Apparently, hockey fans aren’t the only ones upset with Stephen A. Smith, as the NHL was also reportedly unpleased with his putdown.
Last week, ESPN New York radio host and Yankees play-by-play voice Michael Kay joined Stephen A. Smith on First Take to discuss Major League Baseball’s new rules for the upcoming season. During the segment, First Take host Molly Qerim asked Kay to assess which New York team is closest to winning a championship. Kay responded by slamming his hand on the, confidently stating the New York Rangers.
First Take doesn’t care about hockey pic.twitter.com/O9hkJmv76v
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) March 2, 2023
Seemingly repulsed by the answer, Smith said, “oh lord,” before urging Kay to pick a baseball, basketball or football team. Qerim similarly dismissed the NHL, claiming hockey doesn’t count toward her question of which New York team is closest to a title.
Even though Smith attempted to make the comments in jest, hockey fans were incensed at his willingness to dismiss the NHL, a league ESPN pays $400 million annually for game rights. Kay later spoke about the incident on his ESPN New York radio show, and claimed hockey fans weren’t the only ones bothered by Smith’s comments.
“By the way,” Kay said in response to co-host Peter Rosenberg noting hockey fans were upset with the clip. “One addendum to that, I heard today, the NHL, red hot.”
Hours after the clip went viral on social media, Smith posted a video on Twitter to offer clarification of his dismissive hockey take. But while claiming he was just kidding and attempting to now brand himself as a NHL fan, Smith may have done more harm than good by saying, “let’s do that hockey,” and boasting about his friendship with the league’s highly unpopular commissioner, Gary Bettman.
No one is stunned to learn Smith isn’t a big hockey fan considering the lack of coverage the sport gets on First Take. But not being a hockey fan is different from completely dismissing the sport on ESPN, a network that should be focused on helping the NHL grow considering its massive investment in the product. And when ESPN’s premier personality mocks the sport instead of endorsing it, NHL executives have every right to be incensed.