This Thursday is Thanksgiving, or as it’s known in the NHL, “American Thanksgiving.” That means it’s time for our own annual tradition here: what we’re thankful for in hockey.
As because this is the first one of these we’ve done since the NHL returned to ESPN airwaves, we’ve decided to keep it in the family for this edition. Here are some of the voices, analysts, reporters, editors and producers behind our hockey coverage, taking a moment to give thanks for what they appreciate about the game and what the sport has given them.
Happy holidays from your ESPN hockey fam!
John Buccigross, host, “The Point”
“I am thankful for all the ancillary parts of this great game that enriched me and my children’s lives. The Zamboni drivers, the scoreboard operators, the referees who travel for 7 a.m. Saturday morning games. The assistant coaches who can’t skate but help to pick up pucks at the end of practice and high-five an 8-year-old when he or she first gets that backward skating crossover. The stats guy who sits next to me when I’m calling an NHL game on ESPN. And the moms who scream louder than everyone else in a mostly empty rink. Bar down, hands up, mama cries. I love you all.”
“There are so many things I’m thankful for. I think the biggest thing now that I’m thankful for is that arenas are back to the potential of full capacities and fans are back in venues around the league. It’s amazing to have fans back. They are a big part of the soundtrack in terms of the experience game-to-game, shift-to-shift. I’m grateful to see them back in the building. As a broadcaster and a former player, it makes a huge difference to have the fans in the building.”
Linda Cohn, anchor, co-host of “In The Crease” podcast
“I’m thankful the NHL is back on ESPN! There is no better place to be to grow this incredible sport. A sport I love and played. Also, it has given me an opportunity to cover the game like I’ve never had before, for example, in between the benches. Plus, I get to call the greatest leader and my favorite player of all time, Mark Messier, my teammate.”
Tim Kavanagh, editor
“Hockey jerseys — aka sweaters — are the best uniform element in professional sports, and they’ve only gotten better in recent years. From the Reverse Retro collection last season (bring them back!) to the Kraken’s incredible (and incredibly telegenic) new set to the innovation on display any time a team gets an alternate (like the new New Jersey jerseys), we are in a golden era of on-ice optics.
“Furthermore, it’s easily the best-looking team sport top for fans to wear as well, and makes an excellent outer layer during the winter months ahead.”
Devils legend Martin Brodeur explains the inspiration for New Jersey’s new third jersey for the 2021-22 season.
Arda Ocal, anchor
“I am thankful for long point streaks and stars chasing records, because it makes a ton more games and teams a lot more exciting to watch.”
Victoria Matiash, fantasy hockey writer
“I’m thankful for Alex Ovechkin‘s inspired early charge in breaking the NHL’s all-time goals record. Fifteen down, as of Wednesday morning, 149 to go. With only 19 games played this season, Ovechkin has already managed to leapfrog both Marcel Dionne and Brett Hull in securing fourth place on the all-time list. Next up, Jaromir Jagr — likely this season. Next season, probably Gordie Howe. Then, sometime before his contract expires in 2026, there’s only The Great One to beat in surpassing a record many thought untouchable.
“While we — league, ownership, management, players, media, fans, all of us — need to continue to work tangibly and relentlessly in the goal of ensuring hockey is safe and inclusive for everyone (there’s a lot to fix), Ovi’s potential march into the history books reminds us why we love the game in the first place. Not only in cheering on a favorite team, but witnessing individual greatness as a united community. Rooting for him or not, we’ll always remember where we were if/when Ovechkin manages to hurdle Gretzky. That’s as special as it gets.”
Emily Kaplan, NHL reporter, co-host of “In The Crease” podcast
“I’m thankful that our company made the big investment in hockey this year. There’s no better way to showcase our beautiful game than on the worldwide leader in sports. It’s a privilege to have this platform, and I’m grateful for the people in the game willing to share their stories with us.
“I’m also thankful for Connor McDavid‘s brilliance — it’s a treat to watch a generational talent just hitting the prime of his career.”
Bob Wischusen, play-by-play broadcaster
“I’m thankful to have hockey back in my life! I came to ESPN right about the time that we lost the rights to the NHL, and I always hoped it would come back. So as someone who loves the sport, and went roughly 15 years without it, I’m just thankful to be calling games again!”
Kristen Shilton, NHL reporter
“It’s the passion for me. Hockey brings it out of people. I’m thankful for that, especially after the last couple years. So much about our lives has changed, but hockey still can draw people together. The belief always remains, even defying logic, that this will be “The Year” for your team. Passion is a beautiful thing.
“I am also thankful for the continued efforts being made to improve the game, so it can be more open and inclusive. I’m thankful for female referees like Katie Guay and initiatives like the Black Girl Hockey Club and data-driven storytellers like Alison Lukan. I’m thankful for every person that has stepped forward discussing mental health, and for every player/coach/executive willing to learn so we can repair what’s broken. And personally, I’m thankful for the extended hockey community and how supportive it has been. You never take that for granted.”
Nabil Karim, anchor
“I’m thankful for Auston Matthews. Why? Because he has made my son (Adam) fall into love with the sport. My 6-year-old idolizes him. He started playing hockey because of Auston. He only wants to wear No. 34. Adam is currently growing out his hair because Matthews has done so. Thankfully, Auston is shaving his mustache after reaching his incredible Movember goal! Adam wanted to sharpie some peach fuzz on his upper lip. I’m a cool dad, but I gotta draw the line somewhere.”
Vic Morren, production
“Wednesday marked 53 years since my late dad took me to my first game at MSG. The Rangers beat the Oakland Seals, 3-2, with Rod Gilbert (who recently passed away) scoring the eventual game-winning goal in the second period. I also saw a penalty shot in that first game: Norm Ferguson scoring on Ed Giacomin, which was the final goal of the evening. I’m thankful to have been hooked from that very first game, and quickly did like so many young fans back then: Hid a radio under my pillow for late night games and waking up the next morning to the crackling of static having not made it the end of the game.
“To have hockey be a lifelong passion and to have the opportunity and privilege to work on three different ESPN contracts with so many terrific people is a gift that keeps on giving, and one of which I’m very grateful for.”
Denny Wolfe, producer
“I’m thankful for Kyle Beach. Why? Hockey coaches love to preach how the sport rewards players who have courage, but nobody, in my mind, showed more guts and valor than Kyle for revealing his identity in the wake of the Blackhawks investigation. I feel like there’s a groundswell of behavioral and cultural change coming to hockey — not just the NHL — and this protect-the-crest-at-all-costs mentality has to end. Being a man isn’t just about machismo; it’s about being compassionate and accountable too.”
“When I think of this, I’m just so grateful what my life in hockey has been. I lived my dream for 18 years as a player and now 20 years as a broadcaster. I’ve met my wife through hockey, and we have our family. It’s hard to be more fulfilled and thankful than this.”
Peter Lawrence-Riddell, editor
“I’m thankful for Alex Ovechkin. NHL players aren’t supposed to be getting better when they’re 36. But after signing a new five-year deal in the offseason that will take him past his 40th birthday, Ovi is doing exactly that, averaging over 1.5 points per game through 19 games. He’s still got a long way to go to catch Gretzky — but if his start this season is any indication, he’s going to make a real run at 894, and we all get to enjoy watching.
Andy Tennant, producer
“I’m thankful for Connor McDavid. For evidence, see Nov. 5, 2021.”
Sachin Chandan, fantasy hockey editor
“I’m thankful for new arenas. I’m a traveling fan at heart, I love going on road trips to experience the atmosphere of new arenas and soaking in the culture of each fan base. Like many Americans, I’m itching to get out there and make up for lost times, and the early looks on UBS Arena in New York and Climate Pledge Arena in Seattle look stunning. Here’s hoping that I, and many other fans out there, get to go on road trips to see them, and maybe have a salmon thrown at us.”
Cassie Campbell-Pascall, analyst
“I am thankful to be back involved in the women’s game with the Canadian National Women’s Team Program as a management consultant. I’ve enjoyed getting a chance to watch the leadership group grow and to work alongside such amazing staff. To represent my country as a player was honor, but being back in a staff role has been just as special.”
“FANS IN ARENAS! I know some buildings aren’t seeing capacity crowds, but I’m thankful to see fans in arenas again. Hockey is nothing without the energy of the fans that attend games. I hope we never see another day where NHL players are playing in an empty building. Happy Thanksgiving!”
Greg Wyshynski, senior writer
“I’m thankful for rivalries. While it’s true that we might wince when they’re force fed to us, there’s still nothing better than feeling the heat get turned up for an adversarial game:
“A little bit of engrained animosity goes a long way … which may seem like a peculiar thing to be thankful for at Thanksgiving, but hockey is weird like that.”
Barry Melrose, analyst
“Hockey has given me everything l have in this world. It’s made a great living for me and my family. When I got a paycheck from something in hockey, that is what I give thanks for. I met my great friends in the hockey world, and I also met my beautiful wife of 43 years, Cindy. It was at a hockey banquet. Hockey helped again. I’m a very lucky man.”