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John Tortorella Joins ESPN’s NHL Coverage

The former-Columbus Blue Jackets head coach was an analyst for TSN in 2008.

Russ Heltman

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Courtesy: Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images

“Torts” is on his way back to the analyst desk.

Longtime NHL head coach John Tortorella is trading his whistle for a microphone. The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that ESPN has hired Tortorella as part of their new and improved NHL coverage team.

Tortorella was most recently the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets, leading them to their first-ever playoff series victory over the Lightning in 2019. The 63-year-old parted ways with Columbus this past May after the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016.

Tortorella has also coached the Canucks, Rangers, and Lightning, leading the bolts to their first Stanley Cup title in 2004. In 22 seasons of head coaching experience, Tortorella holds a 673-541-37-132 record. His 673 regular-season wins are tied for 12th in NHL history.

The fiery coach is well-known for his antics with reporters. He regularly complained about the media and held combative exchanges at press conferences. Now, he’s on the other side of the coin for the first time since 2008-09 when he was a hockey analyst for TSN.

ESPN surely hopes a dash of that bravado makes its way to the studio desk when they take on a large role in NHL coverage for the first time since they held the TV rights from 1992-2004.

Tortorella joins a growing list of hockey talent added by ESPN, featuring a mix of Americans and Canadians. Chris Chelios, Rick DiPietro, Ryan Callahan, Brian Boucher, Hilary Knight, and A.J. Mleczko, among others, make up the American contingent. While, the Canadian side includes Mark Messier, Ray Ferraro, Kevin Weekes, and Cassie Campbell-Pascall.

ESPN’s NHL coverage begins in full this fall as they dive headfirst into puck action. The NHL is broadcasting 25 national, exclusive regular season games per season on ABC or ESPN, along with 75 ESPN-produced national regular-season games streamed on ESPN+ and Hulu.

Sports TV News

Al Michaels: Condensed Prep Time For Thursday Night Football ‘A Downside’

“It’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us.”

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There were bound to be unexpected hiccups and unintended consequences as Al Michaels moved to Thursday Night Football with Amazon Prime Video.

He told The Boston Globe Thursday that one of the downsides of the week’s schedule is less prep time with the teams playing in the game.

“When we go to see the teams, it’s not that they don’t want to be with us, but they’re condensed too, so there’s less time to give to us,” Michaels said. “And all the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve built some great relationships with coaches and players and GMs and owners and you name it, and I don’t get that much time to spend with them anymore. That’s a downside part of it for me. Some of the best stories you get come from those relationships.”

Michaels has raised eyebrows this season while not being shy about his disdain for some poor matchups early in the schedule. However, he now understands that there are quality games as the season approaches its close.

“The schedule was a little leaky with the Carolina-Atlanta game and a couple of other games that we’ve had, but now we’re positioned for a nice run down the stretch,” said Michaels.

The 78-year-old was also asked how he remains energetic and passionate for the job he’s held for so long.

The games are exciting. I love sports. You don’t know what’s going to happen. There’s no script. And unscripted television is the greatest.”

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Sports TV News

Jimmy Pitaro: Reaching Younger Audience A Priority for ESPN

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience. As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

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Many in the media industry have voice concern that millennials and Gen Z aren’t consuming traditional media outlets like previous generations. ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro said it’s a priority for the network.

“The thing that keeps me up at night is how do we reach the younger audience,” Pitaro said, quoted by Morning Consult sports business reporter Mark J. Burns. “As an industry in general, we need to figure out how to be more relevant to younger people.”

Pitaro made the comments at Sports Business Journal’s Media Innovators conference Wednesday. It is a continuation of comments he has made in recent years.

In 2018, Pitaro said at ESPN’s upfront “I think we are doing a fantastic job serving the sports fanatic,” said Pitaro. “What about the casual sports customer? Are we doing all we can to serve him or her?”.

In 2019, Pitaro said it was “all hands on deck” to reach a younger audience and women. “We have to be open and go to where our customers are,” he said in regards to reaching younger viewers on social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

Earlier this year, Pitaro added that ESPN won’t be leaving linear television anytime soon.

“What I will tell you is that as I sit here right now, that business is still incredible,” Pitaro said. “We serve the sports fan anyway and at any time. I know there are a lot of people that still want ESPN in that traditional ecosystem.”

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Sports TV News

Don Mattingly Joining Blue Jays Staff After YES Network Courtship

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

Jordan Bondurant

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YES Network

The New York Yankees regional sports network can take Don Mattingly off its talent wish list. Mattingly was announced Wednesday as a bench coach for the Toronto Blue Jays starting in 2023.

The former Dodgers and Marlins manager had been mentioned as a someone YES Network was interested in potentially hiring to be an analyst.

But Mattingly told Andrew Marchand of The New York Post this week that he had another opportunity in the works but wouldn’t elaborate.

YES also has been considering luring Yankees legend and Hall of Famer Derek Jeter into broadcasting. But no formal talks have taken place.

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