While the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2016-17 season isn’t yet over, their local TV broadcasts for the next year are already changing. The team announced Tuesday morning that NHL Network’s Steve Mears will be their new play-by-play voice on Root Sports Pittsburgh, with previous broadcaster Paul Steigerwald transitioning into the Penguins’ front office in a communications and marketing role. This doesn’t impact coverage of the team’s ongoing playoff run, as broadcasts in the second round and beyond are national-only, and Mears will continue to work with NHL Network through June and cover the NHL entry draft (June 23-24). Here’s more on the move from Pittsburgh’s release:
Steve Mears has been hired by ROOT SPORTS as play-by-play broadcaster for the Pittsburgh Penguins, it was announced today by ROOT SPORTS General Manager Shawn McClintock.
Mears, a native of nearby Murrysville and a graduate of Franklin Regional High School, has spent the past five seasons as co-host of “NHL Live and NHL Now” on the NHL Network. He was the radio play-by-play voice of the New York Islanders from 2006-2009 and worked for the Penguins radio network from 2009-13.
“Steve is a tremendous natural talent who has established himself league-wide as a first-class professional broadcaster,” McClintock said. “The fact that he grew up in the Pittsburgh area rooting for the Penguins is an added bonus. Steve has done an outstanding job with the NHL Network over the past five years – including play-by-play work on the Stanley Cup Final for NHL International, as well as the World Junior Championships – and we think he is a perfect fit for this new role with ROOT SPORTS and the Penguins.”
Mears has agreed to a multi-year contract with ROOT SPORTS. He will work alongside veteran analyst Bob Errey, who also has agreed to a multi-year deal and will return for his 14th season.
Long-time Penguins play-by-play broadcaster Paul Steigerwald will transition to the Penguins front office in a new role with the communications and marketing departments, the team announced. Steigerwald will work with the Penguins’ in-house media operation, making regular appearances on PensTV and pre- and post-game radio shows and representing the team at various community and charitable functions.
Steigerwald joined the Penguins in 1980 as director of marketing before becoming part of the broadcast team in 1985, first working as a color analyst alongside Hall of Famer Mike Lange for 15 years, then doing play-by-play on radio for six years before taking over the TV play-by-play job in 2006. He wrote a farewell column for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette about the memories he has and what the job meant to him:
This might sound odd, but I believe in my soul that being the TV play-by-play announcer for the Penguins was not as much my goal in life as it was my destiny.
Someone up there likes me despite all of my flaws.
What will I miss most?
The thrill of standing in the booth above the crowd for the national anthem with my headset on, the butterflies in my stomach as I await the words from my producer Lowell McDonald, “Go Steigy.”
It was exhilarating every single time.
So now this dream job will go to my friend, the eminently qualified Steve Mears. I wish him all the best.
It will be interesting to see how this move plays out. Pensburgh’s Mike Darnay is certainly happy, calling it “a great day for hockey” and saying “a fanbase rejoices.” It definitely should help that Mears has both play-by-play experience and experience calling the Penguins. We’ll see how he and Errey do as a team. And it also will be worth keeping an eye on who NHL Network tabs to replace Mears on NHL Now. This move opens up a pretty prominent slot there.