NHL to feature first-ever all-Black broadcasting duo
On Feb. 17, the Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets game on TNT will be broadcasted by J.T. Brown and Everett Fitzhugh.
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The National Hockey League will do something on Thursday night it hasn’t done in its 104-year history — feature an all-Black broadcasting duo.
The Feb. 17 game between the Seattle Kraken and Winnipeg Jets game on TNT will be broadcast by the duo of J.T. Brown and Everett Fitzhugh.
BREAKING: Everett Fitzhugh and J.T. Brown will become the first all-Black broadcasting booth in NHL history on Feb. 17 when the Seattle Kraken play the Winnipeg Jets. @TheVoiceFitz @JTBrown23 #SeaKraken https://t.co/0lQkGMX6rJ— Ryan S. Clark (@ryan_s_clark) February 10, 2022
The history-making move takes place just over a week after ESPN and the NBA featured its first all-woman broadcast.
Both men work for the Kraken — Brown is the team’s television analyst, while Fitzhugh serves as the team’s radio voice. Brown’s usual play-by-play partner John Forslund will be working a nationally televised NHL game that night, leaving Fitzhugh to shift to TV commentary for the night.
“It might be one of those situations where it hits me in that moment,” Fitzhugh told The Athletic. “I know that it is special and it is a big deal. But it truly will not hit me until I start doing that game.”
Both Fitzhugh and Brown have ties to the world of hockey.
Brown is a former professional hockey player, playing seven out of his 11 total years in the NHL. After going undrafted out of the University of Minnesota Duluth and playing junior hockey in the United States Hockey League (USHL), he joined the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2012 and played with the team through the 2017-18 season. Upon being waived midway through the season, he finished the season with the Anaheim Ducks before signing a deal with the Minnesota Wild the following offseason.
After a final season with IF Bjorkloven in the Swedish Hockey League, Brown opted to retire from the game and joined the Kraken as a TV analyst in June 2021.
For Fitzhugh, before joining the NHL, he worked stints as a play-by-play announcer and color commentator for Bowling Green University, play-by-play for the USHL’s Youngstown Phantoms, and play-by-play announcer and director of media relations for the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL.
In August 2020, Fitzhugh made history as the NHL’s first full-time Black broadcaster, and the only Black play-by-play announcer at any professional level of North American ice hockey.
When asked about the value of the two broadcasting Thursday night’s game, both agreed that it’s a matter of representation.
“I didn't have Black broadcasters, play-by-play people, to look up to when I was growing up. I didn't know play-by-play was an option until I got to college as far as a career goes. So to have that stage, to have that platform with [Brown] and to show people that, 'Hey, there are two Black men calling hockey games,' is something that I think will hopefully inspire other people,” Fitzhugh told NHL.com.
Brown added, “I think representation is a big deal, and to be able to be on the highest stage in hockey and look up and see ... Black play-by-play and color commentators, I think it's a big thing just for visual representation.”
The NHL remains among the least diverse of all the major sports leagues in North America, the league is incrementally growing its small group of broadcasters of color working games nationally and locally.
The list includes Kevin Weekes, former NHL goalie who became the NHL’s first Black television analyst in 2009; former NFL forward Anson Carter, who does studio analysis for NHL on TNT; David Amber, a studio host for “Hockey Night in Canada” and his telecast partner, former NHL forward Anthony Stewart; Harnarayan Singh, who calls games for the Punjabi edition of “Hockey Night in Canada;” former New Jersey Devils captain Bryce Salvador; and former defenseman Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre.
The platform is there for aspiring broadcasters of color to enter into NHL commentary, and Thursday night’s game could serve as just the inspiration needed for more people of color to eventually join the ranks.