Behind The ScenesNHL

ESPN’s longtime hockey crew relishes World Cup experience

I liken it to a love interest that got away and, 12 years later, you bump into that person in Toronto and rekindle the flame.
– ESPN’s Steve Levy on again calling games featuring NHL stars in the World Cup of Hockey

ESPN’s final NHL telecast saw the Tampa Bay Lightning crowned as Stanley Cup Champion in 2004. Later that year, ESPN televised the last World Cup of Hockey when Canada defeated Finland.

Fast forward 12 years and hockey fans once again can see professional hockey on ESPN when the puck drops on World Cup of Hockey 2016 beginning Saturday, Sept. 17, in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre. All games for the two-week tournament will be televised across ESPN networks.

While there are many hockey fans at ESPN delighted that WCOH is on our platforms, only a few, including yours truly, were part of the NHL team in 2004, have remained with the company and are now working on the World Cup.

Bill Graff, who in 2004 was coordinating producer of ESPN’s NHL studio coverage, is now overseeing all WCOH production as a senior coordinating producer.

“My overriding memory of that time was the incredible passion brought every day,” Graff said. “We were not just a great production team, in a lot of ways, we were a family. With hockey back at ESPN after a 12-year hiatus, we are rekindling that same kind of passion in our new team.”

In 2004, Wendell Grigely was director of remote operations, assigning operations producers and booking mobile units for NHL telecasts. He is currently coordinating director, remote production operations.

“A new approach, new technology and the omnipresent passion for the sport are driving many of us, not to mention being galvanized to take the coverage to a different place in the spirit of our lost friend and colleague, John Saunders.
– Vic Morren, ESPN senior production manager, on covering pro hockey again after a 12-year hiatus

“It’s fantastic to be back in hockey producing a tournament of this caliber,” he said. “Today’s technology allows us to bring interesting angles in high definition, capturing all the action.”

Three on-air commentators were behind the microphone in 2004 and will return in 2016.

Steve Levy and Barry Melrose are the lead commentating team and will call the Semifinals and Final in addition to many early-round games.

Levy stated: “I liken it to a love interest that got away and, 12 years later, you bump into that person in Toronto and rekindle the flame. People know how passionate Barry and I are about the sport, but the people behind the scenes love it just as much. I cannot wait to hear our music while welcoming viewers to ESPN’s coverage of the best players in the world. If it’s a USA/Canada Final, so be it.”

Melrose added: “It’s back to the future. A group of people passionate about hockey have regained something they love and we are having a blast working on WCOH and working with the NHL and NHLPA [the players union].”

John Buccigross, who will host studio segments and call select games, said, “It will be a bittersweet fortnight. To be in the NHL game for two weeks and then see it sail away again will be sad. Exhilaration followed by wistfulness! But, as long as we have it…party on, Garth!”

Vic Morren, senior production coordinator in 2004, is now senior production manager and overseeing many of the logistical production details.

“To work on this high-profile event with so many that worked on hockey in the past – particularly Bill – is a thrill,” said Morren. “A new approach, new technology and the omnipresent passion for the sport are driving many of us, not to mention being galvanized to take the coverage to a different place in the spirit of our lost friend and colleague, John Saunders.”

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