Prime-time players: ESPN’s NHL highlights crew revels in capturing postseason action

(l to r) ESPN's Kelly Manzo, Jody Roberts, Alisa Harrison in the screening room in Bristol, Conn.
(l to r) ESPN’s Kelly Manzo, Jody Roberts and Alisa Harrison in the screening room in Bristol, Conn.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)
These ladies take their hockey seriously.
These women take their hockey seriously.
(Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images)

This is the best time of year for ESPN’s No. 1 NHL highlight line of production assistant Jody Roberts, and content associates Alisa Harrison and Kelly Manzo.

“We always cover the high-profile games and marquee matchups like Sid [Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby] versus Ovi [Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin], but our duties quadruple during the playoffs,” according to Manzo. Roberts said, “One or two of our games each night ends up leading the 11 p.m. ET SportsCenter,” while Harrison noted, “Our responsibilities ramp up significantly for the playoffs.”

It’s Roberts’ first year on the NHL Highlights Unit. She backs up her claim that she’s a huge hockey fan – the Philadelphia Flyers in particular – by adding, “I mean, how can you not appreciate a [Chicago Blackhawks star] Patty Kane ‘spin-o-rama’ goal or the filth that [Detroit Red Wings center] Pavel Datsyuk dishes every night?”

The Cohn Ranger

Linda Cohn (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)
Linda Cohn (Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

There might not be any ESPN employee more excited about the 2014 NHL playoffs than SportsCenter anchor – and lifelong New York Rangers fan – Linda Cohn. She says: “Let’s put it this way – everything I do right now, when I wake up and go to bed and everything in between – revolves around the N.Y. Rangers. The level of fanaticism skyrockets now. It’s the emotional rollercoaster I never want to get off. It’s the legal drug I’m addicted to – it’s the New York Rangers.”

If Roberts is a hockey highlight rookie, Harrison brings actual playing experience to her screening seat.

The Caps fan from northern Virginia started playing at the age of eight, eventually skating for the Washington Pride, an elite women’s team that plays throughout North America in national and international tournaments. She earned a full scholarship to play NCAA Division I at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), where she made the ECAC All-Rookie Team and was team captain her junior and senior years.

In fact, it’s Harrison who had the props for this story’s photos. Although she broke a nail taking the sticks, gloves and a helmet from her car, “I didn’t flop,” she said proudly of avoiding the trend creeping into the NHL.

And just like her colleagues, Manzo’s team is no longer playing.

“My last three years on the Unit I’ve had the opportunity to cut a ton of B’s [Boston Bruins] games, a lot of them very good and others heartbreaking,” she said. Manzo takes solace in an event in which there are no real losers: “Outside of hockey, I would have to say my favorite highlight I’ve ever worked on is definitely the Puppy Bowl.”

How much do Roberts, Harrison and Manzo love hockey?

When asked what they’ll do when the NHL season ends, rather than answering how their ESPN responsibilities will change, they instead looked at each other, and replied at the same time: “Cry.”

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