Open Tennis tournament and they spoke about him joining a new all-sports network known as ESPN.

ESPN acquired the rights to NCAA college football games on tape delay and Rosen contributed to the broadcast as its play-by-play announcer. One of his earliest memories working in this capacity was in calling the Whitney Young benefit game between the Grambling State Tigers and Morgan State Bears from Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. Over his time at ESPN, Rosen went on to call a variety of different sports, including women’s field hockey, Australian rules football and table tennis despite not being familiar with some of them from the onset.

“One day, [Connell] asked me, ‘Is there anything you can’t do?,’ and I said, ‘Maybe, but if there is, I’ll find out how to do it,’” Rosen said. “Basically what I said to him was, ‘You know what? I’ll find out the nuts and bolts; the basics; the fundamentals; and I’ll be able to do the broadcast for you.’ That’s always been my philosophy and I think that helped me because you never know what comes along.”

By remaining versatile and staying ready for each new opportunity, Rosen became even more indispensable to his employers. In February 1977, Jim Gordon was supposed to fill in for Marv Albert to call a New York Knicks game against the rival New York Nets on the radio. However, Gordon fell ill. As a result, Gordon was asked by management if he could recommend another broadcaster to do the game, helping Sam Rosen land the opportunity. From that day on, Rosen officially became a part-time broadcaster for MSG Networks and took a similar approach to what he brought to ESPN.

“I did tennis at the Garden; I did volleyball at the Garden; [I did] boxing for the Garden for over 10 years,” Rosen said. “Whatever it is, I made sure that I could do it, do it well [and] know the sport – and whatever I didn’t know, I tried to learn from the people who did know.”

In 1982, Rosen was hired full-time by MSG Networks as the studio host for New York Rangers telecasts, providing pregame, intermission and postgame coverage with Mike Eruizione and, during the 1983-84 season, John Davidson. Today, John Giannone works in that role and he is regularly joined by analyst and former NHL goaltender Steven Valiquette.

Furthermore, New York Rangers legend and winningest goaltender in franchise history Henrik Lundqvist contributes to the broadcast as a studio analyst during select games while also working in a business operations role at MSG Sports and MSG Entertainment.

“I think they try to get… more expertise involved [and] different viewpoints involved, whether it’s former players who are a little older; some who are a little younger and recently retired; some coaches,” Rosen said. “I think you’re seeing more people to open up discussion [and] have more viewpoints during the course of the broadcast.”

While Rosen was working in the studio and filling in as a play-by-play announcer on the radio as needed, his mentor Jim Gordon was the voice of the Rangers on MSG Network. Gordon worked alongside color commentator and Hockey Hall of Fame member Phil Esposito beginning in the 1981-82 season after a previous stint with former NHL referee Bill Chadwick.

By the end of the 1983-84 season though, MSG Networks wanted to make a change and decided to give Rosen the opportunity to step into the lead play-by-play role. It was the realization of a lifelong dream for him, but the decision to accept the job was genuinely complicated because of his relationship and respect for Gordon.

“You look at it and realize it’s a difficult position to be in,” Rosen explained, “yet the decision was out of my hands and certainly for me and for my future, this was the best thing that had happened for me and the opportunity was the greatest thing that had come my way.”

From the time he landed the job, Rosen aimed to hone his craft and develop chemistry with Esposito, his on-air partner for the first two seasons. During those years, the Rangers were looking to sustain its championship-caliber organization after the team was defeated in the 1979 Stanley Cup Finals by the Montréal Canadiens. Throughout many games, players and fans alike were subjected to chants of “1940” by visiting fanbases, referring to the last time the Rangers had won a Stanley Cup championship.

For seven of Rosen’s first nine seasons as the lead play-by-play announcer, the team made the playoffs but failed to reach the Stanley Cup Finals. An essential piece of the 1979-80 Rangers was its goaltender John Davidson and he went on to retire from the sport three years later at the age of 30 due to a variety of injuries he sustained over his career.

When Esposito left the Rangers broadcast booth to become the general manager of the team, Davidson was selected to take over the role. Rosen has a profound amount of respect for Davidson, calling him the “gold standard” of color commentators in sports history, as he pushed him to expand his knowledge about the game of hockey and strive for excellence.

“I used to think that I had a strong work ethic,” Rosen said. “When I watched John’s work ethic, I realized I had to raise mine by at least 50%, if not more, just to keep up with him.”

Over his broadcast career, Davidson worked as a color commentator for games both locally and nationally; in fact, he and Mike “Doc” Emrick were the lead broadcast team for the NHL on FOX, calling various Stanley Cup Finals together. Once FOX lost the NHL rights in 1999, Davidson continued working nationally for the NHL on ABC and later the NHL on NBC before he was hired as president of the St. Louis Blues in June 2006.

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Sam Rosen teamed with former Rangers goalie John Davidson on MSG Networks for nearly two decades Photo MSG Networks

“You hired John Davidson because he was a great combination of personality, fun to be around, able to laugh and have enjoyment – yet he was able to relate what was going on on the ice at any level to the fan who didn’t know much about hockey to the experts of the game,” Rosen said. “He had a great rapport with the executives in the sport; the players in the sport; management – at all levels, he had this brilliant rapport and was able to transmit that over the air.”

Before the Stanley Cup Finals were broadcast nationally by FOX starting in 1995, hockey’s championship series had not been televised on network television since 1975. Because of this, it was difficult for hockey fans to watch these crucial games – and the impetus for the creation of NHL Network in 1976, which presented the Finals for the next four seasons.

From 1981 to 1994, Stanley Cup Finals games were broadcast on cable television on channels including USA Network, ESPN, and SportsChannel America. Despite the invigorating, fast-paced action though, hockey was struggling to compete with other sports at the national level, leading local networks to carry the Stanley Cup Finals to serve its psychographic sects of the marketplace.

Rosen and Davidson worked on MSG Networks as the local television broadcast team during the 1993-94 Stanley Cup Finals between the Vancouver Canucks and New York Rangers, a back-and-forth battle that went to the brink. As the seconds ticked off the clock in Game 7, it became apparent that the Blueshirts would snap their championship drought, which had reached 53 seasons (54 years) – and do it on home ice no less.

The sellout crowd at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” began to celebrate and burst in elation when the final horn sounded, leading Rosen to exclaim to millions watching in the New York metropolitan area: “The waiting is over! The New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup Champions – and this one will last a lifetime!”

Rosen did not compose the words in advance; rather, they came out in the moment amid a pressure-filled Game 7 environment at Madison Square Garden. The fact that he was able to encapsulate and put a script to an indelible moment in New York sports history speaks to his ability to thrive in pressure-filled situations.

Most New York Rangers fans can recite his words by memory, underscoring the power the moment still garners to this day and the moment when, perhaps, Rosen became the poet laureate of the team making arguably the most eminent call in franchise history.

“It had taken so long for the Rangers and there [had] been so many heartbreaks but here it was – this moment where they reached the pinnacle of success and it was perfect,” Rosen said. “….Just to see that [and] to feel it, it just is a moment that at times is unbelievable. It was great and just the singular greatest moment that I’ve had.”

In the years following the Stanley Cup Championship, Rosen continued calling Rangers games with Davidson as the team welcomed new players in its quest to capture another championship. In 1996, Rosen added a role as a play-by-play announcer for the NFL on FOX, demonstrating his versatility in balancing hockey and football roles – although he had previously called preseason football for the New York Jets and New York Giants in the early 1980s.

In that same year, Rosen began calling Stanley Cup Finals nationally for the NHL Radio Network distributed by Westwood One until the operation temporarily ceased in 2008. He worked with various color commentators over that time including Gary Green, Bill Clement and Eddie Olczyk, and his announcing style effectively carried over from television to radio.

Today, Rosen remains dedicated to his job, preparing for each game several days in advance and amassing as much information as possible to be able to convey the story taking place on the ice. He does it all for the benefit of Rangers fans, who hold high expectations for the athletes that call “The Big Apple” home from the moment they arrive on the scene. In this sense, Rosen is not only tasked with putting words to the action, but also serving as a journalist and enterprising stories he can reference or tell on the air.

“For me to help fans understand who these players are, where they’ve come from, how they’ve reached this point and what they’re trying to accomplish is part of my job and part of my role as a play-by-play announcer because I’m around the team most every day,” he said. “I’m able to see these guys and see them off the ice and on the ice. Whatever I can transmit to the fans, I think, is helpful and humanizes these players.”

His longtime partner John Davidson, though, has worked as a hockey executive since leaving the broadcast booth following the 2005-06 season, currently serving as the President of Hockey Operations and alternate governor of the Columbus Blue Jackets. As a result of his departure, MSG Networks needed to add a new color commentator who was capable of maintaining the standard set by Rosen and Davidson. Joe Micheletti has turned out to be the perfect fit.

“It wasn’t a matter of, ‘Oh, I’ve got to get to know this guy’ and ‘What is he like?,’” Rosen explained. “No – we already knew each other; we worked together in big games on FOX – playoff games – [so] it was an easy transition from John to Joe.”

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Joe Micheletti has worked with Sam Rosen to form one of the best local broadcast crews in the NHL since 2006 Photo MSG Networks

Joe Micheletti retired from hockey after representing the United States in the 1982 Ice Hockey World Championship tournament in Helsinki, Finland. Originally from Hibbing, Minn., Micheletti grew up around the game and attended the University of Minnesota where he played under Herb Brooks, the head coach of the U.S. Olympic Team during its gold medal run in 1980. 

Although he was drafted by the Montréal Canadiens in the 1974 NHL Entry Draft, Micheletti opted to play in the World Hockey Association. Beginning in 1979, he moved to the National Hockey League where he played for the St. Louis Blues and ended his career with a brief stint on the Colorado Rockies in 1982 – who would subsequently become the New Jersey Devils at the start of the next season.

Once Micheletti retired, he began working in the investment business and one day, received a call from St. Louis Blues broadcaster Dan Kelly. While Kelly opened an account with Micheletti, he also implored him to join him as a color commentator for games on KMOX-AM for the upcoming season, telling him it would be a good way to get back in the game and help his business.

In the 1980s, St. Louis, Mo. had many broadcasters who reached national prominence, including Jack Buck, Bob Costas, Dan Dierdorf and Jay Randolph Jr. Dan Kelly was in this category as well, as he also broadcast hockey games nationally for outlets such as USA Network, CBS and NHL Network – and the fact that he was asking Micheletti to join the radio broadcasts was completely unexpected. After taking some time to think about the opportunity, he agreed to take the job and began his broadcasting career “by accident.”

“At that time, and I didn’t have any experience nor did I necessarily have a want to get in that business, we were fortunate to have these great broadcasters and people,” Micheletti said. “They always made it sound like they show up and have a conversation with you which was the biggest mistake I made thinking that’s all they did.”

Kelly was a pundit when it came to sports broadcasting and sought to help Micheletti learn the industry, which sometimes came from being a tough critic. All of his assessments of Micheletti’s work, though, were intended to help grow the broadcast and help his partner improve as a color commentator so he could display his esoteric knowledge of the sport.

“‘Be a pro and remember there’s always two teams on the ice,’” Micheletti recalls Kelly telling him. “‘There’s always another team and other teams have great players and other teams make great plays. Keep that in mind and be fair.’ I learned that early from Dan and I think even though… fans just want you to be focused on their team, I think that I’ve always felt – and that’s through Dan who was one of the great broadcasters this sport has ever had and seen – to be professional.”

After two seasons working on radio with Kelly, Micheletti moved behind the bench to serve as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues – and helped guide the team during its run of 25 straight playoff appearances. He then signed on work as a color commentator for the Minnesota North Stars in 1991 on television, pairing with play-by-play announcer Dave Hodge – the longtime lead announcer of Hockey Night in Canada from 1971 to 1987. They were joined by former Hockey Night in Canada executive producer and sportscaster John Shannon, who ran the nearly 55 televised broadcasts.

“This was something new in broadcasting that I hadn’t done much of – which was television [and it] was totally different than radio,” Micheletti said. “I was looking at this as, ‘Boy, this is all brand new and now I’ve got a chance to learn from one of the great producers in hockey and I get to… learn it from Dave Hodge.’ It was so new to me and I was trying to learn how to be accepted in the business.”

Micheletti returned to the St. Louis Blues as a color commentator for its television broadcasts, pairing with JP Dellacamera beginning in 1993. At the same time, he continued working for the regional firm A.G. Edwards and received a call one day during work from someone claiming to work at Turner Network Television (TNT). Thinking that he was being deceived, Micheletti hung up the phone – but shortly thereafter, the person called back and immediately urged him to stay on the line.

It turned out that Micheletti’s work had been noticed from afar, leading him to be asked to broadcast the 1994 Winter Olympics from Lillehammer, Norway. Joining Micheletti as the play-by-play announcer was Jiggs McDonald, who was primarily broadcasting New York Islanders games locally on SportsChannel New York. The experience of landing the job was memorable for Micheletti, but determining how to prepare for an assignment of this magnitude initially confounded him.

In an effort to learn about the international players, Micheletti used his connections to compile a list of hockey contacts from countries including Norway, Sweden, and the Czech Republic. He would then set his alarm on the road to wake up at 2 a.m. in order to make calls to gather information and insight about the international game.

“I looked at it as the biggest challenge that I’ve ever had and it turned out to be that way but it turned out to be the most satisfying,” Micheletti expressed. “….I always thought the Olympics was the biggest challenge because of the restrictions you have in talking to people.”

Once he concluded that assignment, Micheletti began receiving calls from other national networks and went on to work four additional Olympic Games with CBS (1998) and NBC Sports (2002, 2006, 2010). Additionally, he worked as a color commentator with Sam Rosen on the NHL on FOX and was both in the booth and in-between the benches for the NHL on NBC. For the last seven seasons, he has been the color commentator for NHL Radio’s coverage of the Stanley Cup Finals, currently syndicated by Sports USA Media.

Prior to the 1998-99 season, Micheletti made a difficult decision to move from St. Louis to New York to work with Howie Rose as the color commentator for New York Islanders games on Fox Sports Net New York. Micheletti took over duties for Ed Westfall, the first team captain in franchise history who had been broadcasting Islanders games for 19 seasons – largely with Jiggs McDonald. Three years earlier, Rose entered the play-by-play role for the team due to McDonald’s departure to call games for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“It really was great because I’ve always viewed this as no different than playing for a team [in] that I’m only just a part of it,” Micheletti said. Everybody’s got a job and everybody should try to get along and work hard and support each other. We really had that with the Islanders.”

In the early years of Micheletti’s tenure with the Islanders, the team was consistently finishing last in the Atlantic Division, making it difficult for some people to stay engaged with the game and the team at large. By the 2001-02 season, the Islanders, led by Alexei Yashin, Mark Parrish and Rick DiPietro, began to qualify for the playoffs but lost in the quarterfinals for three consecutive seasons.

Through these years, Micheletti and Rose worked with producer Kevin Meininger and director Larry Roth, both of whom are involved with New York Rangers broadcasts on the network today. Together with the rest of the broadcast team, they were able to present a product they could be proud of.

“It was tough because they were going through a lot of growing pains,” Micheletti said. “We had to really work to try and make the broadcast interesting and worthwhile while the team was going through their transition. I look back on those days very fondly working with Howie and that group.”

Once John Davidson left sports media to work for the St. Louis Blues in 2006, Micheletti transitioned from calling games on Long Island to doing so in Manhattan. He recalls being eager for the chance to work with Rosen on a local basis when the offer was made to him and was confident in his own knowledge and expertise to engender a seamless transition.

“I always had great respect for J.D. and what he did and I knew that he was such a staple with Sam and with the Rangers and that he had played there [along with] his status in the industry [and] how beloved he was in New York,” Micheletti said. “You either had to ask yourself, ‘No I don’t want to take that challenge because it’s hard to win,’ or you just… said, ‘Absolutely, I’ll do that.’”

Micheletti was familiar with the marketplace since he had been broadcasting Islanders games – but the situation differed from his last move in that he was stepping into a broadcast booth that had been together for 19 seasons (20 years). Nonetheless, he sought to be himself and take stock in what made him unique and appealing to viewers both locally and nationally.

“I know there’s always comparisons,” Micheletti explained. “I just said to myself, ‘You know what? I’m going to be myself. I’m not going to try to be him. I’m not going to try and fill shoes. I’ll leave the shoes over there and go to work and figure it out and deal with whatever I have to deal with.’”

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MSG Networks announcers Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti believe they have one of the finest views in the NHL at Madison Square Garden Photo Derek Futterman

The landscape of sports media has experienced seismic changes since Rosen and Micheletti began working together, specifically in the means of distribution. Today, Rangers fans can watch the game over cable television, by streaming on various platforms or by watching through the MSG App, and there are surely more innovations to come as technology and consumption habits continue to shift. Yet the broadcast itself has stayed relatively consistent sans cosmetic changes, such as alterations in production music and graphics packages, and the addition of content related to sports betting and “wagertainment.”

“I think our approach to the game has been pretty similar and the same for a long time,” Micheletti said. “We’re not tired of doing what we’re doing and we try to have some fun and try to be prepared to do it.”

“From a personal standpoint, I don’t think that I’ve changed much at all,” Rosen added. “My personal approach has always been to try to transmit the excitement of being at the game; of seeing the greatest players in the world; and just some of them, the best that ever lived.”

Both Rosen and Micheletti make it a point to attend morning skate and attempt to talk to the coaches of both teams so they can ask questions about the current state of events. Before this though, they read as much as they can about the opponent and create notes to use during the game – even though much of their commentary comes from naturally reacting to gameplay on the ice.

“Sometimes you don’t need any of the notes that you’re taking because the game is so interesting and there’s things going on [that are] maybe the unexpected events of the game,” Micheletti said. “I’ve always felt [to] make sure you let the game breathe and don’t try to use your briefcase and your notes [to] dictate what you say. Let the game dictate that.”

In order to remind himself of the key components of his job as a color commentator, Micheletti carries a sheet of paper with him in the booth for each broadcast containing reminders. One of the points at the top of his list simply reads, ‘Why?,’ prompting him to consider the reasons for something happening. Another point on his list says ‘Behind the play’ to alert him to watch the action off the puck, as it can be a determinant for concurrent occurrences and supplements Rosen’s description of the game. He has been doing it for the last 17 years as the color commentator for Rangers games and does not figure to stop the practice any time soon.

“When the puck is at the point, I try to watch in front of the net; see who’s doing what and watch the benches,” Micheletti said. “I keep the puck off to the side and I’m trying to watch everything else that’s going on [down] on the ice which the play-by-play guy can’t do. He’s got to focus on where the puck is and who’s doing what. Part of my job is to find things that happen in just watching a game that maybe people don’t see that I can point out.”

As a former assistant coach and professional player, Micheletti knows the importance of being adaptable and collaborative within a team setting. Rosen and Micheletti are parts of the broadcast paradigm, and it takes a cohesive synergy and respect for everyone’s role to steadily augment the end result and consistently raise the bar.

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Madison Square Garden is often a sense of pride for Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti for MSG Networks Photo Derek Futterman

“When you’re with really qualified people that know the business, then to me it’s easy to have a discussion about being better; improving; helping somebody; whatever it might be,” MIcheletti said. “….It’s just like anything else – when you’re with somebody that thinks they have all the answers for everything, that generally doesn’t work. It doesn’t work with me; it doesn’t work with most people that want the team and the group to have success.”

Rosen is in his 38th season and 39th year as the play-by-play voice of the New York Rangers, and continues to bring fans countless numbers of memorable moments including power play goals by Artemi Panarin; highlight-reel saves by Igor Shesterkin; and shrewd defensive plays made by Adam Fox.

“I think that I’ve been able to show the people at Madison Square Garden and the people who I’ve worked alongside with and certainly the fans that I’ve been able to serve and work for and bring my style to how important this job was to me and how important it was to treat it as significant as it was,” Rosen said. “Sometimes words can’t adequately describe how much this job has meant to me and how much I value its importance in entertainment; in television; and to the people who are out there watching and listening.”

Rosen was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as the recipient of the 2016 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for outstanding achievements as a hockey broadcaster. Traveling to Toronto, Ontario with his family to see the plaque was an emotional moment for Rosen – indicative of his journey and the strong expectations he placed onto himself.

“The Hall of Fame to me was always about the players,” Rosen articulated. “You think about players – the greatest players of the game – watching them play and then being honored and inducted into the Hall of Fame. For the people in this sport – in hockey – to say you are going to be remembered for all time as one of the best is just an honor that is hard to describe.”

While there has been some speculation over the years regarding when Rosen may retire, he feels he is in a good place and looks to continue calling Rangers games for the years ahead. He cannot pinpoint an exact date as to when his career may end; however, he has advised his family to watch his broadcasts and make him aware if it looks like he is hanging on or losing his ability to be informative and entertaining to the viewers.

“I love what I do and I think as long as I’m healthy and as long as I still can bring that same enthusiasm to the broadcast, I would like to keep doing it,” Rosen said. “Certainly there will reach a point where it’s time to step aside and let the next person take over, [but] I love what I do and that doesn’t change whatsoever.”

Micheletti did not receive a formal education in broadcasting; rather, he learned by working in the business after playing and coaching. Fortunately, he has worked alongside adept broadcasters over the years, including Dan Kelly, Ken Wilson, John Forslund, Mike “Doc” Emrick, Jiggs McDonald, Kenny Albert, Howie Rose and, of course, Sam Rosen.

“With Sam, I want to make sure that I don’t interrupt his call because it’s been so good for so many years and still is,” Micheletti said. “….When you get a chance to work with somebody like Sam, you pinch yourself and I still do. I’ve been so fortunate in my career because I got to start with a Hall of Famer and I’m hoping I finish with a Hall of Famer.”

Younger broadcasters, including Brendan Burke and Bill Spaulding with the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils on MSG Networks, respectively, exude a passion for the game that pervades itself towards the viewing audience. Sports, in essence, are a form of entertainment and excitement – characteristics of which Rosen remains keenly aware – and his portrayal of the event has led him to be thanked on the street by fans. It keeps him cognizant of the impact the broadcasts have in the New York marketplace, penetrating beyond the bounds of the “Rangerstown” community, and further motivates him to be his best each day.

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Michelle Gingras serves as MSG Networks rinkside reporter during Rangers broadcasts Photo MSG Networks

“The fans are passionate,” Rosen said. “You hear it every night at the Garden [and] you see it wherever we go around the league…. I hope that any young broadcaster coming along understands that and appreciates the good fortune that they have to be at these games and to see these great athletes that they’re seeing on a game-by-game basis.”

Even though he has been involved in media for nearly six decades, Rosen keeps up with industry trends and tries to tailor the broadcast to the fans. With the advent of social media and the instant dissemination of information, presenting unrealized perspectives and storylines evinces the responsibilities associated with a beat reporter. Rosen is regularly around the team; the difference in his role from that of a beat reporter is that he publishes his “story” during the game and reports before and after to enrich it in the moment.

During the game, rinkside reporter Michelle Gingras contributes her storylines to the broadcast and interviews players in-between periods and after the game, affording Rosen and Micheletti a chance to see what is going on five floors below them on the event level.

“There’s a constant flow; a constant stream of information out there,” Rosen explained. “[In] my role, what’s changed is not only do I need to provide information that some people may not have known, but also to relate to the players’ approach to things.”

One aspect of broadcasting hockey that he hopes is prioritized though is accommodating the networks and broadcasters to give them the ability to effectively call the game. Part of that comes from the location in each arena from which they are working and Rosen considers himself lucky to have a great sightline at Madison Square Garden.

Moreover, he enjoys broadcasting games at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto; Rogers Arena in Vancouver; and especially from the press gondola at Bell Centre in Montréal. Conversely, the broadcast locations in other arenas, including Prudential Center in Newark; UBS Arena in Elmont, N.Y.; Rogers Place in Edmonton; and T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas are high up and pulled back away from the ice, making them less than ideal.

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MSG Networks announcer Sam Rosen pointed out four NHL arenas that are more difficult to broadcast from in clockwise order the home of the Devils Golden Knights Maple Leafs and Islanders Photos Derek Futterman

“We are a ticket-driven sport and they build those suites and they make a lot of money for the individual teams – I understand that,” Rosen said. “….The league has always said to the broadcasters, ‘We need you to call a great game; we need you to be enthusiastic about our sport,’” Rosen expressed. “Well, sometimes it would be great if the league could somehow use its influence a little bit to give us help to make it a little bit easier for us to do the job that they would like to see us do.”

Regardless of the location of the broadcast booth, though, the on-air duo of Rosen and Micheletti is unmistakably distinct and audibly representative of a sound associated with New York Rangers hockey. Whether it is Rosen expressing, “It’s a power play goal!” over the custom-made goal song “Slapshot;” welcoming viewers back from the intermission by saying, “New York Rangers hockey on MSG Network is presented by Chase;” Micheletti breaking down the opponent in the broadcast open; or the duo exchanging answers to the Cadillac Trivia Question each game, their broadcasts have become tradition for fans of the “Original Six” franchise.

Jobs broadcasting professional sporting events are hard to come by in general, and there is surely a long list of aspiring announcers who wish to occupy the broadcast booth at “The World’s Most Famous Arena” in the largest media market in the world. For those setting those goals, it is important to stick to them and shoot towards them with full force, or in Rangers’ hockey terms, as hard as a Mika Zibanejad slapshot – having played professionally notwithstanding. Doing so may create memories sure to “last a lifetime.”

“You might love hockey, but if there’s a football opening and you can do football, go for it,” Rosen said. “Never lose sight of your ultimate goals – it’s great to have ultimate goals – but be versatile and have the ability to change course and go for it where that opening presents itself and do that game and do that sport as well as any other sport.”

“Don’t treat it like just because you played the game that suddenly you’re going to become a good broadcaster and know how to do it because it’s a job,” Micheletti added. “People work awfully hard in the industry to get these jobs so be respectful of it, take advice, ask questions and watch yourself and listen to yourself when you’re doing it because a lot of times I didn’t; I still try to do that. Then rely on people that are really good in the business to help you out.”

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NBC Must Develop a Real No. 2 NFL Crew for Playoffs

Is the network’s only other option Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett?

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Several years ago, the NFL objected to NBC wanting to employ Mike Tirico as the lead play-by-play voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts. The league preferred Al Michaels because he was NBC’s No. 1 NFL play-by-play announcer and wanted the TNF telecasts to carry the same prestige as Sunday Night Football.

Following the network’s heavily-criticized broadcast of Saturday’s Wild Card playoff game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Jacksonville Jaguars, the NFL may want to impose its authority again and insist that a top-tier broadcast team call the action of an important postseason game.

The consensus among fans and media watching Saturday’s broadcast was that Michaels and analyst Tony Dungy were surprisingly low-energy for an NFL playoff game, let alone one that became so exciting with Jacksonville rallying from a 27-0 deficit for a 31-30 victory on a last-second field goal.

Such a lackluster broadcast led to questions of whether or not Michaels was now past his prime after a season of calling subpar TNF games for Amazon and what initially appeared to be another snoozer when the Jaguars fell behind by 27 points. Pairing him with Dungy, who was a studio analyst all season, certainly didn’t help.

Dungy was as basic as a game analyst could be, typically narrating replays viewers could see for themselves while adding little insight. Worst of all, he demonstrated no enthusiasm for the action, leaving Michaels to fill most of the airtime. The veteran broadcaster showed that he can no longer carry a broadcast by himself. He needs the energy and back-and-forth that Cris Collinsworth or Kirk Herbstreit provide.

So how did NBC get here?

Most football fans know that the network’s top broadcast team is Tirico on play-by-play alongside analyst Cris Collinsworth. But they had their own assignment during Super Wild Card Weekend, calling Sunday night’s Ravens-Bengals match-up. With the postseason field expanding from 12 to 14 teams, resulting in six games being played on Wild Card weekend, NBC was awarded one of the additional playoff broadcasts.

Thus, another broadcast team was needed for that second Wild Card game. Fortunately, NBC had a renowned play-by-play man already in place. Michaels finished out his final season as SNF‘s lead voice by calling Super Bowl LVI, part of a powerful one-two combination for NBC Sports coming toward the end of its 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics coverage.

Ending his legendary career with a Super Bowl broadcast would’ve been a wonderful final note for Michaels. That appeared to be a natural path when Tirico moved from ESPN to NBC in 2016. Network executives admitted that a succession plan was in mind for Tirico to take over SNF eventually. At the time, Michaels also likely thought he would retire by then.

But when confronted with the possibility of retirement, Michaels realized he wasn’t interested. He was still enjoying broadcasting the NFL. His skills were still sharp. And perhaps most importantly, he was in demand. Amazon wanted Michaels as the lead voice for its Thursday Night Football broadcasts, bringing instant credibility to a streaming venture that drew some skepticism. ESPN considered him as its Monday Night Football play-by-play man.

As it turned out, ESPN made a bold move for MNF, swiping Fox’s No. 1 NFL crew of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman. That left Amazon for Michaels, and the streaming giant paid him a commensurate salary with the top broadcasters in the industry as part of his three-year contract.

Yet Michaels wasn’t done with NBC either. After his agreement with Amazon became official, NBC announced that its relationship with Michaels would continue in an “emeritus” role allowing him to broadcast the network’s Olympics coverage and that additional Wild Card playoff telecast.

NBC can’t have been happy that most of the social media chatter afterward focused on the broadcast, rather than the game result. Especially when the discussion centered on how poorly Michaels and Dungy performed in what turned out to be a thrilling playoff game. That’s a pairing that the NFL probably doesn’t want to see again.

Michaels will likely call at least one more Wild Card playoff game for NBC since he intends to work on the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. He’s also under contract with Amazon for another two seasons unless he decides to retire before that deal expires. So perhaps the simple solution is keeping Dungy out of the broadcast booth and giving Michaels a better partner.

But can NBC drop in another analyst who hasn’t worked with Michaels all season? Anyone would arguably be an improvement over Dungy. Is it at all possible for Herbstreit to be hired on for a one-off playoff broadcast, thus ensuring that the broadcast team will have some on-air familiarity and chemistry?

Otherwise, NBC’s only other option may be its Notre Dame broadcast team of Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett. (The network tried that last season with Tirico and Drew Brees, only for Brees to wilt under the harsher NFL playoff spotlight.)

The pair also called USFL broadcasts for the network, so at least there would be familiarity rather than trying to figure each other out during a telecast. Yet Collinsworth and Garrett aren’t terribly popular with viewers. And as with Brees, that crew will face intense scrutiny with a larger playoff audience.

Unfortunately, NBC appears to be stuck here. Unless the new Big Ten broadcast team of Noah Eagle and Todd Blackledge gets a shot. That might be the best option! Other than Notre Dame or USFL games, where are the other opportunities for NBC to develop a No. 2 NFL broadcast team? No one wants to put Al Michaels through Chris Simms in the broadcast booth, right?

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Al Michaels Has Options But He Has To Make a Choice

“It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.”

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I don’t ask much out of game announcers; get excited when appropriate, get the simple information correct, don’t get so caught up in your shtick you put yourself above the game. Al Michaels has been doing all those things well for the better part of half a century and few would argue that he’s not one of the best to ever do it. That doesn’t mean he can’t lose his fastball.

Before you read any longer, I am not here to say Al Michaels has lost his fastball. What I am here to say is Michaels has all too often this season seemed upset with and disinterested in the game he is calling. That isn’t entirely surprising when you consider some of the Thursday night action he called on Amazon Prime where the average margin of victory was almost nine points per game.

On top of that, the Amazon schedule had a dreadful two week stretch with Colts 12-9 win over the Broncos in Week Five and the Commanders 12-7 win over the Bears the next Thursday. It was in that Broncos-Colts game Michaels asked Herbstreit if a game “can be so bad it is good?” Herbstreit’s answer was “No”, by the way. It was the full 15 game schedule that Michaels told The Athletic’s media critic Richard Deitsch was like trying to sell a used car.

All of that is fine, the inaugural Amazon Prime season was not a smashing success. The streaming giant missed audience projections and will lose advertising revenue because of it. The lackluster schedule did not help that. But Michaels was given a second life; he was the NBC play-by-play announcer for the Saturday Night Wildcard Playoff game between the Chargers and Jaguars. It initially looked like Michaels might be the problem as five first half Jags turnovers had them in a 27-0 hole. But the home team staged a nearly unprecedented comeback for the win.

It was the performance by Michaels and, to a lesser degree, his analyst Tony Dungy that has led to criticism. Criticism might be too soft of a word, Michaels was roundly dragged for his lack of enthusiasm during the comeback and specifically on his call of the Jacksonville game winning field goal. The enthusiasm of the call of the game winner had a mid-3rd quarter of week four feel to it.

Me telling Al Michaels how to do play-by-play of an NFL game would be the equivalent of me telling a physicist how to split an atom. So, this isn’t just a Michaels criticism, few things bother me more than hearing a game announcer complain about the length or quality of a game as if he’d rather be anywhere else. It does all of us in the sports industry well to remember 99% of our audience would gladly trade places with us.

How many NFL viewers would sit in the seat Michaels, or any NFL announcer occupies, for free? They’d feel like they won the lottery if they also were getting the money those announcers are getting paid to be there. The guy that works a 12-hour Thursday construction shift just to get home and crack a beer for the NFL game probably doesn’t want to hear how tough that game is to announce.

On top of all of that, Michaels was given the gift of one of the wildest NFL Playoff comebacks you’ll ever see and, at times, sounded as if he was completely disinterested in being there. Pro tip: the best NFL announcer in those moments is Kevin Harlan (see: Miami at Baltimore from earlier this season. That has nothing to do with my lifelong Dolphins fandom). Michaels’ lack of enthusiasm was compounded by the exact opposite from Mike Tirico on the very same network for the Bengals-Ravens Wildcard game Sunday night. 

Tirico, like Michaels, has a sterling resume of play-by-play accomplishments. The difference is Tirico sounded like he was having the time of his life on Sunday night. 

To be fair, their two styles are different. Michaels has a very old school, Pat Summerall approach. Summerall, Vin Scully and Dick Enberg came along at a time when announcers were far more likely to let the pictures tell the story. More new school guys like Harlan and Tirico approach it differently.

Look, Al Michaels helped us believe in miracles. His place in the Sports Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame has long since been cemented. Being a hall of fame inductee doesn’t mean your style will forever be accepted by the masses. That leaves you with a few options; you can continue your style and accept or ignore the criticism or you can ride off into the sunset and enjoy the fruits of your decades of labor.

Al Michaels has what we all want; great options. He can choose any of them and be a winner in the game of life. It doesn’t matter if he enthusiastically embraces them, or not. 

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BSM Writers

Bernie Kosar Was the Victim of a Policy That Doesn’t Work Anymore

“The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.”

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One week ago, Bernie Kosar lost his job on the Browns Radio Network for placing the first legal sports bet in the state of Ohio. Kosar, just like Jets coach Miles Austin weeks earlier and Calvin Ridley last year, violated a league policy that forbids team employees from placing a bet on any NFL game.

The integrity of the games still matters. The belief that what we are all seeing is being fairly contested is what gives those of us that like to have a little vested interest in the outcome the desire to lay our money down in the first place. I get the league’s discomfort with a coach on the staff of a team in the middle of the playoff hunt making bets. I get its fear of the message it sends to have players making bets.

Roger Goodell and the 32 team owners are well within their rights to object to men that can potentially control the outcome of a game or postseason seeding doing anything that even appears to jeopardize its fairness. Even perceived impropriety can compromise the league’s tremendous value.

But Bernie Kosar doesn’t have that kind of influence on the outcome of a game. He is just a broadcaster and not even a game analyst. He is part of studio coverage.

I am far from the first to point this out, but in 2023, the NFL has three official sports betting partners. Just last week, it approved the first ever in-stadium sportsbook, which Fanatics is set to open inside of FedEx Field. If the NFL is comfortable enough with the reality that its fans like to bet to make those things a reality, then Kosar losing his gig is absurd. It is the result of nothing other than “well, that’s the way we’ve always done it” thinking.

Maybe Kosar was terrible on the radio and the team was looking for a reason to move on. I don’t live in Cleveland and I am not a Browns fan, so I have no idea.

How many times have we heard that NFL owners hired Goodell to “protect the shield”? I’m not even really sure what it means or when it applies anymore. If I had a vested interest in the public perception of the league, I know that I would want someone to do the PR math on this situation.

Bernie Kosar isn’t an addict that can’t watch a game without the high of winning or the emotional distress of losing everything at stake, at least not as far as we know. This was a bet made through an advertising partner, to benefit charity. He even said on his podcast this week that the purpose of making the bet was to generate some money for former players in need of help.

This is like Disney threatening daycare centers with lawsuits for painting Mickey Mouse on a classroom wall. The NFL has bigger fish to fry than Bernie Kosar. Hell, it has more pressing issues in Cleveland alone.

Surely you have seen Garrett Bush’s impassioned rant on the Ultimate Cleveland Sports Show about the obstacles facing Damar Hamlin because of how many hoops the NFL makes former players jump through in order to get some kind of pension.

On January 2, we were all united in our concern for a guy that hadn’t even completed his second full NFL season. We didn’t know if he was going to live, but if he did, we all knew that the NFL had done everything it needed to in order to protect itself from ever having to pay a dime for his medical care. Less than a week later, Bernie Kosar was fired for what amounted to a charity stunt that was meant to raise money and attention to very similar issues.

At both the league level and the team level, there was incompetence that lead to a man unnecessarily losing a gig and to the Browns and the NFL looking horribly out of touch with reality.

Are we acknowledging that people gamble or not? Are we acknowledging there are responsible ways to bet on football and are interested in generating revenue off of it or not? Because it doesn’t seem to me that the same league that just gave the thumbs up to open a sportsbook inside of a stadium is really that concerned with people that cannot affect the outcome of games betting on those games.

Has the NFL come out and said that it is going to cover every medical bill for everyone that has ever played the game? We know that this is a brutal game that leaves a physical and physiological impact on the men that played it. Why would we make it harder for someone that knows that pain to help others do something about it?

I feel awful for Bernie Kosar. Whether he needs the money or not, it is embarassing to be at the center of a controversy like this, particularly because in the NFL in 2023, there is no reason for a controversy like this to exist.

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