The National Hockey League is slated to broadcast its first game ever with an all-Black on-air cast calling the action this Thursday.
ESPN reports that Thursday’s face-off between the Winnipeg Jets and the Seattle Kracken–the league’s newest expansion team–will be broadcast by the team of former NHL player and Kracken analyst JT Brown and play-by-play man Everett Fitzhugh. The game airs at 7 pm EDT.
Although history-making from a broadcast standpoint, the game wasn’t originally supposed to hold any special significance beyond a regular season game as the race to hockey’s Stanley Cup playoffs is starting. The Cracken and the Jets both play in the NHL’s Western Conference, but not in the same division, so their February matchup won’t hold any extra weight in terms of the post-season.
But a scheduling conflict has lent the game historical significance.
Fitzhugh is usually the Kraken’s radio play-by-play announcer, and will be joining Brown, a regular Kraken analyst, on the TV side.
Seattle’s incumbent television play-by-play voice, John Forslund, will be working on a different network Thursday night. That created an opportunity for Fitzhugh and Brown to collaborate in a truly meaningful way.
“It all goes back to representation matters, that’s the overarching theme here,” Fitzhugh told NHL.com. “I didn’t have Black broadcasters [and] 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.”
Early 2022 has been a banner year by NHL standards for Black former players. Hall of Famer Willie O’Ree, the first Black man to play in the NHL, finally had his jersey retired by the Boston Bruins, and we given a proclamation of his own day in the city of Boston last month.