Commentary

DeCock: Canes broadcasters make playoffs, even if team doesn't

ldecock@newsobserver.comApril 25, 2014 

Play-by-play man John Forslund, left, with Tripp Tracy, is gaining recognition.

2007 NEWS & OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

For the fifth straight season, the Carolina Hurricanes missed the playoffs. For the fifth straight season, television broadcaster John Forslund didn’t. And for the first time, his regular-season broadcast partner came along for the ride.

Friday morning, Forslund and Tripp Tracy, the play-by-play announcer and analyst on FS Carolina’s broadcasts of the Hurricanes, were on a flight together from Minnesota to Colorado. Thursday night, they worked together, calling Game 4 of the Wild-Avalanche series for CNBC. Saturday night, they’ll be on the air together again for Game 5 on NBCSN, with Forslund in the booth and Tracy between the benches.

“It’s been an absolute ton of fun, to be able to experience an NHL playoff game in now two different cities inside the glass,” Tracy said. “It’s a priceless vantage point.”

While Forslund is a stalwart of NHL playoff coverage on NBC’s networks, it’s Tracy’s first national exposure. They worked games 1, 2 and 4 of the Minnesota-Colorado series, with Forslund jumping off to call one game of the Dallas-Anaheim series as well. Meanwhile, the third member of their FS Carolinas broadcast team, reporter Chantel McCabe, is hosting video highlight packages for NHL.com.

For Forslund, nothing else about calling playoff games is new, but nothing about it gets old either.

“There’s nothing like it,” Forslund said. “The playoff games are special. Each one is different than the next. I’ve never lost that.”

Forslund has worked extensively for NBC’s networks since the 2007 playoffs. The wider visibility has raised Forslund’s profile throughout the game of hockey, with the near-universal acclaim for his work echoing what Triangle hockey fans have known for a long time.

It’s all a new experience for Tracy, though. A shortage of analysts thanks to the mix of teams in the playoffs opened the door for him this season, but he’s also reaping the rewards for improvement in his on-air performance and professionalism over the past few years.

Hurricanes fans have occasionally criticized his flippancy – national viewers got a taste of the unique Tracy style in his first few minutes on air, when he discussed the impact of smelling salts on his “nasal cavity” – but he has never been more objectively critical of the team than he was this season.

“I figured getting a national opportunity was going to be difficult because I was only a bench guy as a player,” Tracy said. “I just assumed if I continued to improve, game by game, season by season, sooner or later people would have more respect for the job I do.

“This year was a challenge because obviously the Hurricanes had lofty expectations, Hurricanes fans are some of the best in hockey and they’re hockey-educated. They deserve to know, if the team doesn’t meet expectations, why that is. There were a lot of nights when I went home after games and I didn’t exactly sleep well, because it’s a lot more fun to call the 2006 Stanley Cup team.”

Friday morning, Tracy second-guessed some of the questions he asked Wild forward Mikael Granlund, whose difficult English complicated a postgame interview, but not the opportunity.

“It’s a pleasure,” Colorado coach Patrick Roy has cheerfully concluded each of Tracy’s in-game interviews with him on the bench. For Forslund and Tracy, the feeling was mutual. The only way it could be any better is if the Hurricanes were involved.

“I feel bad for our fan base,” Forslund said. “I hope they get to see it again in the future. It’s been spectacular.”

DeCock: ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock, 919-829-8947

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