Islanders Setting Example for Women in Sports Media

For the New York Islanders, celebrating women goes far beyond International Women’s Day. In fact, their MSG broadcast features three women in prominent roles, a first for a professional sports team. Shannon Hogan, the lead pre-game, intermission, and post-game host, is flanked by either AJ Mleczko or Jennifer Botterill. This crew has been together since the 2018-19 season and is now a central part of the Islanders’ broadcast and part of a larger movement of women in hockey and in sports media.

Shannon Hogan

Since 2014, Hogan has been the face of the Islanders’ broadcast and a true fan of the team, whether she’s on TV or on Twitter interacting with fans. Replacing Peter Ruttgaizer, who held the position for the previous three seasons, she is the second woman to hold the position for the forward-thinking Islanders. Deborah Placey, now one of the hosts of NHL Live, was with the Islanders for 10 seasons, leaving in 2008 to be a part of the New Jersey Devils broadcast.

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Hogan, now in her sixth season with the Islanders, has covered a number of national events over the course of her career, including the 2010 US Open, 2010 World Series, 2014 Winter Classic, and the NHL playoffs since 2011. But her place in sports media means more to her than her own career; she wants to see more women take on prominent roles throughout the media world and beyond.

In an interview with WNCY’s Tanzina Vega for The Takeaway in April 2019, Hogan spoke about her time with the Islanders and in sports in general, but also as a champion for other women in and out of the hockey world.

“The other important thing is that women have to help other women. I mean, we have to be each other’s champion. Just because there’s one woman on a broadcast, doesn’t mean there can’t be another. And I think sometimes when you look around at the sports space, you’ll see a panel or you’ll see a team’s coverage and they just have one woman host. What I love that MSG has done is that I don’t have to be the token female. We have two other smart women that know what they’re talking about and the three of us put together a strong show.”

Shannon Hogan

Even without the playing experience that her co-hosts have, Hogan certainly has their respect. “She’s been on the scene a couple years,” Mleczko said to ESPN. “She doesn’t have the background playing we do, but she certainly knows her stuff.”

Rivals Turned Teammates

For Mleczko and Botterill, opponents on the international stage for the United States and Canada respectively in the 1998 and 2002 Winter Olympics, this is the second time they’ve teamed up. The first was for the Havard Crimson, helping them win the 1999 NCAA National Championship as linemates. At the end of the 2019 season, while Hogan was out on maternity leave, Mleczko and Botterill teamed up for the first time in 20 years, reflecting on their time as teammates and were excited to assist one another for the Islanders.

Mleczko has been a trailblazer in hockey for nearly two decades, beginning her career with NBC Sports in 2006 at the Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy. She then made history when she was the first woman to work as an in-booth analyst for an NHL postseason game on NBC Sports.

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“AJ is an authentic hockey voice and knows how to break the game down,” said Sam Flood, the executive producer and president of NBC and NBC Sports Network in an interview with USA Today. “After her work at the Olympics this year [2018], there was no question that she deserved more opportunities on our hockey telecasts.” Botterill, who has already become a regular contributing host and hockey analyst for CBC, TSN, and Sportsnet in Canada after an amazing playing career, is relishing every moment she has in her role between the benches and between periods with the Islanders.

Jennifer Botterill
Jennifer Botterill goes one-on-one with THW to discuss the New York Islanders second-round playoff matchup with the Carolina Hurricanes (Photo provided courtesy of MSG Networks).

“It’s high energy and lots of adrenaline,” Botterill said in an interview with Forbes in 2018. “It’s very different from sitting in a studio or being in a broadcast booth to being literally at ice level. I find myself having a bit of a smile on my face — you’re focused and you’re paying attention, but the energy is pretty contagious.” Botterill and Mleczko split games on the broadcast and each adds their own flavor when working with Hogan.

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What’s clear is that these three women aren’t just setting an amazing example for other women in sports, they’re setting a new bar for broadcasters period. As Mleczko said in an interview with Emily Kaplan of ESPN, “I hope that people listen to the game and they’re not constantly reminded that a woman is calling this game. It’s hockey people in the booth talking hockey.”