Word leaked out yesterday that ESPN’s Barry Melrose was departing the TV studio and returning to the bench in the NHL, in Tampa. The Tampa media today appears to have verified the stunning news. We’re stunned. It’s been 13 years since Melrose coached in the NHL; the league has changed dramatically in that time, and while Melrose has monitored it nightly from his studio perch, that’s not the same as being in an organization and working day in, day out with league pros from scouts to GMs to equipment guys. And unlike a print beat guy traveling around with a team, Melrose has been holed up in a Connecticut TV studio the past decade plus.
On the plus side, the transition seriously deals a virtual deathblow to ESPN’s hockey coverage, such as it is. Given the prevalence of startling young talent in the remade NHL, one enjoying best-of-the-decade TV ratings and best-ever revenues, what a time to be the WorldWide Missing in Action in This Sport. What must John Buccigross be thinking right about now?
Making matters even more surreal, there’s word that Melrose will be paid a cool $2 million in salary next season. The ‘Bolts will transfer to new owner Oren Koules next month, and the scuttlebutt around the league is that the new owner wants to make a big splash upon his arrival. But is this a belly flop of a buzz generator? What must Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis be thinking these days?
The situation is doubly bizarre because the ‘Bolts have yet to relieve Head Coach John Tortorella of his duties. But it appears to be a done deal. World of this novelty dates back to April.
We confess: we can’t wait for Tampa’s first visit to Verizon Center next season, for a chance to be among the media contingent covering the thoughts of hockey’s most famous mullet.
In the meantime, we’re gonna acknowledge this weird news in fitting fashion, with a weekend-long celebration of hockey’s dishonorable ‘do. All four of us pledge not to cut a single strand of hair during. Tell us who you think possesses the all-time most infamous business up front, party out back ‘coif.