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Journalism Showcase: “E60” On the Unlikely Love Story of the Daughter of an NHL Legend and a Working-Class Wrestling Coach

“The decisions that these two were forced to make and the way in which they made them, has made me want to be a better person … “

On Tuesday, ESPN’s E60 tells the story of Brianna LaFontaine, the daughter of NHL legend Pat LaFontaine, Randel McCoy, a working-class wrestling coach, Randel’s devastating diagnosis of ALS and the unwavering love that keeps the unlikely couple moving forward.

A Love Story, reported by Jeremy Schaap, debuts Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN2 with a simultaneous release on ESPN+. Front Row spoke with producer John Minton III about the feature:

How did this story become an E60?

There was an ALS gala in NYC and Randel was one of the honorees. Jeremy Schaap was in attendance and heard Randel give his speech at the gala, which is included in our story, and he just remembered feeling really touched by it and by Randel as an individual. The following week, Jeremy shared the experience with us in the E60 group and myself and co-producer Scott Cikowski started looking into it. We eventually connected with Randel and thought it had all the makings of being really special.

Was Randel willing to do this?

In a situation like Randel’s where he’s diagnosed with such an insidious disease as ALS, it took some time to consider the opportunity to tell the story – it’s certainly really sensitive in nature. I had gone down to Long Island, N.Y., where he and his family lived and I’d met with him and his father-in-law.  I just explained to them what it was that we were looking to do in sharing his story and the impact that we thought it could have. It took a little time establishing that rapport with them and I think that ultimately they just circled back to the idea that they wanted to raise awareness about ALS to try and help us make some progress as a society in finding a cure for it.

What do you hope viewers take away from the story?

There’s a sports connection to this story but like most human interest stories, it’s far more than that. This feature is about finding a soulmate and what happens when your love for that person is put to the ultimate test. Brianna and Randel are so young and Randel in particular is so young to be diagnosed with a disease like ALS. They were confronted with this reality just six months into their relationship. The decisions that these two were forced to make and the way in which they made them, has made me want to be a better person – better husband, better father — and I hope others who watch it feel the same way.   

NOTE: An accompanying written piece by Minton will be on ESPN.com. Pat LaFontaine’s former team, the New York Islanders, will visit the Chicago Blackhawks at 8 p.m. Tuesday live on ESPN.

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