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  • Greg Venuto

Rosen Remains a Constant Behind the Mic at MSG Network




Photos courtesy of MSG Network

 

It was 1994 when legendary New York Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen uttered the classic words “The waiting is over—the New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup Champions! And this one will last a lifetime”.  The Rangers had just completed a dramatic 3-2 Game 7 victory over the Vancouver Canucks in the Stanley Cup Finals to win their first NHL championship since 1940.  Fast forward 30 years and there are two constants.  Rosen, 76, is still behind the microphone and the Rangers are now trying to end another long drought of 30 years.


The Rangers have arguably their best chance to win the Cup since 2015.  Rosen, who was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016 and the National Jewish Hall of Fame in 2008, quickly points out that eight to nine teams are probably in the mix in a balanced league.


“In the East, you have Boston, Carolina, and Florida,” said Rosen. In the West, Vancouver, Dallas, Colorado, and Vegas. And of course, Edmonton is dangerous.  The Rangers are right there.  So much depends on the matchups.  The Rangers have the right mix: goaltending depth, high-end scoring, good defense, and physical players to win four rounds.” 


Rosen has been a constant for Rangers fans since 1984 but also honed his craft calling boxing, college and NFL football, soccer, college baseball, and Australian rules football. 


Rosen began going to Rangers games while in school.



Photo By Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey


“We had G.O. cards and could get into the Rangers games for 50 cents,” said Rosen.  We took the subway to the old Garden at 49th and 50th and raced up the stairs to try to get to the first two rows of the side balcony.”


Rosen’s first desire was to be a professional baseball player.  Rosen was born in Ulm Germany but his family moved to Brooklyn, New York when he was 2 years old. He grew up playing all sports including baseball, stickball, softball, punchball, and basketball.  Rosen, a catcher, was the captain of his team at Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan and also a captain of his freshman team and varsity team at City College of New York. But Rosen did not earn a professional contract.


“I did the next best thing in that ERA which was to broadcast games,” said Rosen. 


His training began in college when he did statistics for his mentor Jim Gordon (former voice of the NY Knicks/Rangers and Giants) during NY Knicks broadcasts from Madison Square Garden.


In 1966, Rosen began working part-time for WINS Radio.  Rosen said Gordon hired him in 1970 for the NY Knicks radio network.  The Knicks won 18 consecutive games that season and ultimately the NBA championship. Gordon did the play-by-play and Joe Hassel was the color commentator.   Gordon eventually gave Rosen the microphone and said “They’re your stats, you do the stats at halftime and after the games”.


In 1971 he moved to WNAB and then WICC-AM both in Bridgeport Connecticut. Rosen also spent two years as a newsman while serving as a weekend sportscaster for New Haven’s Channel 8 (WTNH).  He eventually joined UPI Radio Network in September 1973, where he worked until December 1980. Rosen was one of the first voices of ESPN from 1977 to 1988. He also called Jets and Giants preseason football for WPIX-TV and Cosmos soccer for WNEW-AM.


Rosen joined MSG Network in 1977 as a part-time broadcaster before being hired full-time in 1982 to work as the studio host for Rangers telecasts and as a back-up radio play-by-play announcer. Rosen succeeded Gordon in 1984, joining former Boston Bruins/NY Rangers star Phil Esposito in the booth. After Esposito’s departure in 1986, Rosen was paired with former St. Louis Blues/Rangers goalie John Davidson for the next 20 years. When Davidson left in 2006 to pursue a management position with the Blues, Joe Micheletti joined Rosen in a partnership that continues today.


Rosen, who has an impeccable memory, never had a chance to do a play-by-play of a Yankees game but was the studio host for the Yankees at MSG before the team formed the YES Network.  “One day Al Trautwig had a conflict and I had to go down to the clubhouse to interview Buck Showalter for the pregame show,” said Rosen.  “Buck looked at me and said ‘What do you know about baseball?’  I said ‘I know more about baseball than you do about hockey’.  He replied ‘1940!’ ”


Rosen, who was named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2016 and the National Jewish Hall of Fame in 2008, interviewed for the Yankees job in 1986 but then MSG President Bob Gutkowski told him he could easily find a baseball broadcaster, but good hockey play-by-play announcers were rare.  Rosen decided to stay with the Rangers with no regrets.


Rosen’s signature call “It’s a Power Play goal!” began in 1987-88 when the Rangers scored 111 goals with the man advantage. One night he blurted it out and it stuck.  


Rosen said while MSG is his favorite place to do a game he referenced many solid venues for broadcasters.

“The Garden became an even better place after the transformation,” said Rosen.  We are closer to the ice and the sightlines are better. It’s a great workspace. Montreal is a great place with more room. The Canadian arenas are all great except Edmonton. The broadcast location is about as high as you can get.”


Rosen said this year was his first time at Mullett Arena in Tempe Arizona for a Rangers-Coyotes game on March 30 and he loved the experience.  


“It’s so great to be so low to feel the hits and the speed of the game,” said Rosen.  “Both the broadcasters and the fans can appreciate the skill level and how fast the players can react and make plays.”


Rosen was a celebrity before the game and during intermissions as he was mobbed by Rangers fans who took over the building.  He posed for numerous selfies, engaged in discussion, and signed some autographs.


“Rangers fans are everywhere,” said Rosen. They’ve always had a passionate fanbase.  I see them in airports, hotels, and parking lots. When you go to Carolina (Raleigh) you might see 35-40% of fans in Rangers colors. It’s so great to see older fans passing down the tradition to their sons, daughters, grandsons, and granddaughters.”


Rosen said he still enjoys going on the road and is hopeful he can still do the job for a few more years.


“I have to stay sharp to get information and deliver information because there are so many more sources for information than before,” said Rosen.  “I often stay up late when I’m home to watch West Coast games to see all the teams and learn as much as I can.  I love what I do and I want to give the viewers a sense of the excitement I get from the game.”


He said Chicago is one of his favorite cities to visit because it is the most similar to New York. 


“The LA area is great too,” Rosen said.  We often stay on Santa Monica Beach and you can walk down the beach and the boardwalk on an off day and enjoy the weather.  Vancouver and Seattle are beautiful cities. When the sun is shining, it’s as good as it gets.  Florida is a great trip too especially in late December like this year.  Phil Esposito had a vision for Tampa and it has come together with more restaurants, bars and hotels close to the Arena and the Convention Center.”


Unfortunately, Rangers fans may only see and hear Rosen in the opening round of the playoffs due to contractual obligations. The National Networks take over the rights after Round 1 and should the Rangers advance Rosen will be heard on the radio only as a fill-in for Kenny Albert.


Rosen, who calls hockey an underappreciated sport, said the 1994 Stanley Cup playoffs were the highlight of his broadcasting career.  


“There’s nothing like seeing the team you are covering all year go all the way, especially in New York City.  We broadcasted every game of the playoffs except the games at New Jersey in 1994 due to the contract,” said Rosen.


Rosen has covered other memorable events including the 1980 (Lake Placid) and 2006 Winter Olympics, 12 NHL Stanley Cup finals for NHL radio, and numerous World Series and Super Bowls.


“My goal is no matter what sport I am doing I try to do it at a high level,’’ Rosen concluded.

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