Stick Taps for Barry Melrose

Photo: ESPN

It absolutely pains me to write this as I was a fan of this particular hockey personality for many years.

In fact, every time I watched him, I would think about the 1990s when I would watch NHL 2Night on ESPN/ESPN 2. Whenever he spoke, my eyes and ears were glued to this particular hockey guy.

If you have been following or looking out for hockey news today, which marks the first day of the 2023-24 season, then you know that I am talking about Barry Melrose. On Twitter, Melrose’s co-host and NHL broadcaster/anchorman/analyst John Buccigross Tweeted that Melrose would be stepping away from ESPN due to being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

Buccigross Tweeted the following along with a video dedicated to Barry’s life in hockey, narrated by Wane Gretzky:

“NEWS: Barry Melrose has Parkinson’s disease and is stepping away from our ESPN family to spend more time with his. I’ve worked with Barry at ESPN for over a quarter century. Cold beers and hearty laughs in smokey cigar bars. A razor-sharp wit, he was always early & looked like a million bucks. I love him. I’ll miss him. Wayne Gretzky on a life dedicated to hockey.”

Melrose is a hockey guy through and through. He played for the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Detroit Red Wings, and he also played for Cincinnati in the World Hockey Association from 1976 to 1979.

After hanging up his skates, he became a head coach. He led the Medicine Hat Tigers to the Memorial Cup title in 1987, and then four years later, he won the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Calder Cup with the Adirondack Red Wings.

When he became the bench boss of the Los Angeles Kings in the 1992-93 season, he shocked the hockey world by taking them all the way to the Stanley Cup Final. The team ended up losing to the Montreal Canadiens in five games, but three of them were decided in overtime.

After being let go by the Kings, Melrose was hired by ESPN to be a hockey analyst. He ended up having that gig for 27 years, with a brief stop coaching the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2008.

In all, Melrose was in and around the game for 50 years. In an article on ESPN.com, Melrose said that he loved being in the sport and that he now wants to take this time to focus on his health and his family.

“I’ve had over 50 extraordinary years playing, coaching, and analyzing the world’s greatest game, hockey. It’s now time to hang up my skates and focus on my health, my family, including my supportive wife Cindy, and whatever comes next,” Melrose, 67, said in a statement.

“I’m beyond grateful for my hockey career, and to have called ESPN home for almost 30 years. Thanks for the incredible memories and I’ll now be cheering for you from the stands.”

While there are obviously a lot of other great analysts out there, this is certainly a big loss for the hockey community. This is a guy who lives and breathes the game, and to not be able to watch him or listen to him talk about our favorite sport this season sounds wrong, does it not?

I think the “Great One” summed up our thoughts the best when he said the following in the video he narrated for Melrose:

“He’s bigger than any team,” Gretzky said in a video tribute for ESPN. “For decades, he’s been suiting up — and I mean suiting up — for the game, for the sport, for hockey. … You see, hockey is more than a game, it’s a community — a finely tuned orchestra — and Barry was our conductor.

“Barry has given so much to the game. And now he needs our support, and all of us in hockey are here for him.”

Patrick Hoffman

Patrick covers the NHL for Inside The Rink. He has previously covered the league for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave, WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

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