June 22, 2024

Former NHL coach and player Barry Melrose, who has been an Emmy Award-winning hockey analyst for ESPN since 1996, has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and is retiring, he announced Tuesday.

“I’ve had over 50 extraordinary years playing, coaching and analyzing the world’s greatest game, hockey. It’s now time to hang up my skates and focus on my health, my family, including my supportive wife Cindy, and whatever comes next,” Melrose, 67, said in a statement.

“I’m beyond grateful for my hockey career, and to have called ESPN home for almost 30 years. Thanks for the incredible memories and I’ll now be cheering for you from the stands.”

Before joining ESPN in 1996, Melrose served as coach of the Wayne Gretzky-led Los Angeles Kings, taking them to the Stanley Cup Final in the first of his three seasons. He stepped away from the network in 2008 to return to the bench, this time as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning for 16 games.

Overall, Melrose had an 84-108-29 record as a head coach.

But it was his career as a studio analyst with ESPN where his witty personality, flashy suits and recognizable goatee, slicked-back hair and mullet endeared him to hockey fans worldwide.

“He’s bigger than any team,” Gretzky said in a video tribute for ESPN. “For decades, he’s been suiting up — and I mean suiting up — for the game, for the sport, for hockey. … You see, hockey is more than a game, it’s a community — a finely tuned orchestra — and Barry was our conductor.

“Barry has given so much to the game. And now he needs our support, and all of us in hockey are here for him.”

“Barry has had a connection to the sport for an astonishing 50 years as a player, coach and analyst, and he has left an indelible mark both on and off the ice,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said. “We wish him and his family the very best.”

Melrose regularly worked alongside Steve Levy and John Buccigross on ESPN’s hockey coverage — which included All-Star Games, Stanley Cup playoffs and the Stanley Cup Final — over his career.

“I’ve worked with Barry at ESPN for over a quarter-century,” Buccigross posted to X. “Cold beers and hearty laughs in smokey cigar bars. A razor sharp wit, he was always early and looked like a million bucks. I love him; I’ll miss him.”

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said Melrose’s “gigantic personality” made the game “bigger, more exciting and more entertaining.”

“Barry is a unique, one-of-a-kind person,” Bettman said. “And hockey on ESPN won’t be the same without him. … His love for hockey is obvious and infectious. And it is impossible to have a conversation with him without a smile on your face.

“Barry, we wish you well in this fight and know you will give it everything you have — as you always do.”

Melrose began his coaching career in 1987, when he led the Medicine Hat Tigers to the WHL’s Memorial Cup title. He also coached the Seattle Thunderbirds for the 1988-89 season and the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League for three seasons (1989-92), winning the Calder Cup championship in 1991.

During his 11 years as a player, Melrose played 335 career games as a defenseman in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings (1979-86). He also played three seasons with Cincinnati in the WHA (1976-79).

Overall, he finished with 10 goals and 33 points and 728 penalty minutes in 300 NHL career games. His WHA totals were five goals and 32 points and 343 penalty minutes in 178 games with Cincinnati.

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