Kraken set to have first Black full-time NHL team play-by-play announcer

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The Seattle Kraken named Everett Fitzhugh as their team broadcaster Friday, positioning him to become the NHL’s first Black full-time team play-by-play announcer when the League’s 32nd team begins play in the 2021-22 season.

“As someone who’s worked in hockey for over a decade and who has a long-held passion for broadcast hockey, to be named team broadcaster for a brand-new NHL franchise — particularly one with an organization as strong as the Kraken — is a dream come true,” said Fitzhugh, a 31-year-old Detroit native. “Getting to the NHL has always been my goal. I look forward to serving as the voice for this incredible team and its fans as well as representing the Kraken organization throughout the greater Seattle community.”

The Kraken is striving to become a leader in sports when it comes to diversity and inclusion in hiring at all levels. CEO Tod Leiweke said Fitzhugh “has established himself as a unique and leading voice for hockey and was high on the list of many folks we consulted with.

“He’s going to bring a tremendous energy and talent to our broadcast and content team, and we can’t wait for our fans to get to know him,” Leiweke said.

The NHL has seen a growth in Black broadcasters over the years nationally, with Kevin Weekes and Anson Carter as TV analysts on NHL Network and NBC Sports, as well as David Amber as a studio host for Rogers Sportsnet. Mike Tirico occasionally calls NHL games on NBC, as did John Saunders, the ESPN/ABC Sports broadcaster who died Aug. 10, 2016.

But Fitzhugh for years has been the only fulltime Black play-by-play announcer in professional hockey in North America. He spent the past five seasons with Cincinnati of the ECHL doing radio play-by-play and working as the team’s director of media relations. Fitzhugh was a member of the broadcast crew for the 2018 CCM/ECHL All-Star Classic that aired on NHL Network.

Before joining Cincinnati in 2015, he spent one season as the radio voice for Youngstown of the USHL after working for the league’s communications office in Chicago for a year and a-half.

Fitzhugh became a hockey fan from listening to Ken Kal call Detroit Red Wings games. He became hooked on becoming a hockey broadcaster after calling games while a student at Bowling Green State University.

“My entire life growing up, I always knew I that I wanted to work in sports. Up until I was probably 17-18 years old, I was going to be Stuart Scott, I wanted to be on ESPN,” he said.

But after Fitzhugh broadcast his first Bowling Green hockey game in 2007, he called his mother and said “Mom, this is it. I’m going to be putting all my eggs in the hockey basket and we’re going to the NHL.”

Fitzhugh got his first taste of NHL broadcasting in 2018 when he did play-by-play of a Washington Capitals preseason game against the Boston Bruins at the invitation of John Walton, Washington’s radio voice and director of broadcasting.

“Actually, the first time we take to the ice at Capital One Arena after we won the (Stanley) Cup, it was actually Everett who did the game and not me,” said Walton, who was the voice of Cincinnati’s American Hockey League franchise in the 1990s.

Fitzhugh said he doesn’t think he’d be working in Washington State if not for the one-game opportunity he got in Washington, D.C.

“It gave me a chance not only to call an NHL game and just get a little bit of a taste of the NHL to keep me on the right track, it also gave me a chance to measure myself and see where I am,” he said. “I walked away from that game — and I say this in the most humble way possible — I walked away from that game saying, ‘I can do this. I can be an NHL broadcaster.'”

Walton has no doubt.

“He wanted to break through the glass ceiling — that’s a daunting thing,” Walton said. “For an opportunity like Seattle with a market that is so ready for the NHL, to be able to be part of that broadcast team, I’m so excited for him I can barely put it in words.”

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