It has been a thrilling and unusual journey to the Stanley Cup Final. With the series starting Saturday at 8 p.m. ET on TNT, we thought it would be a great time to catch up with NHL Network’s Jamie Hersch. Hersch is in her eighth season with the network and hosts On The Fly throughout the season.

Awful Announcing recently spoke with her about the Vegas Golden Knights, the Florida Panthers, as well as other topics.

Awful Announcing: What is the big story of the Stanley Cup Final?

Jamie Hersch: “We’ll have a first-time champion, whoever wins. You have the storybook run of Matthew Tkachuk and the Florida Panthers who are trying for their first Stanley Cup championship. And then you have the expansion franchise (Vegas) that has had nothing but success but has fallen short of winning in their six years of existence. So, I think both are great storylines.”

Who did you originally pick to reach the Final?

“I originally picked the Edmonton Oilers to lose to the New Jersey Devils, which was a bit of a surprise on the Eastern Conference side. A lot of people picked the Edmonton Oilers. They were the favorite given that they had been to the Western Conference Final last year. And they have two of the best players in the game right now and they thought they had addressed the defensive woes that they had had in the past. So I think that surprised a lot of people that they went out in the second round.”

How happy do you think Jack Eichel is?

“Oh, he’s thrilled. This is a guy who has had nothing but sky-high expectations since he was drafted second overall eight years ago. And I don’t think anyone would have thought it would take quite this long to get his first taste of playoff hockey, but he is certainly making the most of it. He didn’t have a goal in the entire six-game Western Conference Final, but every single game I said as we were watching it in person, ‘Jack Eichel is having a monster series, especially for a guy with zero goals to show for it.'”

Have you ever seen a run like the one Matthew Tkachuk is on?

“Never. He is so incredible. And to have such a dynamic personality off the ice as he does, I think that’s so great for this game. He’s so easy to market. He’s so easy to have out there in the media. He relishes the attention which so many of the stars of our game kind of deflect. They don’t like to be the center of attention or have the spotlight on them. And so, he is a breath of fresh air.”

How big of a surprise are the Panthers?

“I think it has shocked everybody, right? I don’t think anybody even thought they were going to get into the playoffs back in mid-February… Coming up on the trade deadline, you’re thinking I think this team needs to be a seller. And instead, they ended up putting together this magical run.”

What are your thoughts on Sergei Bobrovsky’s resurgence? 

“I’m a huge Bobrovsky fan. I don’t know if he’s the highest-paid goalie, but if he’s not, he is in the top five. He makes a pretty penny to perform. And so with that contract, I think came a lot of expectations that he wasn’t living up to until this playoff run.

“Even in this regular season, he wasn’t the best goalie by any stretch of the imagination. At times, he has lost his starting job. So for him to seize the opportunity when he got the net back in that first round and run with it has been nothing short of remarkable.”

How did you originally get interested in hockey?

“I grew up in Minnesota and hockey is kind of just a natural part of life there. But I didn’t play. I had no family members who played. I was in more of a baseball family growing up. We went to a lot of Minnesota Twins games and football with the Minnesota Vikings. But I ended up getting an opportunity to work at my regional network, which was then Fox Sports North and now it’s Bally Sports North. They had an opening for a host and reporter doing baseball, but also hockey. And so I actually had a lot of learning to do when I first started, and it came very easily and naturally to me. I ended up loving it.”

After the Final, players often celebrate with the Stanley Cup in funny ways. Do you have a favorite?

“We know of stories of guys having their kids eat ice cream out of it or having breakfast cereal out of the Stanley Cup in the morning. That’s a very popular thing. A lot of these guys have young kids, so they’ll pour ice cream and just go to town. The best sundae they’ve ever had.”

* Photo courtesy NHL Network

About Michael Grant

Born in Jamaica. Grew up in New York City. Lives in Louisville, Ky. Sports writer. Not related to Ulysses S. Grant.