At one point, Chris Chelios was the most-hated man in Philadelphia.
ESPN has announced it hired Chelios, a Hall of Famer and three-time Stanley Cup winner, as part of the network’s studio coverage when it begins broadcasting NHL games next season. ESPN will pair Chelios with another Hall of Famer, Mark Messier, who played 25 seasons in the league, mostly for the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers.
Chelios was a defenseman on the Montreal Canadiens during the 1989 playoffs when he injured former Flyers left winger Brian Propp with a dirty hit during Game 1 of the Wales Conference (now Eastern Conference) finals.
The hit was so violent, medics had to carry an unconscious Propp off the ice on a stretcher. A cut on the back of Propp’s head left a large pool of blood on the ice.
The Canadiens would go on to defeat the Flyers in the series. Faced with elimination in Game 6 and with time running out, then-Flyers goalie Ron Hextall skated out to the wall and attacked Chelios, repeatedly punching him.
“As a result, fights broke out on several parts of the ice. A dangerous, prolonged, really scary rain of beer cups and other debris poured from the Spectrum Stands,” Rich Hoffman recounted in the Daily News. “Montreal goaltender Patrick Roy said he was hit by a Sprite bottle.”
Hextall, who was eventually suspended 12 games for the incident, was unapologetic after the fight and didn’t understand why reporters seemed so surprised.
“Blind rage? Did you see what he did to Brian Propp? Come on. I think we owed him something,” Hextall told reporters.
Chelios reflected on the incident in 2013 at a fan forum at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“I know what he was thinking,” Chelios said. “I had it coming for what I did to Propp. What goes around comes around. Thank God I saw him coming at the last second and got my head turned.”
ESPN also hires former Flyers goaltender Brian Boucher
Former Flyers goalie Brian Boucher has also signed with ESPN, leaving NBC to join the network’s hockey coverage as a lead analyst.
“Boosh,” as he’s known around the hockey world, was drafted by the Flyers in the first round of the 1995 NHL Draft and spent 13 seasons in the league, which included three separate stints in Philadelphia.
His broadcasting career began at Comcast SportsNet in 2013, where he did studio work on pre- and post-game coverage of the Flyers. He graduated to NBC in 2015, where he’s worked on the network’s lead NHL broadcast team alongside Mike “Doc” Emrick and Eddie Olczyk.
ESPN announced its full roster of NHL talent on Tuesday, which includes longtime SportsCenter anchor Steve Levy leading the studio team. Former Monday Night Football announcer Sean McDonough will be the lead play-by-play voice, along with John Buccigross, Bob Wischusen, and Leah Hextall — cousin of Ron Hextall and the first woman to do play-by-play for a nationally televised NHL game.
In addition to Boucher, ESPN also added analysts Ray Ferraro, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Kevin Weekes, Ryan Callahan, A.J. Mleczko, Rick DiPietro, and Hilary Knight. They’ll join longtime NHL analyst Barry Melrose, who has been with the network since 1994.
The network will officially kick off its coverage of the NHL in July, when it airs the Seattle Kraken expansion draft on July 21 and the NHL Draft beginning July 23.
On Sunday, ESPN MLB announcers Matt Vasgersian and Alex Rodriguez will return to the ballpark for the first time since the start of the pandemic, joining reporter Buster Olney at Yankee Stadium for the “Subway Series” matchup between the Yankees and Mets. While many networks are returning to in-person coverage, most regional networks — including NBC Sports Philadelphia — continue to broadcast away games remotely.
ESPN will once again carry the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog-Eating Contest on July 4. But in a change from last year, the network will air the women’s eating contest on ESPN3, its streaming service that requires cable authentication to watch. As Awful Announcing’s Andrew Bucholtz noted, it’s not as if ESPN’s schedule is full — prior to the eating contest at noon, the network is just airing SportsCenter.
In case you missed it, longtime Sixers announcer Mark Zumoff announced he’s retiring after nearly 40 years covering the team. Alaa Abdelnaby, who has called Sixers games alongside Zumoff since 2015, said the longtime broadcaster is irreplaceable. “Marc was the most generous partner I’ve ever had. His professionalism and preparation made an impression on me and made me better,” Abdelnaby told the Inquirer.