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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Brian Boucher’s New Perspective

  • TNT’s new ice-level analyst’s mission is to bring the audience closer while maintaining the team’s trust.
  • Former goalie reunites with former NBC Sports teammates Kenny Albert and Eddie Olczyk.
Brian Boucher
ESPN Images

For 13 seasons in the NHL, Brian Boucher was in between the pipes, looking to block the puck’s access into the goal.

After ending his career in 2013, the former goalie has remained in the game as an analyst for several networks.

As TNT’s new “Between the Boards” reporter, he returns to a familiar place this year, sitting ice level with the players and coaches.

As with predecessors like NBC’s Pierre McGuire, Boucher faces a tricky task to relate the speed and intensity of NHL game action from a few feet away. 

But he also has to maintain the trust of players and coaches as they hurl insults — and sometimes punches at each other — from the opposing benches.

“I try to stick with analysis more than reporting. I do that because I am an ex-player,” he told Front Office Sports in an interview. “I am respectful of the players and coaches. I don’t want to jeopardize that trust. It’s truly a privilege to be down at ice level in between the benches. And I think you have to treat it as such. You have to make sure you’re 100% when you’re reporting on something. Because if you’re off on what maybe somebody said…”

Warner Bros. Discovery Sports is entering the third season of a seven-year rights deal that pays the NHL an estimated $225 million annually.

There’s an adage that NHL games are better viewed in person, and the closer the league’s national broadcasters take viewers to ice level, the better off their coverage will be, according to Boucher. 

“If you could bring everybody down there, I can guarantee you we’d probably have 50 more-fold fans watching the NHL,” he said. “Maybe on TV, they don’t appreciate it. But when you watch a game live, the lower you go, the better it is, and faster it is. And you will win a lot more fans.”

NBC Sports’ addition of ice-level “Inside the Glass” reporters was among the smartest live sports broadcast innovations of the past 20 years. 

Compared to leagues like the NFL, MLB, and NBA, these reporters get as physically close to players as any game. Their up-close-and-personal viewpoint enables them to capture the momentum and pulse of a game. 

“It’s something we don’t see often enough in other sports. To have somebody right down there, right in the trenches, to give you a thought on what’s going on at ice level. That’s important,” Boucher noted. “But it’s also important to have the (color analyst) upstairs. The guy upstairs can see the plays develop. He can see the game from a bird’s-eye view. To me, that analysis is critical as well.”

Boucher previously worked at ESPN and NBC after his NHL career.

At TNT, he will reunite with play-by-play announcer Kenny Albert and color analyst Eddie Olczyk, with whom he previously worked at NBC Sports.

“We were comfortable working with each other in the past,” said Boucher, whose network begins with a doubleheader on Wednesday night. “It’s something I’m really looking forward to doing once again.”

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