For its NHL coverage, ESPN hired Leah Hextall to play play-by-play and other roles, The Post has learned.
While the exact number of games she will broadcast is not yet known, she will be the first player to be a regular part of the NHL’s national television program.
Hextall has been broadcasting hockey for 17 years.
Here are some highlights from this all-female Sportsnet show (on-air and behind the scenes) from last year:
It is certainly important to see a woman hired to play per game in a national NHL package. Within the NHL there have been many female analysts (including, in recent years, AJ Mleczko and Kendal Coyne Schofeld on NBC / NBCSN and Cassie Campbell-Pascall on CBC and Sportsnet), but it has been rarer to seeing women play-by-play role. There have been a few instances of this on regional shows, including Sherry Ross (a regular analyst) switching to play-by-play for a New Jersey Devils radio show in 2009, and we saw Scott get that chance nationally in the US last. year (and Hextall has that chance nationally in Canada), but it’s interesting to see Hextall’s play-by-play opportunities in the NHL shift from a unique feature of International Women’s Day to a more regular. And Hextall certainly has a long history around the game, even beyond his 17 years of broadcasting hockey; his cousin Ron is the famous former Flyers goaltender and current Penguins general manager, and his grandfather Bryan is in the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player, best known for his time with the Rangers.
In terms of the broader sporting context, it has become much more common to see women play games on national or regional shows in recent years. Some of the many recent examples include Beth Mowins on college football, the NFL and MLB, Lisa Byington on Big Ten Network football, local NBA and WNBA shows in Chicago, and the men’s basketball tournament in Chicago. NCAA, Jenny Cavnar and Melanie Newman in MLB, Meghan McPeak on a pan-Canadian NBA show, and Scott on Pac-12 network football and a regional Warriors show. So it seems likely that we will soon come to a point where women gambling for any sport are relatively common. But for now, it’s still a pretty notable milestone in the hockey world, and it’s interesting to see ESPN make that move. We’ll see how many games Hextall ends up calling, what her “other roles” include and how she does with ESPN.
[The New York Post; photo via Hextall on Twitter]