JT Brown hired by Kraken as television analyst for inaugural season

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Brown will be paired with veteran play-by-play announcer John Forslund on ROOTS Sports Northwest in the Kraken’s inaugural season in 2021-22. He joins a small but growing group of Black former NHL players working as broadcasters on the local and national levels.

“What better way to retire, to stay in hockey, to go to a new, great organization and what they’re trying to do,” Brown said. “I believe they want to be a leader in diversity, whether that’s racial diversity or gender diversity, on and off the ice with their hiring. That’s something I really want to be part of. For me, I think all the stars have aligned and this is something that I was meant to do.”

The 30-year-old scored 72 points (23 goals, 49 assists) in 365 NHL games for the Tampa Bay Lightning, Anaheim Ducks and Minnesota Wild from 2011-19. He scored six points (one goal, five assists) in 41 Stanley Cup Playoff games.

Brown played for IF Bjorkloven in Sweden in 2020-21 and scored 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 16 regular-season games. 

Like most recently retired NHL players, Brown’s broadcasting experience is limited. He did some radio broadcasting when he played for Syracuse of the American Hockey League from 2012-14. 

He said he’s looking forward to learning from Forslund and Everett Fitzhugh, the Kraken’s radio play-by-play announcer.

“I’m working with John Forslund, who I would say is one of the best if not the best,” Brown said. “I’ve been put in a position to succeed and learn from the best. I know the hockey side but to be able to learn the broadcasting side, it’s a challenge. But It’s something that I’m in a good position to learn and I’m in a position to succeed.”

Throughout Brown’s playing career, he balanced his love of hockey with his passion for gaming and work on social justice and anti-racism issues.

On Oct. 7, 2017, he raised his fist in the air during the playing of the U.S. national anthem before the Lightning played at the Florida Panthers to protest police brutality and racism.

“We are excited to welcome JT to the Kraken,” Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke said. “His experience as a player winning a [NCCA] national championship and competing in the Stanley Cup Final [with Tampa Bay] gives him unique insight into what it takes to compete night in and night out at the highest levels of hockey. Off the ice, JT’s values and dedication to the community reflect our own.”

Brown may be an unfamiliar face now to most television viewers, but he’s cultivated and expanded hockey’s audience via social media. His Twitch channel, where he interacts and plays with and against fellow gamers, has generated almost 90,000 views, and he has 25,500 Instagram followers.

He held a Fortnite marathon in 2018 when he played the game for 24 hours and raised $1,300 for the NHL Hockey Is For Everyone initiative. The event included a two-hour charity game with NHL players Brock Boeser, Johnny Gaudreau, Zach Werenski, Nick Bonino and Vladislav Namestnikov.

Brown participated in the “House of Chel” gaming event with other top-tier NHL 19 players during the 2019 NHL All-Star Game that was streamed on the NHL Twitch channel over four days.

“I have some skills that may not be necessarily directly related to broadcasting, but at the same time I feel I can learn and I’m willing to put in the time and energy to learn this craft,” Brown said.

Bryce Salvador, a former New Jersey Devils captain who is a hockey analyst for MSG Networks, said Brown’s social media expertise will serve him well on television.

“Everyone is doing Twitter, everyone is doing social media and has an opinion and can vocalize that opinion,” Salvador said. “Because of that, there’s a demand for really polished guys. Guys coming into this role, maybe they’re doing Twitch or Twitter or whatever, they’ve got a lot of reps talking and they’re ready to go versus Bryce Salvador, who didn’t really have any reps under his belt.”

Brown becomes the latest Black former NHL player to put down his stick and pick up a microphone.

He joins Salvador and former forward Jamal Mayers, who has done analysis on Chicago Blackhawks telecasts for NBC Sports Chicago for the past eight seasons after a stint on NHL Network. 

Former defenseman Jean-Luc Grand-Pierre is a studio analyst for the Columbus Blue Jackets for Bally Sports Ohio, formerly Fox Sports Ohio, since 2019.

Kevin Weekes, a former goalie, became the first Black hockey analyst on national television when he joined “Hockey Night in Canada” in 2009. He’s now a mainstay on NHL Network.

Anson Carter, a former forward, joined NBC Sports in 2013 as an NHL and college hockey analyst. Anthony Stewart, a veteran of three NHL teams, is a studio analyst for Hockey Night in Canada and on “Hockey Central” on Sportsnet 590 The Fan in Toronto.

“There’s a lot to learn, that’s for sure,” Salvador said. “I kind of thought you’d come in, and everyone would tell you, ‘Bryce, this is what we want you to talk about.’ It was, like, ‘No, Bryce, it’s whatever you want to talk about.’ You’re scripting it, you’re creating the content, you’re learning on the fly.”

Brown said he’s already learned one valuable TV lesson: Be yourself.

“That’s why they hired me,” he said.

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