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Shams Charania Wants to Work With People Who Are As Hungry As He Is

“There’s not really an offseason for the NBA, and I think that’s what makes the league fun…that’s what makes it so exciting and makes you want to get up every day in the morning.”

Derek Futterman

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The NBA has year-round appeal with its fans craving coverage of the sport regardless if there are games on the calendar. Once the offseason arrives – specifically the free agent signing period – fans often turn on Twitter notifications for the accounts of select NBA insiders so they find out the news as soon as it is reported. Just how to become one of those insiders, like Shams Charania, who possess a rolodex of sources and the ability to break news is difficult though, as it requires mastering a combination of writing, networking and reporting differentiable from others.

Shams Charania was breaking news in the Association from the time he was a college student at Loyola University in Chicago. Oftentimes, he would be glued to his phone, calling sources or tweeting out new information in the midst of classes or shuttle rides. His college life was eccentric, as he sought to build off of his nascent love for basketball and penchant for writing fostered in his sophomore year at New Trier Township High School.

“I wanted to work and be around the game of basketball and be around the NBA for as long as I possibly could because I loved it,” Charania said, “and at one point, I obviously wished I could play but that’s obviously not the calling for everyone.”

At the age of 17, Charania spoke to Jimmy Greenfield, who operated ChicagoNow, a subsidiary of The Chicago Tribune, as he was looking to start a Chicago Bulls blog. Working unpaid, Charania developed his journalism skills and utilized his intrinsic work ethic to become conspicuously known as an adequate, intelligent reporter – accumulating the repetitions necessary in the industry to develop a portfolio and relevant previous experience.

“I was writing multiple times per day [at] multiple thousands of words – literally religiously a day – so that I could be covering a game; I could be covering an analysis story off of a transaction that happened,” Charania said. “It’s as if I was a beat writer for the Bulls when I was writing on that ChicagoNow blog, and at least I was trying to put in the hours and really the time in my writing which allowed me to find my voice.”

While he was in school though, Charania was working as a nursing unit concierge at Skokie Hospital on the same floor as his mother. Charania’s parents both immigrated to the United States from Pakistan in the 1980s, and originally wanted him to work as a doctor or a lawyer instead of reporting on professional basketball. Through his time at the hospital, Charania developed skills related to interacting with people and staying organized while balancing his duties as a reporter.

As a freshman in college, Charania had moved to writing for RealGM where he primarily wrote stories based on one-on-one interviews or was contextualizing game results. While he was in high school, Charania had shared his work with Chris Reina, the executive editor and chief marketing officer of RealGM, along with other basketball-focused websites.

Through persistent communication and maintaining a professional demeanor, Charania stood out from other aspiring reporters and ran with the opportunity he had been afforded.  Additionally, he continued to reach out to decision makers in the basketball world to build contacts and a network to attain information, intensifying his efforts as he observed that people were willing to talk to him.

“It showed me there are a lot of great people in this industry… because when I think back, I was this teenage kid that was reaching out and cold-calling and cold-texting and cold-emailing people,” Charania said. “There really wasn’t much rhyme or reason for people to reach out to me. In some ways, you’re fortunate; you’re lucky and I’m grateful every day I’m able to do something I love.”

Before Charania started at Loyola University Chicago, he interviewed former Miami Heat shooting guard and three-time NBA champion Dwayne Wade at a charity event. A few months later, he attended his first press conference in Milwaukee when the Bucks introduced new draft selections Doron Lamb and John Henson. This helped Charania develop experience being present around the team, and it inspired him to want to start enterprising stories through original reporting. Moreover, he left his job at the hospital, much to the chagrin of his parents, so he could allocate more time to expanding his journalistic skills.

“It definitely was a balancing act,” Charania said of his college career. “There wasn’t really much time for me to spend socially. I was either going to classes or I was writing or I was trying to travel to Indiana or Milwaukee to go cover games…. I tried to put myself in as many experiences as possible when it came to covering regular season games; playoff games; [and] doing as many interviews as I could.”

Although he attended school in Chicago, Charania had to travel to either Milwaukee or Indianapolis to cover NBA games since the Bulls would not give him a media credential because of his age. In spite of the geographic inconvenience, he realized the importance of being present at professional basketball games to foster genuine relationships with players, coaches, executives and other team personnel – hence why he made frequent trips to both locales.

Networking has been an invaluable aspect of Charania’s professional development and the fact that he was comfortable reaching out to people and garnered professionalism in his approach rendered him a rarity compared to most other young reporters.

“A lot of the communication and the dialogue that I have can span hundreds and hundreds of text messages; emails; phone calls,” Charania expressed. “It’s just that constant back-and-forth – that dialogue – [and] really being there at any moment…. I value the relationships that I’ve made in this industry and I’ve been able to have since I started off.”

Charania joined Twitter in August 2010 and worked at fostering professional working relationships with sources in the world of basketball, setting him up to start breaking transactional-related news. In March 2013, Charania reported that forward Shavlik Randolph was returning to the NBA to sign a 10-day contract with the Boston Celtics – indicative of his first news break on the medium.

From there, he broke other contracts, including another 10-day deal for Malcolm Thomas with the Chicago Bulls, along with trades, most notably a blockbuster deal that sent forward Luol Deng from the Bulls to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“That was a rush of excitement and that rush of excitement still exists which lets me know that I still really, really love what I do,” Charania said. “I think it was definitely fun at that point.”

The Deng trade was a scoop many veteran NBA journalists were looking to get first and engendered even more of an augmentation in his credibility and stature in the reporting landscape. It caught the attention of Wojnarowski, who at the time was working for Yahoo Sports, and proceeded to tweet that Charania was “the best young reporter in the business.”

From his formative days as a reporter though, Charania recognized the threat of sources fabricating information to supplement their own agendas or those of their employers, hence why he has always triangulated his external reporting to ensure accuracy and precision.

“It’s something, even now, where you have a strong, strong pit in your stomach,” Charania said. “….I would rather miss a story than put something out and be even 99.9% about it. I always want to be 100% with everything that I put out.”

Charania tries to focus on the parts of his job in which he has oversight, such as his interactions, accountability and communications with sources. While he competes with other writers, he is equally competing with himself to try to expand his potential to be a multi-faceted journalist and trying to attain his goals on a daily basis.

“I’ve always felt like I’ve had tunnel vision and I kind of have blinders on in the sense of I just try to focus [on] what I can control because there’s a lot that’s out of my control,” Charania said. “….I think just like in any field whether it’s the players; whether it’s the executives; whether it’s the training staffs – in any field you go to in life in business or the workforce, there’s going to be some level of competition even when it is within yourself.”

One year after he broke the Deng trade, Charania joined Wojnarowski at Yahoo Sports – while he was still a junior earning his undergraduate degree in communications. Charania had the opportunity to work alongside many accomplished reporters in the world of basketball with the launch of the company’s basketball platform The Vertical, including Wojnarowski, Bobby Marks, Chris Mannix, and Michael Lee.

“That group was super, super, super talented,” Charania said. “Just think about the collection of people that were there. You look now – it’s second to none…. It was definitely just a moment that I’ll always remember and cherish and definitely that was my first moment being on camera.”

The platform implemented on-camera appearances by talent, giving Charania the chance to gain exposure to transitioning his reporting skills to being on screen, and as a result bolstered his versatility. It also helped him realize the genuine year-round appeal of the NBA as compared to other sports leagues and his role in helping to facilitate interest in the sport itself.

“There’s not really an offseason for the NBA, and I think that’s what makes the league fun and also my job and my task and my goal on a daily basis to inform and share and shed light to the audience,” Charania said. “That’s what makes it so exciting and makes you want to get up every day in the morning.”

Through his time with Yahoo Sports, Charania broke several stories, including DeMar DeRozan inking a new contract to remain with the Toronto Raptors, Dwight Howard signing with the Atlanta Hawks and Luol Deng joining the Los Angeles Lakers. In the process, he gained a robust social media following and further cemented himself as an adequate sports reporter.

Now as Twitter transitions under new owner Elon Musk, Charania recognizes the role of social media platforms as a whole and their role in expediting the promulgation of news.

“I don’t know if someone at my age when I was first starting off would have been able to get the eyes and ears of the audience without social media,” Charania posited. “Whether that’s Twitter or Instagram, those definitely played roles in that.”

For many years, Adrian Wojnarowski had been the de facto NBA insider with fans declaring his news breaks as “Woj Bombs” due to the impact the announcements garnered. Yet over the last decade, Wojnarowski has had more visible competition on the platform, including with younger journalists such as Charania. Today, many basketball fans keep track of which one of them gets the news first and while there is evidently competition between all insiders, being first is something Charania will always sacrifice in terms of ensuring accuracy.

“It’s 100% more important and most important to be correct,” Charania said. “The goal is, for sure, to be correct and first. It would be great to have both all the time, but more than anything, it’s definitely much, much more important to be accurate.”

Charania left Yahoo Sports in 2018 to join Paul Fichtenbaum at The Athletic, a job that came to him because of a previously-established relationship. Prior to working as the chief content officer at the sports journalism outlet, Fichtenbaum was the editor-in-chief of Sports Illustrated and was cognizant of Charania’s potential not just in journalism, but in sports media as a whole.

After meeting with Fichtenbaum both in-person and over the phone, an agreement was reached – and Charania was officially a senior NBA insider and writer with The Athletic.

At the same time, Charania sought to continue crafting his on-camera skills, specifically those related to interviewing, prompting him to explore an opportunity with Stadium, a digital sports network under the auspices of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

A deal to join the outlet was reached after several meetings with CEO Jason Coyle and current Senior Vice President and General Manager Adam Anshell thanks to a provision that allowed writers with The Athletic to appear on other media platforms.

“I wanted to align myself with people who were equally as hungry [and] as driven to be the best versions of themselves as possible and I saw that from the jump,” Charania said of both media outlets. “I think that natural attraction was there from the beginning.”

While Charania breaks news for both outlets, he is primarily writing with The Athletic and doing on-camera work with Stadium. In both roles, he seeks to be accurate in his reporting rather than being first to a story.

An example of a situation Charania looks to avoid occurred earlier this week at the Baseball Winter Meetings when baseball columnist at The New York Post and insider at MLB Network Jon Heyman publicized that Aaron Judge was close to reaching a deal with the San Francisco Giants. Minutes later, Heyman deleted his gaffe from Twitter, which contained Judge’s name misspelled as “Arson,” and proceeded to apologize for “jumping the gun;” however, he had already drawn the ire of baseball fans for the false report.

“I think I’ve built a level of comfort and I’ve built a foundation of… sources and contacts from the people that I feel very comfortable trying to get to the truth at the end of the day,” Charania said. “I think what we do, especially what I do and what my colleagues do at The Athletic and what we do at Stadium [is] about being accurate and first for sure, but also understanding that we’re here for the audience; we’re here for the fans; we’re here for the people that want to know what’s going on in the league from every vantage point.”

Throughout his time with The Athletic and Stadium, Charania has reported on a countless number of blockbuster transactions, injuries and other league news. Some of his most recent news breaks include forward Zion Williamson’s contract extension with the New Orleans Pelicans; a physical altercation at a practice involving Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green; and the return of Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving from his team suspension.

No reports, however, compared to the moment he broke the news that Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert had tested positive for COVID-19 in March 2020, leading to the indefinite suspension of the NBA season minutes later.

“I never thought that I would be reporting in a year and a time when we’re not only talking about on-court basketball news, but you’re talking about health in a pandemic; you’re talking about social justice,” Charania reflected. “Everything that happened in 2020; it was such a learning experience [and]… I was fortunate to have the group that I had around me at The Athletic and Stadium.”

Charania, 28, recently signed multi-year contract extensions to remain with both media outlets and also joined FanDuel TV to provide viewers with the latest NBA-related news and information on Run it Back. The show is hosted by former ESPN host Michelle Beadle and former NBA forward Chandler Parsons and brings viewers the latest happenings from around the NBA, along with discussion of sports betting trends.

“I’m in a position where I have a partnership with FanDuel and I think [with] them, similarly to when I first signed with The Athletic and Stadium, there’s a level of passion, hunger and desire; eyes wide openness to FanDuel TV to grow in this industry,” Charania said. “I think that’s what definitely drew me to them and made them appealing for me to partner with.”

Being able to determine the best means of dissemination for news and other content is the challenge for Charania in working with three different media outlets at once. Today, many writers are appearing on broadcast communication outlets, including television, radio and podcasts, requiring them to alter content presentation to appeal to different types of audiences. Through it all, the predilection for basketball is strong and a driving force for interest and consumption.

“There are times when I tweet news out in the moment and we’re able to get a headline up on The Athletic, and on Stadium and FanDuel I’m able to speak on it from a video perspective,” Charania explained. “Those are some of the different avenues and decision-makings that go in on a daily basis to figure out when and where makes the most sense. I think, for the most part, I’ve been able to manage it and handle it well.”

As his career continues to progress, Charania looks to improve his on-air presence and work to sustain his growth in numerous areas of the industry. While he knows nothing will ever be completely perfect, he hopes to attain as close of a level to it as possible and heavily critiques his writing and television work.

“I think everything I just need to do at a higher level,” he said. “I feel like I have a long way to go on everything and that keeps me motivated. Other than that, I just stay day-to-day… and just try to do the best that I can on a daily basis.”

Charania also looks to inspire the next generation of aspiring sports media professionals to discover their interests and subsequently pursue them. His determination and relentless pursuit in building a career has led him to become one of the most eminent and versatile sports reporters in the world at a young age, always staying ready for his next story whatever that may turn out to be. It would never have happened without his infatuation towards the game of basketball and the thousands of words he wrote per day from the time he was in high school.

“I think all those moments [and] those years of repetitions… definitely allowed me to find a voice,” Charania said. “Whether that’s through articles, video, on camera, podcasts, radio; just finding a voice [is essential] because that’s what will help and allow you to really see what it is your passion is.”

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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BSM Writers

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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