Bob Errey and Steve Mears on 3ICE broadcasts. Bob Errey and Steve Mears on 3ICE broadcasts. (3ICE.)

Ownership changes at regional sports networks have not always led to significant on-air changes. Indeed, MLB’s mid-season takeover of San Diego Padres and Arizona Diamondbacks broadcasts amidst the Bally Sports bankruptcy saw very little on-air change. But, only days after Pittsburgh Penguins owner Fenway Sports Group completed their long-reported acquisition of AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh from WBD Sports (and promptly renamed the network just “SportsNet Pittsburgh”), they’ve changed their commentators.

This comes just weeks before the Penguins’ Sept. 24 preseason opener, and slightly more than a month ahead of their regular season opener. And we don’t yet know exactly what the new broadcast lineup will look like. But long-time Penguins’ TV analyst Bob Errey told Josh Yohe of The Athletic that he and play-by-play voice Steve Mears (who also called 3ICE broadcasts on CBSSN, as shown above) found out this week they’re both out:

Longtime Penguins player and broadcaster Bob Errey was on vacation in Europe last week and returned to Pittsburgh to some unpleasant news.

Errey was informed on Wednesday evening that he will no longer be the color commentator during Penguins TV broadcasts —a position he has held for the entire Sidney Crosby era before starting his broadcasting career as the Penguins’ radio color commentator during the 1999-2000 season.

Errey told The Athletic that his broadcast partner since 2017, Steve Mears, will also not return.

According to Yohe’s piece, radio voice Josh Getzoff is expected to take over the TV play-by-play role. Current radio analyst Phil Bourque is expected to stay involved, but it’s unclear if that will be on radio or TV. Colby Armstrong, who had been doing some analyst work, is expected to play a larger role, and Yohe added on Twitter that TV reporter Dan Potash is expected to remain on the TV broadcasts.

Yohe also included a letter from Errey (who played for the Penguins from 1983-1993, winning two Stanley Cups, then finished his career with five other NHL teams before joining the Penguins’ radio booth in 1999) to fans. Here are some key quotes from it.

Dear Pittsburgh Penguin Fans,

It is with a heavy heart that I share this with you. I received an unexpected call yesterday informing me that I would not be returning as Pittsburgh Penguins TV analyst this coming season.

…I have nothing but the utmost respect and love for my former colleagues and friends that I have worked with for the past 22 years! You the fans have consistently tuned in and made us the No. 1 local broadcast in the league every year. Incredible, really.

I loved my nights in Pittsburgh and in the booth. I will cherish the many incredible moments this seat has given me. It has brought me a special joy and excitement and I hope it did for you as well.

Change in team broadcasters is not unprecedented, and it’s notable that the new ownership structure of this RSN is quite different than its past. The network actually launched as the Pirates Cable Network in 1986, then pivoted to KBL branding to allow them to show other sports, and it was first owned by Tele-Communications Inc.  TCI transferred it to parent Liberty in 1994, where it was rebranded as Prime Sports KBL and affiliated with Prime SportsChannel America (a partnership of Liberty’s Prime Media and Comcast’s SportsChannel America).

From there, the network went through a Liberty joint venture with Fox parent NewsCorp, then was fully bought back by Liberty in 2006. It was sold to DirecTV in 2010, shifted to AT&T after that merger, shifted to WBD Sports after that deal, and has now been sold to Fenway around WBD exiting the RSN business. So while teams fully owning or partly owning associated RSNs is often seen, it’s the first time this RSN has been team-owned. (And on that note, it’s worth mentioning that this is now a network centered around the Penguins; the Pirates may wind up there still too, but that remains to be seen.)

Fenway Sports Group has significant RSN experience, as they also own 80 percent of NESN (and they’re the principal owner of the Boston Red Sox, whose games are carried there). And that’s another element worth noting; NESN launched a direct-to-consumer offering, NESN 360, last year, and the new SportsNet Pittsburgh may soon try something similar. But, for now, we know that there are going to be significant changes to their on-air Penguins broadcasts. It’s certainly interesting to see them move on from Errey and Mears, and we’ll see how fans react to the new-look broadcasts.

[The Athletic; top image from 3ICE]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.