Wayne Gretzky to join NHL on TNT as senior studio analyst
With two new networks ESPN and TNT both securing national NHL rights in the United States from 2021-22 to 2027-28, both networks have hired plenty of people for their new sets of rights. Some of those rookies have been established voices of NBC, but others come from further afield, and there has been a lot of talk about legendary NHL player Wayne Gretzky, who was courted by both networks but who apparently only considered TNT in early May. . Well, Gretzky has landed there now; he announced his departure as vice-president with the Edmonton Oilers on Twitter on Tuesday, and Andrew Marchand of The New York Post (who previously had the scoop on Gretzky only watching TNT) quickly reported that Gretzky (seen left above with Oilers Draft pick Philip Broberg in 2019 NHL Draft) will in fact join Turner as an analyst main studio.
– Wayne Gretzky (@WayneGretzky) May 25, 2021
NEWS: TNT will pay Gretzky in the $ 3 million neighborhood, sources say.
– Andrew Marchand (@AndrewMarchand) May 25, 2021
It seems logical that Gretzky would join Turner rather than ESPN. As discussed in our previous post on this, Gretzky already has a friend over there at Charles Barkley (who would have helped introduce him to this role), and Turner would seem to come with fewer commitments as well. TNT has the smallest of the split NHL packages, and they have no equivalent to Sports center or Get up or First take or one of the other studios shows ESPN is trying to put a lot of their talent to work.
Turner also showed up with Inside the NBA in particular that their cover can be a lot of fun and not a lot of hard work for former athletes, to the point where there was even a discussion this week about Barkley and Shaquille O’Neal sleeping backstage during games as they were not on camera. So heading for the hockey version of it seems like a good time. And Turner definitely made a pretty big commitment to Gretzky with that $ 3 million salary scale. And it should be even easier with Gretzky relinquishing his role as Oilers; yes, he probably could have said that again (ESPN in particular did not hesitate to employ team workers as analysts), but it would have led to many questions about conflict of interest. Now he’s just a former player, and probably the most famous former player imaginable at this point.
Will Gretzky be good as an analyst? It remains to be seen. He doesn’t have a lot of TV experience (some of his most notable may have come from ProStars introductions, a The young and the restless role, time as Dance fever judge, and a one-off stay Saturday Night Live), and he certainly did not work in an analyst role at a high level. And his attempt to get out of the game to become the head coach of the then-Phoenix Coyotes didn’t go very well. But he’s won more praise for his work with Hockey Canada, and he’s certainly very familiar with the sport. If he is able to communicate this knowledge to viewers, he could be a great addition to TNT’s coverage.
[The New York Post; photo from Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA Today Sports]