Q&A: Kate Scott on calling Blues-Blackhawks, inspiring young girls

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks. Coverage begins at 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

“You always have more time than you think.”

Those were just a few of the words of advice Mike Emrick passed on to Kate Scott before she calls her first NHL game Sunday night when the Blues visit the Blackhawks.

“It’s very calming because things do go very fast regardless of what sport you’re calling,” Scott told NBC Sports this week. “You’re calling a game on television so you always have to pictures to give you a beat or two longer than you might than if you were calling a game on the radio for you to find your footing and make sure you’re correct and say what you’re going to say.”

NBC Sports will utilize an all-female crew to broadcast and produce game coverage of Blues-Blackhawks, coinciding with International Women’s Day and marking the first NHL game broadcast and produced solely by women in the U.S. Scott will handle play-by-play duties, AJ Mleczko will be alongside her as analyst, and Kendall Coyne Schofield will be at ice level “inside the glass.”

Scott, who currently anchors, reports, hosts, and calls game for the Pac-12 Networks as well as NBC Sports Network, has prepared for Sunday’s game with a trio of rehearsals over the last few weeks. As she gets set to take the mic, she remembered some other advice Emrick gave to her: “Trust your preparation. Trust your process.”

We spoke to Scott this week about her preparation, how meaningful calling Sunday’s game will be, and what she wants young girls and boys to take away from seeing an all-female broadcast team.

Enjoy.

Q. In calling the rehearsal games, has that been your biggest challenge in training yourself to keep up with the pace of hockey compared to the other sports you call?

SCOTT: “Yeah, 100%. The pace of hockey is unlike anything else, and I call every other sport, except for car racing. There’s plenty of moments [in other sports] which are fast and you have to be on it for 10-15 seconds, but hockey, you’ve got to be on it for minutes at a time because the puck moves so fast. And as opposed to every other television sport, hockey is more of a radio call on television just because it is so fast moving, so a lot of times the folks at home don’t know where the puck is. It’s your job to make sure that they do by calling out who has it and where on the ice it is. That has been the biggest challenge but also the biggest help of getting to do the practice games, was just getting comfortable with that pace. The first game it felt like I was going 100 miles an hour, but the second it slowed down and then last week when we were in St. Louis I felt really good about that one.”

Q. Will the empowerment of this broadcast and what it means completely take over any nerves you might be feeling heading into Sunday night?

SCOTT: “I feel nerves before every single broadcast I do, regardless of what level or where it is just because I place importance on every broadcast that I do because I want it to be the best it can be for all those involved. It may be the biggest shot, the biggest goal, the biggest touchdown of their career, so I consider it my responsibility to do the best job I can in calling that moment for them. I’m sure I’ll be nervous for about the first 10 minutes, but I think I’ll be able to look to my right and see AJ, the gold medalist and an incredible analyst who covers the NHL on the regular; look down and see the spark plug that is Kendall inside the glass, smiling and laughing with all of these guys who have so much respect for her because of the gold medal she won a couple of years ago and the work she’s done in the NHL since. I know [Kathryn Tappen] and Jen [Botterill] are such pros back in the studio, and we can’t forget [director] Lisa [Seltzer] and [producer] Rene [Hatlelid], [producer] Kaitlin [Urka], and all the people who do this every single day. Knowing that I’ve got all of them around me supporting me, I think is going to take the nerves down.

“I’m guessing about halfway through the first period it’s going to start feeling pretty special to get to be a part of this day and this moment and getting to work with such incredible talented pros who live and breathe this sport. I feel pretty honored and humbled and grateful to get to be a part of this game and to get to work with these women for this day.”

Q. Who were your broadcasting heroes?

SCOTT: “Al Michaels was one of them, so it’s fun that he’s such a big voice when it comes to a moment in hockey history. I just love his friendly delivery and his demeanor and how it isn’t about him and that’s really what I try to pride myself on as a play-by-play announcer — get in, say what you need to say, and say it as succinctly as possible and then get out of the way and let your analysts and the game itself shine. Beth Mowins has been a huge role model and mentor of mine over the past couple of years. 

“Those are a couple of my big ones and I could list 80 more people that I’ve come to know and respect over the past few years. Those are the voices that I look up to and I’m looking forward to hopefully making them proud this weekend.”

Q. Since you’ve started calling games, how have you see the growth of women in production roles?

SCOTT: “I haven’t seen as many as I would like. It was actually two years ago — and I’ve been doing this for over 15 years now — calling an A-10 women’s basketball game for NBC. It was the first time I walked over to the [production] truck and realized that we had a female producer, a female technical director and I also had a female analyst that day. We just kind of looked around and I said, ‘Have any of you gotten to be a part of a broadcast like this before?’ And we all kind of looked around and said I think this might be the first time. Up to this point, I’ve worked with three female producers in my entire career and one female director.

“Rene is the fourth female producer I’ve worked with and Lisa is going to be just the second female director that I work with. That is one of the big things that I’m hoping I have a moment to highlight on Sunday. That’s something that I tell young kids all the time when I speak to colleges or when I speak on panels, that I know it probably sounds weird coming from someone who is on air encouraging you to look into other aspects of the industry. But I often wonder because I was told earlier in my career that I would make a great producer because I like being in charge and I’m pretty good at multi-tasking. Things have worked out on this side for me, but I often wonder because it sure looks fun getting to be part of the madness that is being in the control room or in the truck during a broadcast. I hope that we can highlight that on Sunday and encourage more young women to get into that aspect of the industry.”

Q. What do you want young girls and women to take away from watching Sunday’s broadcast and seeing you, AJ and Kendall on the call?

SCOTT: “I’m hoping that they take away that they can do this. That calling a game, analyzing a game, directing a game, producing a game, shooting a game, I’m hoping that they turn off the television on Sunday night thinking, ‘Wow, that was never something I thought I could do before, but I think I can do that.’ That’s one of the reasons, in my opinion, that we are still seeing such slow growth when it comes to women calling and analyzing sports because it starts when you’re a kid. You go to most of the college radio and television stations around the country and they’re still predominantly male because you’ve got to see somebody doing what you want to do when you’re a kid and have that seed planted early on to be able to go and then learn the skills early enough in life to then be prepared to call moments and games like Sunday. 

“That’s what I’m hoping that the young girls watching will take away. And I’m also hoping that the young boys will take that away, too, that they will see strong, prepared, intelligent, funny women on television calling this sport that they love and they maybe grow up thinking as well, ‘Wow, yeah, women can do this too,’ and that will impact the way that they see their sisters or girlfriends or wives or moms or whoever the women are in their lives and will maybe give them a different perspective too.”

The first-of-its-kind broadcast will be in celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, which dates back over 100 years. The broadcast will highlight women who have made their mark on hockey, and sports in general, with the hopes to inspire future generations of women to excel on the ice and behind the scenes.

Sunday night’s coverage will also be surrounded by On Her Turf, NBC Sports’ female empowerment brand. The broadcast will include a number of features highlighting women in hockey during pre-game and intermissions, with custom in-game graphic integration and social coverage.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Penguins plot a way forward as Letang recovers from stroke

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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang returned to the ice on Thursday, just three days after suffering the second stroke of his career.

The “twirl” the longtime Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman took at the club’s practice facility was approved by team doctors, a spin designed to help Letang’s mental health and nothing else. While the 35-year-old remains upbeat, it remains far too early to put a timeline on when his familiar No. 58 will return to the lineup.

Though Pittsburgh general manager Ron Hextall indicated this stroke isn’t as severe as the one Letang endured in 2014 – when a hole in the wall of his heart led to a stroke that forced him to miss two months – the six-time All-Star is continuing to undergo tests.

There are no plans for Letang to participate in any sort of hockey-specific drills anytime soon, with coach Mike Sullivan stressing the club will “err on the side of caution” when it comes to whatever rehab Letang might need.

While Letang – one of the most well-conditioned players in the NHL – essentially went through the motions by himself, his teammates were 30 minutes south at PPG Paints Arena getting ready for a visit from Vegas and trying to plot a way forward without one of the franchise cornerstones, at least in the short term.

Letang made it a point to help break the news to the rest of the Penguins following a 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina on Tuesday. Pittsburgh scratched Letang from the lineup with an unspecified illness and he spent a portion of the game watching from the press box next to Hextall.

Afterward, Letang informed a somber locker room about his condition, a revelation that came as a shock even as he did his best to reassure those around him that he was and is OK.

“It’s very serious health stuff,” defenseman Chad Ruhwedel said. “You hear about strokes and it’s never really good so we’re just glad to see he’s doing well and everything is good with him.”

Sullivan understands it would be practically impossible for any of the other defensemen on the roster to replicate what Letang brings to the ice, so he’s not going to ask any one player to try. There are few players at the position in the NHL who have Letang’s mix of speed, skill and almost bottomless energy.

The highest-scoring defenseman in franchise history is averaging a team-best 23:54 of ice time and has long been a fixture on the power play and in just about every crucial late-game situation.

“I just think Tanger is not an easy guy to replace,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think from a tactical standpoint things change drastically. It’s just personnel based. But as you know, personnel can mean a lot in those types of situations.”

It’s more than that, however. This isn’t a routine injury. There’s an emotional component and an unknown element to Letang’s status even as the Penguins insist they don’t believe his condition is career-threatening.

“This is a whole different circumstance than an ankle injury or a shoulder injury,” Sullivan said. “This is a very different circumstance.”

Letang’s on-ice presence is just one aspect of his importance to a team that has never missed the playoffs since he made his debut in 2007. He’s become a mentor to younger teammates like 23-year-old defenseman Pierre-Olivier Joseph, who like Letang is French-Canadian and who, like Letang, plays with a graceful fluidity.

Joseph, who declined to get into specifics about Letang’s message to the team on Tuesday night, believes the best thing the Penguins can do during Letang’s absence is attack the game with the same passion he’s shown for 17 seasons and counting.

“The way he plays for the team every single night and the way he puts his heart and soul into the game on the ice, it’s the least we can do is have our thoughts of him whenever we get on the ice,” Joseph said.

Sullivan shuffled the lineup on Tuesday, elevating veteran Jeff Petry and Brian Dumoulin to the top defensive pair. Petry possesses a skillset that’s not too far removed from Letang’s, but it’s also his first year in Pittsburgh. Asking him to provide the leadership that’s innate to Letang is unfair. It’s one of the reasons Sullivan is insistent that it will take a group effort to fill in for a singular presence.

“We have some diversity on our blue line right now,” Sullivan said. “We feel like we have guys capable of stepping in and getting the job done for us and we’re going to try and do that.”

LA Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers

Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Kings put goaltender Cal Petersen on waivers, a surprising move for a player once considered the successor in net to two-time Stanley Cup winner Jonathan Quick.

Petersen, 28, went on waivers the day after allowing four goals on 16 shots in relief of Quick during a 9-8 overtime loss to the Seattle Kraken. Quick was pulled after giving up five goals on 14 shots.

Only one NHL goalie has a save percentage lower than Petersen’s .868 this season, Elvis Merzlikins of the Columbus Blue Jackets with .864. Petersen is 5-3-2 in 10 games with a 3.75 goals-against average in his third full season with the Kings and fifth overall.

L.A. signed Petersen to a three-year, $15 million contract in September 2021, and he figured to take the starting job from Quick, who turns 37 in January and is set to be a free agent after the season. Petersen has two years left on that deal after this one at an annual salary cap hit of $5 million.

Penguins’ Kris Letang out indefinitely after 2nd stroke

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PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang plays hockey with a grace and inexhaustible fluidity seemingly impervious to the rigors of spending nearly half his life in the NHL.

For the second time in less than a decade, however, a major health scare has brought Letang’s career to a halt.

The 35-year-old Letang is out indefinitely after suffering a stroke for a second time. Letang reported feeling ill and was taken to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

While general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday this stroke doesn’t appear to be as serious as the one Letang sustained in 2014, the Penguins will have to find a way forward at least in the short term without one of their franchise pillars.

“I am fortunate to know my body well enough to recognize when something isn’t right,” Letang said in a release. “While it is difficult to navigate this issue publicly, I am hopeful it can raise awareness. … I am optimistic that I will be back on the ice soon.”

The three-time Stanley Cup champion missed more than two months in 2014 after a stroke, which doctors determined was caused by a small hole in the wall of his heart. He spent Monday feeling off and told team trainers he was dealing with what Hextall described as a migraine headache.

Penguins team physician Dr. Dhamesh Vyas recommended Letang go to the hospital, where tests confirmed the stroke.

“He didn’t know (he had a stroke),” Hextall said. “He just knew something wasn’t right.”

Letang is continuing to undergo tests but felt well enough on Tuesday to be at the arena for Pittsburgh’s 3-2 overtime loss to Carolina. He spent the second period chatting with Hextall then addressed his teammates in the locker room afterward in an effort to help allay their concerns.

“I think it was important for Kris to be there because his teammates got to see him in good spirits and that he’s doing well,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said.

Sullivan added initial test results on Letang have been “very encouraging.” Letang will continue to undergo testing throughout the week, though he felt good enough in the aftermath to ask Sullivan and Hextall if he could skate, an activity that is off the table for now.

Hextall said he “couldn’t even guess” how long the Penguins may be without the married father of two, adding hockey is low on the team’s list of concerns about a player who, along with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, has helped the franchise to three Stanley Cups during his 17-year career.

“First and foremost this is about the person and I told Tanger about that last night,” Hextall said. “This is Kris Letang, the father and family guy, the Pittsburgh Penguins, that’s second.”

Letang, a six-time All-Star, has been one of the most durable players in the NHL. His 662 career points (145 goals, 517 assists) are a franchise record for a defenseman. He’s averaged well over 24 minutes of playing time over the course of his career, a number that’s ticked above 25 minutes per game seven times in eight-plus seasons since he returned from the initial stroke.

The Penguins felt so confident in Letang’s durability that they signed him to a six-year contract over the summer rather than let him test free agency for the first time.

“The level of hockey he’s played for as long as he’s played is absolutely incredible,” Hextall said. “The level he’s continued to play at at his age, the type of shape he’s in … he’s a warrior.”

Letang has one goal and 11 assists in 21 games so far this season for Pittsburgh, which hosts Vegas on Thursday night. The Penguins are pretty deep along the blue line, but Sullivan knows he can’t try to replace Letang with any one player.

“It’s not anything we haven’t been faced with in the past and the reality is we have what we have, and we’ll figure it out,” Sullivan said, adding “it’ll be by committee, as it usually is when you replace a player of that stature.”

Ovechkin tops Gretzky for most road goals, Capitals beat Canucks

Bob Frid-USA TODAY Sports
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VANCOUVER, British Columbia – Alex Ovechkin scored twice, passing Wayne Gretzky for the most road goals in NHL history, and the Washington Capitals beat the Vancouver Canucks 5-1 on Tuesday night.

Ovechkin has scored 403 of his 793 career goals away from home. Gretzky holds the overall record with 894.

“It’s always nice when you beat the Great One,” Ovechkin said. “It doesn’t matter what kind of milestone it is. It’s history.”

Anthony Mantha added a goal and an assist for the Capitals (10-11-3). John Carlson and Martin Fehervary also scored, and Darcy Kuemper stopped 31 shots.

Nils Hoglander scored for the Canucks (9-11-3), who had won three in a row. Spencer Martin made 23 saves.

“Spencer’s been great for us. He’s probably a bit like the other players tonight. They weren’t ready to play and it showed on the scoreboard,” Vancouver coach Bruce Boudreau said.

The 37-year-old Ovechkin nearly netted a hat trick when Vancouver pulled Martin for an extra skater with just over six minutes left, but his rocket of a shot skimmed the outside of the post.

“I think he has 13 goals this year and I want to say like eight or nine have been like a new record. So it’s been cool,” Washington center Dylan Strome said. “Any time you pass Wayne Gretzky in anything, it deserves a standing ovation, which he got.”

Fehervary was the one who sealed it, flipping the puck high into the Canucks zone and into the empty net at 15:57 of the third period.

Ovechkin topped Gretzky 11:52 into the first, firing a one-timer from the left circle past Martin to give the Capitals a 2-0 lead with his 13th goal of the season.

“On his second goal, it looks like, `Oh, maybe (Martin) should have had it.’ But I’ve seen (Ovechkin) score 100 goals like that,” said Boudreau, who coached the Capitals from 2007-11. “He’s got a shot that finds its way in.”

The star forward from Russia got his first of the night 5:35 in, taking the puck off the stick of Vancouver defenseman Quinn Hughes near the net and batting in a quick shot.

“It could have been 6-1 after the first period, quite frankly, with the amount of chances (Washington) had,” Boudreau said.

It was Ovechkin’s 135th game-opening goal, tying Jaromir Jagr for the most in NHL history.

“(Ovechkin) was really good in the first and I thought we were really good in the first so it was nice to get out and get a jump like that,” Capitals coach Peter Laviolette said. “He certainly led. We knew we needed to have a good first period, have a good game, and you need your best players to do that.”

Carlson scored the lone goal of the second, chipping in a loose puck from the low hash marks at 18:47 to give Washington a 4-1 cushion.

“It’s frustrating. Because when you lose games, it should never be about your compete level and battle level,” Canucks center J.T. Miller said. “It’s frustrating because they didn’t out-skill us today, they didn’t out-system us. They literally just outbattled us and created their own chances.”

NOTES: Washington’s Lars Eller got his 200th career assist. … Miller had an assist, extending his point streak to nine games (four goals, seven assists). … The Capitals swept the two-game season series. … Vancouver assigned winger Vasily Podkolzin and defenseman Jack Rathbone to the Abbotsford Canucks on Monday, then recalled forward Phillip Di Giuseppe from the American Hockey League club on Tuesday.

UP NEXT

Washington: At Seattle on Thursday in the second of a five-game trip.

Vancouver: Host Florida on Thursday in the second of a four-game homestand.