While NBA on TNT analyst Charles Barkley is one of the most recognizable figures in the sports media world to many, the list of people well-aware of him appears to not include Vegas Golden Knights’ center Jack Eichel. Barkley was at Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers Saturday, and he relayed a story of a recent interaction with Eichel during an interview with Sportnet’s Kyle Bukauskas for the CBC Hockey Night In Canada broadcast:
Charles Barkley got humbled by… Jack Eichel? ? pic.twitter.com/PuMdISlS84
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 11, 2023
“So, the other day, we were at the hotel, and I walked up to Jack Eichel and said how great he was. I think he had zero idea who I was. He was at the hotel, we were at the same hotel, and I walked up to him and said ‘Hey, Mr. Eichel, you’re a great player’ and he looked at me like, ‘Who the hell are you?’ It was funny.”
Barkley has made no secret of his love for hockey. Over the years, he’s even talked about watching the NHL playoffs “in the back” while working on NBA coverage. And he’s repeatedly shown up at hockey playoff game or on NHL coverage to discuss his enjoyment of the game (and has often criticized the NBA along the way, another running theme for him). And with TNT gaining NHL rights last year, Barkley’s shown up on their hockey coverage at times as well.
Thus, it’s a little surprising that Eichel didn’t recognize Barkley. And that’s perhaps especially true considering that Eichel’s a 26-year-old American; unlike NHL players from Canada, Europe, or elsewhere, he definitely grew up in a country where Barkley (seen at top at a Phoenix Suns game in January) was a notable figure. Eichel was only four when Barkley’s playing career ended in 2000, but Barkley has been a high-profile voice in sports media (and even sometimes beyond) since joining Inside The NBA in 2000. Still, maybe Eichel was too focused on the upcoming game to note that this wasn’t an average fan approaching him. (Or maybe he was confused by Barkley now being the not-so-round mound of rebound.)
[Yahoo Sports Canada; photo from Mark J. Rebilas/USA Today Sports]