They are the voices that welcome you to your favorite arena while also being the people that tell the story of what’s happening on the ice. NHL broadcasters have one of the most difficult jobs in all of sports play-by-play due to the furious pace of the action.
It’s not like baseball where there is time between each pitch, and it sure isn’t like football where there can be upwards of 30-40 seconds between plays. No, hockey broadcasters have to keep up with action that can go on for minutes at a time. Heck, even basketball gets a break between baskets.
And not only are they required to be on top of the action at all time, but, more often than not, they have to set up their color commentators in order to catch their breath. On the flipside, they also have to be able to keep their color men in line. But who are the best in the business today? Let’s take a look at the rankings.
*Note: This ranking includes only TV broadcasters that call games for individual teams. Names like Mike Emrick and Jim Hughson, among others, are not eligible.*
30. Paul Steigerwald – Pittsburgh Penguins
There was no more clear selection for the bottom of this list than Paul Steigerwald. The way he calls a game gives viewers the belief that opposing teams should consider themselves lucky to be on the same ice with the Penguins. Oh yea, he also made a death joke on air….
29. Jack Edwards – Boston Bruins
It was tough to not put Jack Edwards dead last in this ranking, but the aforementioned Hobey Baker joke allowed Edwards to avoid the bottom. Still, if you look under the definition of homer, the first thing you’ll see is a picture of the Bruins play-by-play man. From yelling at players to “get up” after being knocked to the ice to assuming his players can do no wrong, Edwards is the biggest homer in sports behind Hawk Harrelson.
28. Mike Haynes – Colorado Avalanche
There isn’t a play-by-plan man on this list that seems to bumble names more often than Mike Haynes. Would it kill him to do any sort of homework regarding who’s on the ice, and how to pronounce names? Actually caring about who the Avalanche are playing on a given night could easily push Haynes up this list.
27. John Ahlers – Anaheim Ducks
John Ahlers isn’t a bad broadcaster, but he’s just as generic as they came. Sure, he can tell you what’s happening on the ice, but he doesn’t make you feel invested in the action at all. And, as stated above, a good broadcaster knows how to reign in their color men, and Ahlers just can’t do that with Brian Hayward.
26. Anthony LaPanta – Minnesota Wild
Anthony LaPanta is a professional that has all the potential in the world to be great. He’s head and shoulders better than the man he took over for – Dan Terhaar – but there is still work to be done. He’s this low because the jury is still out on him as a play-by-play man. But hey, he at least can follow the play on ice as well as actually pronounce names.
25. Steve Cangialosi – New Jersey Devils
Steve Cangialosi’s biggest problem is that his voice just isn’t one for the play-by-play booth. He’s better suited for a studio as a host of some sort rather than someone with the task of calling a game for fans on TV. His performance got a lot better once Chico Resch was replaced, but it’s still not what you’d consider a good fit.
24. Kevin Quinn – Edmonton Oilers
Kevin Quinn may be good at calling the action and properly informing viewers about what’s going on, but it appears the Oilers can do no wrong. Even with Edmonton as one of the worst teams in the NHL, Quinn just seems reluctant to ever admit when the team screws up. Apparently, Edmonton has no flaws.
23. Howie Rose – New York Islanders
Don’t let this ranking fool you, Howie Rose isn’t a bad play-by-play man. However, it seems he’d much rather talk about anything other than what’s going on on the ice far more often than not. Because of this, you just can’t put him outside the bottom 10.
22. Rick Ball – Calgary Flames
It didn’t take long for the Flames to replace Rob Kerr with the better Rick Ball. Ball is still too early in his Flames tenure to really be considered among the top in the league, but expect his status to rise over the coming years.
21. Ken Daniels – Detroit Red Wings
Ken Daniels is the lead of one of the least informative broadcasts in the league. He tells you what’s happening on ice at a given time, but rarely ever sets it up for more to be said. It’s as if he has a radio mindset for a TV broadcast. It’s all action, all the time with no room for analysis.
20. Paul Romanuk – Toronto Maple Leafs
If Joe Bowen was still calling Toronto TV games, he’d easily be in the top 10. Unfortunately, he was replaced by Paul Romanuk. Romanuk isn’t bad, but he’s no Bowen which hurts the overall broadcast.
19. John Shorthouse – Vancouver Canucks
The biggest knock on John Shorthouse, which costs him a spot inside the top 15 of this list, is the fact that he clearly has no control over his booth. His call of a game is as good as they come, but the fact that it’s clearly John Garrett controlling knocks him down the list quite a bit.
18. Rick Peckham – Tampa Bay Lighting
Rick Peckham is part of yet another broadcast where his team can do know wrong, and you’d be hard pressed to find any sort of criticism.
17. Joe Beninati – Washington Capitals
This is more of a personal preference – well, most of this list is – than any of the other rankings on this list. Joe Beninati may be considered great by some, but his tangents that he has a habit to go off on are enough to kill any potential for enjoyment.
16. Jim Jackson – Philadelphia Flyers
Jim Jackson has gotten so much better over the years, but he’s just a mediocre broadcaster. He doesn’t give you a thrill or excitement while watching, and his “let’s go Flyers” mentality can become a little too much.
15. Jeff Rimer – Columbus Blue Jackets
Jeff Rimer would be noticed more if he was in a more “traditional” hockey market. Yes, Columbus is starting to boom as a hockey market, but it’s still not where it could be – mostly due to lack of team success. But, if there was any reason to watch Columbus, especially with the start the team has had, it’s Rimer.
14. Rick Jeanneret – Buffalo Sabres
If this list was done 9-10 years ago, there’s no doubt that Rick Jeanneret is among the five best. Unfortunately, age and his bout with cancer are catching up to him. I know Sabres fans may not like to admit it, but it’s about time that the great RJ finally hangs up the mic. Still, it was goosebump-worthy to hear him call a goal after being cleared.
13. Sam Rosen – New York Rangers
“How could you keep Sam Rosen out of the top 10! He’s a legend!” Ok, calm down there Rangers fans. Rosen is good, yes, but he’s not one of the best out there. When he’s doing games that he knows are being syndicated on NHL Network, his calls are much more down the line. But on the average night, it’s all Rangers all the time. It’s like the Rangers are playing themselves in an exhibition mask. And do you really have to repeat a player’s first name every time he touches the puck?
12. Dennis Beyak – Winnipeg Jets
As the Winnipeg Jets have gotten better, so has Dennis Beyak’s call of the games. The team just wasn’t that good during the first couple seasons back in Winnipeg, and you could tell he just wasn’t fully invested. With the Jets one of the better teams in the conference, Beyak’s calls have become more exciting than ever.
11. John Kelly – St. Louis Blues
John Kelly is one of the only people on this list that can make a team that plays a gritty and grinding game sound exciting. His voice radiates from the speakers, making you listen whenever anything remotely close to interesting happens.
10. Pat Foley – Chicago Blackhawks
Pat Foley has the ability to make every game, no matter the score, sound like the next goal will be monumental. Though it’s great most of the time, when it’s a blowout, it’s unlikely that a goal making the game 8-1 is really all that important. Just take it down a notch.
9. John Bartlett – Montreal Canadiens
Only the English broadcast is considered for this, so sorry to the French speakers. That being said John Bartlett is a name that should be expected to continue to rise as the years go on. He’s already great with how he calls the action, especially Montreal goals, but he still has a lot of untapped potential as a play-by-play man.
8. Matt McConnell – Arizona Coyotes
This may surprise you, but after you get over the fact that Arizona let Dave Strader walk, you’ll come to realize that his replacement Matt McConnell is pretty great in his own right. He’s one of those broadcasters that makes a bad team sound interesting. If the Coyotes can ever turn the franchise around and get back to winning, McConnell could be known as one of the best in the business as more people get to hear him.
7. Gord Miller – Ottawa Senators
Gord Miller does a lot of games for a lot of teams, but he’s mostly seen calling the Ottawa Senators. He makes the big moments sound exactly that, and he’s got a voice that is as unique as they come. When he’s calling a game, you know it. As the older guys fade out into the sunset, Miller will take his place in the top 5 of NHL broadcasters.
6. Pete Weber – Nashville Predators
Pete Weber is someone who just missed out on the top 5 only because it was hard to knock anyone out of it. He seems to see plays happening before they actually do. He’s also one of the few broadcasters that I’ve never heard stumble over a call.
5. Bob Miller – Los Angeles Kings
He may not be too exciting to listen to, but you can’t deny just how great Bob Miller is. He’s another guy that has seemingly never made a mistake while behind the mic. He’s a true fan of the sport, and it shows with his league-wide knowledge.
4. John Forslund – Carolina Hurricanes
John Forslund has a goal call that rivals anyone on this list. The inflection of his voice as the puck crosses the line is something that isn’t taught, it just comes naturally. He also knows when to let the moment speak for itself. There’s a reason why he gets so many opportunities to call national games, it’s because he’s that damn good.
3. Randy Hahn – San Jose Sharks
Randy Hahn has come a long way from calling dog sled races – true story. With every year that passes, Hahn just seems to get better and better at calling the action. He started as a man that only seemed to focus on what the Sharks were doing on the ice to a broadcaster who knows as much about the opposition as he does his team. He’s getting more and more national opportunities, and that should be fully expected to continue.
2. Steve Goldstein – Florida Panthers
When it comes to a perfect career match, Steve Goldstein has that with sports broadcasting. He has always had a tough task calling games in a market like Florida, but he has excelled with flying colors. Goldstein is another man who knows when to anticipate a play with his voice, and when to let a moment speak for himself. It’s just hard to criticize any of his work.
1. Dave Strader – Dallas Stars
The biggest offseason acquisition by the Dallas Stars organization may very well be the hiring of Strader as the team’s TV broadcaster. The former Coyotes and NBCSN broadcaster is the best in the business, and it’s not even close.
He’s the one guy you turn up when watching a game just to hear how he calls it. He knows how to control a broadcast, pass it to his broadcast partner Daryl Reaugh for the best analysis in the game and then make you know when to get excited for a part of the game. He doesn’t give off the sense of excitement or importance when it’s not necessary, but also never lets a big moment seem dull.
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Michael is a former Managing Editor for The Hockey Writers. He’s covered the Buffalo Sabres, along with the NHL in general, for various outlets since 2009. His work has been featured on outlets such as Yahoo, Sports Illustrated and Fox Sports.