Longtime NHL analyst and former hockey coach and player Barry Melrose is retiring from ESPN after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
““I’ve had over 50 extraordinary years playing, coaching and analyzing the world’s greatest game, hockey,” he 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.”
The news was first revealed by Melrose’s friend and network colleague John Buccigross, just hours before the 2023-2024 NHL season begins.
“I’ve worked with Barry at ESPN for over a quarter century. Cold beers and hearty laughs in smokey cigar bars,” Buccigross wrote on X along with a tribute video from ESPN. “A razor sharp wit, he was always early & looked like a million bucks. I love him. I’ll miss him.”
“He’s bigger than any team,” Wayne Gretzky, who played three seasons under Melrose, said in the 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,” Gretzky added.
Melrose, who has spent nearly three decades at ESPN, first joined the network in 1994 and has gone on to report on every Stanley Cup since.
His first full-time stint with ESPN began in October 1996. From 1996 to 2002, Melrose also called regular-season and playoff games for ESPN and ABC Sports (2000-02) and he provided studio analysis for ABC Sports’ NHL telecasts from 2003 to 2004. He had also previously worked as a studio analyst for ESPN’s Emmy Award-winning 1994 NHL Stanley Cup playoffs and for ESPN and ESPN2 during the 1995 Stanley Cup playoffs. Melrose left the network in June 2008 to accept the Tampa Bay Lightning head coaching job.
“Barry is a unique, one-of-a-kind person. And hockey on ESPN won’t be the same without him,” NHL Commissioner Bettman said in a statement. “For nearly 50 years as a player, coach and broadcaster, Barry’s gigantic personality and trademark style have made our game bigger, more exciting and more entertaining. His love for hockey is obvious and infectious. And it is impossible to have a conversation with him without a smile on your face.”
Prior to ESPN, Melrose was head coach of the Los Angeles Kings from 1992 to April 1995. In his debut season, his team advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in franchise history. His coaching career, which began in 1987, also included leading the Medicine Hat Tigers to the WHL’s Memorial Cup Title, the Seattle Thunderbirds for the 1988-89 season and the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League for three seasons between 1989 and 1992. Melrose guided the Red Wings to the Calder Cup championship in 1991 and served as the team’s General Manager during his final two seasons.
Additionally, Melrose spent 11 years as a player, with 335 career games as a defenseman in the NHL with Winnipeg, Toronto and Detroit (1979-86) and three seasons with Cincinnati in the WHA (1976-79).
Outside of his sports career, Melrose appeared as himself in the move “Mystery, Alaska” in 1999, a story about a small town hockey team’s big game against the New York Rangers, and was a guest on an episode of the ABC comedy “Spin City” in 2001, where he also played himself. In January 2004, Melrose and ESPN commentator Steve Levy became part-owners of the Adirondack Frostbite of the United Hockey League.
“I’m beyond grateful for my hockey career, and to have called ESPN home for almost 30 years,” Melrose added. “Thanks for the incredible memories and I’ll now be cheering for you from the stands.”