Broadcasters Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti (below) are racking up serious frequent flier miles covering the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
TAMPA — Two television broadcasters and an associate director get into a car.
This isn’t the beginning of a bad joke. It’s one of many stories about the dedicated men who bring the NHL’s stories to your living room.
Play-by-play veteran Kenny Albert, 47, former NHL player and veteran TV analyst Joe Micheletti, 60, and associate director of Rangers hockey Steve Napolitani, 37, have finished covering the Tampa Bay Lightning’s double-overtime, Game 1, second-round win in Montreal over the Canadiens for NBC.
It is 10:59 p.m. on May 1 when the game ends, but all three men need to be at the Garden in Manhattan on May 2 to work the Rangers’ 12:30 p.m. Game 2 start against the Washington Capitals for MSG.
“The game went to two overtimes, it only ended because the refs didn’t call offsides on Tampa before the winning goal, and then there was a bridge closing in Montreal that caused a 40-minute delay,” says Albert of the overnight car-service trek south to New York.
“But we took pillows from the hotel, I had some snacks, checked into a hotel in Manhattan, slept a few hours, then did the Rangers game.”
So they did what they had to and what, the hotel was out a few pillows?
“We didn’t steal them,” says Micheletti from — where else? — the road. “I kept my room in Montreal, because we had to do Game 2 (on May 3). So I took a pillow out of my room, got to New York, did the Rangers game, and flew back that night.
“So I returned the pillow,” says Micheletti laughing. “Put it back in my room. I did not steal it.”
Right, because why would men who never sleep need a pillow anyway?
Both Albert and Micheletti have been intensely busy during the Stanley Cup Playoffs: Albert covered 22 games between the first two rounds, TV and radio combined. Micheletti handled 18 broadcasts. They are both still on the grind.
Albert’s travails have drawn particular attention considering he was the lead man on the microphone — with Micheletti and Brian Engblom also on the call — for the Chicago Blackhawks’ triple-OT win over the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. The call included Andrew Shaw’s disallowed head-butt goal and marked the longest game in Blackhawks franchise history.
Crazier than all that? Albert showed at the Rangers’ morning skate the very next day following a red-eye connecting flight from Los Angeles through Miami. He was wide awake and, as always, read to work.
“I have an off-day coming up tomorrow,” says Albert of his uncommonly open Thursday schedule. “It’s weird. I’m looking forward to it.”
Believe it or not, Albert — the son of Marv Albert — says this spring’s schedule has been “actually less hectic than last year.” That’s when he covered all seven of the Chicago Blackhawks’ and L.A. Kings’ seven-game Western Conference finals, while also doing Games 2 through six of Rangers-Canadiens for MSG radio.
“What it comes down to is I’m fortunate NBC has asked me to do this, and ironically, the Rangers have gotten to the conference finals now two years in a row,” says Albert of why his calendar is packed to the gills.
How can it get busier, though, than what Albert went through in this year’s second round, working games 11 straight days and 13 of 14, with flights almost every morning?
“I don’t know if I’ve ever had a stretch like that,” admits Albert, who is no stranger to changing time zones, having called a Cowboys-Jaguars game in London in November for the NFL on FOX and Knicks-Bucks in London for MSG in January.
Albert is a regular play-by-play NFL face for FOX, which he mixes in during his MSG radio work on the road with the Rangers during the long NHL season. But he says the back-and-forth, hectic go-go-go pace of the Stanley Cup Playoffs might have the football grind beat.
“With the NFL you get in on Friday for a Sunday game,” says Albert.
Thankfully someone is taking advantage of all the miles and hotel reward points he is accruing. Albert’s wife Barbara, and daughters Amanda, 15, and Sydney, 12, have gone on trips to Italy and France and even joined Albert in London.
Albert, who resides in Closter, Bergen County, New Jersey, assures he relaxes in the summer, working baseball on weekends occasionally for FOX. But for someone this conditioned for the hustle-and-bustle, down time sometimes can feel strange.
“I feel like you’re on adrenaline and when you get the rare day off, it’s almost like your body shuts down,” says Albert.
“Sometimes I’m home a few days in a row, and I think I throw off the routine,” he jokes. “They told me I was in Game 7 mode the other day (for Rangers-Capitals), and now I’m in conference finals mode.”
Albert’s focus isn’t even his greatest quality. His memory is. Albert can rattle off the dates and games he’s worked of every series and has impeccable recall, as well as a knack for calculating and digging up relevant statistics no one else has thought of yet.
He humbly allows “you have to be organized” to do this work on this schedule, but also admits of the vast information he provides on his broadcasts: “It’s all kind of up here,” pointing to his noggin. “And obviously having good partners helps, like Dave (Maloney) on MSG radio, Joe (Micheletti), Brian (Engblom) and Pierre (McGuire).”
Coincidentally, Albert also has relationships with the head coaches of multiple Ranger opponents this postseason, making these unique series for him to call.
He was roommates on the road for two seasons in the early 1990s with Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz when Trotz was a coach for the AHL’s Baltimore Skipjacks and Albert was a young announcer. And during the second round, Lightning coach Jon Cooper approached Albert and said a friend had tipped him off that the two had competed once in club hockey, when Albert was playing for NYU and Cooper was at Hofstra.
Albert, the ultimate stat man, dropped a doozy after telling that anecdote.
“I actually scored the first goal in NYU hockey history, December 1986 versus the College of Staten Island at the old Sky Rink on 33rd Street,” Albert said. “It was a wrist shot from the right circle. Of course, I didn’t score many goals after that.”
Micheletti, meanwhile, played 158 career games mostly for the St. Louis Blues in the early 80s, including a postseason of 12 points in 11 games in 1981. So he sees the game in great detail, and he also has a knack for smoothing over the intricacies of the game to make his vast knowledge both understandable and pleasant to the ear.
That congenial nature probably comes through because, like Albert or Maloney or countless others on this job, he is one of the more likeable and generous people to be around. Like Albert, he is a married family man (wife Kathy), and like Albert, he’s not always comfortable waxing about himself.
“Physically I feel good,” says Micheletti of his marathon playoff grind, which included a stretch of 10 games in 11 days in the first round. “I sleep when I can. The first round was most difficult. There are times like that triple-overtime game in Nashville where I got only two hours sleep. Flight’s at 6 a.m. But it’s just part of the deal. Listen, this is easy, compared to what a lot of people have to do to make a living.”
When approached to do this story, in fact, Micheletti, who typically works side-by-side with Sam Rosen for MSG, riotously cracks, “Is this the best story you can come up with?”
Yes, for once, these guys deserve to be the story — two of the hardest-working professionals in the biz.
* * *
Here’s a look at travel habits of broadcasters Kenny Albert and Joe Micheletti as the two criss-cross the country calling NHL playoff games:
First round (nine games): Four of five Rangers-Penguins games for MSG radio, four Washington-Islanders game on TV for NBC, one game of Nashville and Chicago on TV for NBC
Second round (13 games — at one point worked 11 straight days and 13 of 14): Six of seven Rangers-Caps games for MSG radio, Game 2 of Rangers-Washington for NBC, five of six Lightning-Canadiens games on NBC, and Game 3 of Chicago-Minnesota Wild
Third round (up to 10 games planned as of Friday): Doing NBC TV for Ducks-Blackhawks Games 1, 2 and 5, and for Game 4 in Tampa, plus radio or all Rangers games other than 4
First round (11 games — included 10 games in 11 days): Five games of Rangers-Penguins for MSG TV, five games of Nashville-Chicago for NBC, and one Isles game (Game 6) for NBC
Second round (seven games): All six games of Candaiens-Lightning and Game 2 of Rangers-Caps, all for NBC
Third round (four games planned as of Friday, but more possible): Doing NBC TV for Ducks-Blackhawks Games 1, 2 and 5, Rangers Game 4 NBC TV, then could do more, depending on how series shake out
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