NHL

Where is Barry Melrose? Why longtime ESPN hockey commentator is retiring from NHL coverage

ESPN’s coverage of the NHL won’t be the same going forward. 

It was announced on Tuesday, the first day of the 2023-24 NHL regular season, that longtime ESPN hockey commentator Barry Melrose is retiring from broadcasting due to health issues. 

“I’ve had over 50 extraordinary years playing, coaching and analyzing the world’s greatest game, hockey,” Melrose said in a statement. “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.

“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.”

Melrose is a hockey lifer. Before ESPN, he played professionally from 1976 to 1987, starting his career in the WHA before making the transition to the NHL. He played 300 games in the NHL across three teams, the original Winnipeg Jets, the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings. 

After retiring from playing, Melrose joined the coaching ranks of the WHL before getting a crack at an NHL head coaching job with the Kings. When he was let go by Los Angeles in 1995, he joined ESPN as a commentator and analyst, a position he held for 13 seasons. 

Melrose briefly re-joined the NHL coaching ranks, taking the head job with the Lightning, but he lasted less than six months in the role. ESPN brought Melrose back in 2009, where he resumed his role as analyst and broadcaster until his recent retirement.

He also worked as a contributor for the NHL Network while at ESPN. 

MORE: NHL predictions for the 2023-24 season, including playoff projections, Stanley Cup pick

The Sporting News explains more on why Melrose is retiring from commentating:

Why is Barry Melrose retiring?

Melrose announced that he has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

He is retiring from his role as an ESPN analyst to focus on spending more time with his family. 

“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 has been a staple in ESPN’s hockey coverage. He spent a majority of his career alongside John Buccigross and Steve Levy. 

“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.”

How old is Barry Melrose?

Melrose is 67 years old. He was born on July 15, 1956. 

What is Parkinson’s disease?

According to the National Institute of Aging’s website, Parkinson’s disease is “brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements, such as shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with balance and coordination.”

Once the first symptoms start, the effects of the disease worsen over time. According to the NIA, “people may have difficulty walking and talking,” and “may also have mental and behavioral changes, sleep problems, depression, memory difficulties, and fatigue.”

Here are the four main symptoms of Parkinson’s disease:

  • Tremor in hands, arms, legs, jaw, or head
  • Muscle stiffness, where muscle remains contracted for a long time
  • Slowness of movement
  • Impaired balance and coordination, sometimes leading to falls

The disease is caused when nerve cells in the brain become impaired and/or die, which causes the brain to produce less dopamine. The low amounts of dopamine lead to problems with movement. 

Actor Michael J. Fox and former boxer Muhammed Ali are two of the most famous people to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. 

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