If there’s hockey coverage on ESPN anymore, it more than likely coincides with a Barry Melrose SportsCenter hit. Melrose is synonymous with the network’s hockey analysis, mostly thanks to ESPN’s decision to gut their hockey staff earlier this year, a move that followed a decade-long scaling back of NHL coverage after ESPN passed on renewing their television rights deal with the league back in 2005.
Melrose, though, maintained his presence to at least a slight degree, regularly appearing with Scott Van Pelt on the midnight SportsCenter. But with perhaps a nod to ESPN’s short-term direction in terms of both hockey coverage and corporate downsizing, Melrose is returning to NHL Network, where he’d worked from 2011-2015 as an analyst while also still making appearances on ESPN.
NHL Network announced the move earlier this week:
NHL Network today announced that Barry Melrose, a six-year NHL veteran, former NHL head coach and one of the best-known personalities in hockey, has joined its roster of on-air talent as a studio analyst. Melrose, who previously served as an NHL Network analyst from 2011-2015, will mark his return to NHL Network on NHL Tonight: Western Conference Preview on Sunday, October 1 at 4:00 p.m. ET.
“With the regular season about to begin, I’m very excited to once again work with the group at NHL Network,” said Melrose. “I’m looking forward to being in the studio and providing analysis and breakdowns on all 31 teams across the league.”
In addition to NHL Network, Melrose will continue his role as a hockey analyst at ESPN, where he has covered 23 Stanley Cup Finals since first joining the network in 1996 and has called games during the NHL regular season, Stanley Cup Playoffs and the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.
Melrose has split duties between the two networks before, but given his current (and, for hockey fans, lamentably) reduced role at ESPN, it’s unlikely that there were many obligations standing in his way this time around.
Melrose has of course left ESPN on another occasion, when he spent sixteen games in charge of the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008, an ill-fated run that ended with a quick dismissal. He spoke with Awful Announcing about those sixteen games in Tampa back in 2012.
He’s certainly good at what he does (Charles Barkley called him the best analyst on television as recently as June), breaking down the sport in entertaining fashion, and it’s great that a network that actually, you know, airs hockey games will be able to get some use out of Melrose’s abilities. And presumably we’ll still get to see him with Van Pelt, as well. This is a solid move all around.