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Lincoln Kennedy Is The Sane One

Brian Noe

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You just don’t hear people in the sports radio business say negative things about Lincoln Kennedy. I’ve heard the opposite many times — person after person raving about him instead of being critical. Linc is one of the most highly respected individuals in the broadcasting business. It’s easy to tell why there is zero chance all of the praise is made up — he’s a genuine guy. Broadcasters also don’t dream up positive comments that are untrue about other broadcasters.

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Lincoln has moved to the radio booth alongside Brent Musburger this year to serve as the color commentator for Oakland Raiders broadcasts. He talks about the transition as well as his approach to calling games. Lincoln also serves as an analyst and commentator for the Pac-12 Network and co-hosts The Fellas each Saturday morning from 6-10am ET on FOX Sports Radio with Anthony Gargano.

Striving to avoid being known as a homer is a big deal to Lincoln. He also reveals what gives him the most satisfaction about being a broadcaster. Lincoln describes some of his former radio partners and provides a hilarious summary of The Marine, in which he made a cameo appearance. Let’s just say Linc isn’t beaming about the movie the same way people beam about him.

Enjoy.

Brian Noe: What do you enjoy the most about calling Raider games in the booth?

Lincoln Kennedy: I guess it’s a way for me to be around the game, be a part of the game, but not actually physically playing the game. I never thought I was going to be in broadcasting, so when I found my way to FOX Sports Radio, things kind of went from there. Given the opportunity to be a commentator — and I jumped at that opportunity — has been somewhat rewarding for what it’s worth.

Noe: Do you look back now and say, “I didn’t even know I was going to be in broadcasting at all and now I’m calling games in the booth”? Do you pinch yourself when it comes to that?

LK: For a number of reasons that’s true. I also pinch myself for the fact that I’m working next to a legend in Brent Musburger. Greg Papa was very good to me and he helped me out. I owe him a large debt of gratitude for getting me up to speed on how to do the things efficiently and effectively in the booth, especially for radio, because radio is a different calling aspect than it is for TV. There are differences between the two that you have to be able to switch back and forth like I do. That’s one of the other things that’s rewarding about it.

Noe: As a broadcaster how do you handle feedback from fans who are upset with the Raiders moving to Vegas pretty soon?

LK: You just be honest. You know, Brian, one of the things that I wanted to do when I got into broadcasting and started taking it as a profession, was I wanted to develop a voice. The way I look at it, my thoughts are I call it like I see it. I don’t pull any punches. I didn’t want to be described as a homer just because I was affiliated with the Raiders. That was a big deal to me.

Naturally when the news came down — and my affiliation with the organization as well as my affinity to the city of Oakland — I was disappointed. I was disappointed that they couldn’t get anything done. I also said within that time frame — I’ve been around this organization for 26 years — in that time they had many opportunities to get a stadium done. It just never happened. The team, to me, is one of the more iconic teams in professional sports. The fact that they have to share a stadium with a baseball team is embarrassing.

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You point out those facts to people and then they kind of see it your way. Yeah, they’re losing their team. No doubt about it. It sucks. You also have to remember it’s a business and a lot of fans do agree, look they deserve their own stadium. They should have their own stadium. Why hasn’t anything gotten done? It’s sad that it had to come to this.

Noe: When it comes to developing your own voice and not being a homer — there are a lot of franchises that are very controlling in terms of the message that comes out. Has that ever been the situation with the Raiders where they say, “Hey, we want you to lean heavy in favor of the team”?

LK: No, that’s never been the case. The only time that’s ever happened to me — where somebody tries to steer your opinion or tell you which way that you should take the conversation — was when I was with the NFL Network. That was the only time. Other than that, you’ve got to be mindful. You can’t be too critical of the organization you work for. I think that there have been guys who have done that in the past and they haven’t lasted for very long because everything gets out. Everything’s heard. No one’s ever tried to censor me or tell me to steer clear or lean heavy one way or the other. Like I said I just call it like I see it.

Noe: Was it ever difficult that you couldn’t be completely honest when you worked for NFL Network?

LK: Yeah, it was difficult. The way I felt, especially living in this country you have freedom of speech. If somebody comes up and asks you a question, for example, “Why aren’t there more minority coaches in the National Football League?” When the question was posed to me, I thought because, “Hey, it’s a good ol’ boy network and they don’t want them.” That was my answer, but you couldn’t say that.

We stood clear of the conversation. We went back to, “So, when do you think Brett Favre is going to retire?” That type of thing. These were instances that I’ve had in my life, especially in broadcasting, that I’ve come into where people were trying to steer clear of a certain topic or subject, or try to steer you in a different direction.

Noe: It can be tricky to be mindful of who you are employed by, but still be honest at the same time. The Raiders are having a rough season. What are some of the positives that you look for and honestly articulate?

LK: I’m hoping to see improvement. I’m hoping to see consistency or better efficiency. When you are deficient and you know that you’re deficient in a certain area — for example the Raiders and pass protection. Well, then the following week when you come out, you want to see if they’ve made any adjustments. If they’ve done anything to get the led out to move in the right direction.

You want to see that type of progress rather than just hitting your head up against the wall and doing the same thing every single night. That’s what I’m looking for when I’m looking at this team, especially critiquing the team. I’m hoping that players play better or guys step up and play harder and just show effort. That’s what I’m trying to translate to the listeners.

Noe: Are there ever media members that didn’t play in the NFL that tend to get something consistently wrong while covering the NFL?

LK: I’m sure there are. I don’t know anything that stands out right off the top of my head.

Noe: I was just wondering as a former player if you ever look at a guy who covers the NFL and there is ever something they say where you’re like, “That’s not right at all.”

LK: You know what, I do know this — and I’ve experienced this — I feel for the beat writers or the writers that have to cover the sport, or have to go in the locker room because it is a different world. It’s a different world altogether and they have a job to do. They have a job that they want to translate whatever is going on with that team to the audience. So they have to ask you questions like, “How did it feel when you lost the game?” That type of stuff.

When I’ve interviewed players coming off the field, you try to get them relaxed. You try to get them to open up because there is a standard code of answers that players are going to give. Then you try to go a little offbeat if you will, “Hey man, I heard you like to play video games. What’s your favorite video game?” That type of thing — just to try to get them to relax a little bit, but that doesn’t always address what the listeners or the people who are reading the articles want to know. “I want to know what’s going on with my team. Why are they losing?”

You’ve got more players giving up more information than ever on their own – “I bumped up my ankle. Don’t start me on your fantasy team. I think I’m going to be out a couple of weeks,” on Twitter. These types of instances. These are the things that you are up against now so I kind of feel sorry for the beat writers, or journalists, or even us in radio. Our show doesn’t take call-ins. We don’t take a lot of guests. We generate the talk for four hours. I’ve been on shows that have and it’s hard to get something out of guys when they just don’t feel like talking about it.

Noe: What would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the booth and also the most rewarding part of doing sports talk radio?

LK: The most rewarding part about being in the booth is just being around the game. Being around the game, being able to watch the game. When I was on the sidelines I could sense the energy. I watched body language. I was right there in the thick of things. Same thing as now from a booth, it’s just a little different perspective.

For sports talk radio the reward is when people come up and say, “Hey man, that was a good show the other day. I listen to you on the way to work. I just love you guys.” Whatever it is, comments that are positive or negative because we have them all. It’s also the relationship that I’ve built with guys like Anthony Gargano who I’ve now known for, shoot, almost 10 years I think it is. The relationships and being on a medium that is worldwide. It’s not just in Arizona or California, it’s nationally. It really is a good, rewarding feeling.

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Noe: What would you say is the toughest part of being in the booth covering the Raiders and also doing a sports radio show?

LK: It’s not tough for me to be in the booth at all. I know the game. I don’t want to sound arrogant in a sense, but it’s not hard at all. It’s really just like having a simple conversation because what I do is I call what I see. If it’s a good run, I’ll say it’s a good run. If a guy got ran over, I’ll say it needs to be blocked a little bit better. You know, that type of thing. That’s not difficult at all.

The challenge for sports talk radio is — be in the know about all of the sports you have to talk about. My strengths are basketball and football. Those are big sports in this country, but I strive with periodicals and articles and stuff that I read to be better at baseball. To be better at hockey. All the other sports — to be better at golf — to be able to hold a conversation so when something big happens, you can talk about it and you’re not just a football junkie.

Noe: You talk about painting a picture while being in the booth, so if you were to paint a picture about what Anthony Gargano is like as a sports radio host what would you say?

LK: What is he like as a sports radio host? Well, what’s interesting about our chemistry — our birthdays are a day apart and we’re so like-minded. Sometimes it’s like a couple — we can finish each other’s thoughts. The way we pattern our show is like a couple of guys just sitting at the sports bar just talking about sports. That’s why we call ourselves “The Fellas.”

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We try to bring the rest of the crew in, so it’s just easy. It’s whatever subject you bring up, it’s just easy. “Hey, let’s talk about the Thursday night game. Did you see the Seahawks and the Packers? Yeah, man.” It’s just that simple. We’re doing four hours and the way we look at it, it’s just bullshit. We just bullshit with one another. (laughs)

We get some stats out there and we do some things that are important like we’ll pick games and stuff like that, but for the most part we’re not a hot topic per se show. We’re not an argumentative show. We’re not combative in the ways where we have to get our point across. It’s just really, really easy and really, really mellow if you know what I mean.

Noe: How would you paint a picture if someone was unaware of Brent Musburger and his extensive resume? What would you say about him?

LK: It’s absolutely surreal to work with him because he’s a legend. He’s been in sports and he’s got stories galore that you just sit back and waste days at a time if you can just talking about stuff. It’s really easy. Working with Brent has been really easy.

He’s helped me make the transition from the sideline to the booth because it is a different perspective. I miss the sidelines. I miss that energy and the booth is different. Because of my size, I’ve got to sit down so people behind me can see. I’m used to standing up when I’m doing a broadcast. I’m not used to sitting down. Things are different, but it’s absolutely surreal.

Noe: One of your first radio partners was Bruce Jacobs. How would you describe him?

LK: Oh, well that was (laughs), Bruce was a wild man. He really was. We had some good times together. All of my partners from Mike North, to Bruce Jacobs, to Dan Moriarty, all these guys were all different. I appreciate the fact that I think it helped me grow and not get penciled into one specific type of way.

Mike North was combative, so he wanted to argue with me about everything. Bruce was this, I don’t even know what his political affiliation is, but he’s hard-nosed like that. He wants to try to beat you down with a point. So you had to stand there with the punches. There were times where I was like, “Are you kidding me? Are you serious right now?” But it is what it is.

Noe: How would you describe yourself from the point of view of a listener? What do you think a listener would say if they were giving an accurate critique of your style?

LK: Well, especially when you talk about the partners that I’ve had, I’m sort of the sane one if you will. (laughs) I’m the one who’s a lot more mellow because I’m not yelling and screaming or getting off a point. I think many people have described me as sort of a view of logic if you will. Because I approach as much as I can logically. Given certain scenarios what would do — I was asked today about the Kevin Durant situation and Golden State with Draymond Green. How would I handle it? I use life experiences to sort of hone in and try to figure out the best possible way, but I try to think things through with the questions I’ve been asked.

Noe: What was the movie that you were in with John Cena?

LK: The Marine.

Noe: The Marine. Yeah, I saw it not too long ago and I was like, “It’s Linc!” Do you have any funny stories from that movie?

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LK: What happened was, how I got into that movie, I used to play poker with a producer. He was like, “Look, I’ve got this perfect part for you in the movie.” When I saw it and I read the script, I was like, “This is some garbage.” I can’t believe anybody would make this. It was just corny, corny, corny. I went and did the shoot. It was fun and I got a chance to see John Cena and the actors. They were all there and it was just cool being on a movie set — not really saying much, just doing your part just trying to look mean.

Everyone who knows me said, “Dude, you’re trying to look hard. You’re tying to look mean. You don’t have that look about you.” I said there’s not a hard look about me. They put all this liquid sweat on me, or whatever the stuff was. They were trying to make me look hard like I’m working in the sweatshop and it didn’t work, but it was funny because of the response we’d get. Everybody loved the movie and I’m so surprised at that.

Noe: With all the cool things that you’ve been able to do after your playing career, is there anything else that you would like to accomplish that you haven’t yet?

LK: I guess it would probably be a dream come true for me to call a big game. Maybe like a playoff game or a bowl game or something like the Super Bowl or something like that. You know what I mean? That would be a great one because that would be a lifetime memory.

Noe: What would you say is your peak highlight — maybe not your best achievement — but your fondest memory of being a broadcaster?

LK: I guess what really tickles my fancy if you will is just the fact when people come up and say, “I heard you on the broadcast and I love your take,” or, “The way you do things.” Being appreciated, and you know this, for what we do and what we put out there because we do service the people, it’s always gratifying to be appreciated.

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Noe: That’s a good way to look at it because you get to reach the top numerous times.

LK: Exactly. It’s like you just want to be appreciated. You just want to be respected for what you do. I get more people that come up to me — and it could be because of my size and they’re smarter than the average bear — or it could be they really appreciate the product. (laughs)

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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BSM Writers

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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Barrett Media Writers

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