On a day that was filled with nothing but sheer joy and jubilation for NHL fans with opening night just hours away, ESPN anchor and hockey lifer John Buccigross had some incredibly sad news to share about his colleague and dear friend, Barry Melrose.
To the shock of countless fans, friends and colleagues, Melrose has reportedly been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and will be taking an understandable step away from ESPN in order to spend time with his family. He announced his retirement on Tuesday.
"I've had over 50 extraordinary years playing, coaching and analyzing the world's greatest game, hockey. 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," Melrose said in a statement.
"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."
Buccigross — who has been talking hockey and cracking jokes with Melrose at the mothership for what feels like forever (since 1996, to be exact) — shared the gutting news on Twitter/X.
Barry Melrose has Parkinson's disease and is stepping away from our ESPN family to spend more time with his. I've worked with Barry at ESPN for over a quarter century. Cold beers and hearty laughs in smokey cigar bars. A razor sharp wit, he was always early & looked like a? pic.twitter.com/gjjSAEuG2s
— BucciOT.Com (@Buccigross) October 10, 2023
Take one look at the replies, and it's quite clear the impact that Melrose had on hockey fans of all ages and, really, sports fans in general.
Included in Buccigross' tweet was a classic video that offers some history of Melrose and his seamless transition from Stanley Cup-winning NHL coach to ESPN broadcaster. While a video exceeding four minutes these days feels like an eternity to some, this one is well worth the watch.
At the 1:37 mark of the clip, it features Melrose's 1996 debut on "NHL2Night" with studio host Bill Pidto. What's so exceptionally fitting about his first appearance on the network was that it came with a self-deprecating joke as he shook hands with Pidto. Because of course it did.
"I'm gonna have a lot better preseason than the regular season I had last year, I promise you," Melrose said, followed by a hair joke and hearty laughter from both.
For a lot of fans, that kind of humor is probably what sticks out most, among many of his other signature traits described by Buccigross above.
Look no further than this perfectly executed "This Is SportsCenter" commercial to get an idea of the lighthearted nature that Melrose has shared with Buccigross in their approach to hockey for the last 27 years.
On a night that marks the official start of the NHL season featuring a triple-header on ESPN, it just won't be the same without Barry Melrose on set — sporting his finely tailored suits and signature slicked-back hair — gleefully chopping it up with the likes of Buccigross and Steve Levy about the new season upon us.
Some of the tributes flowing in from fans and colleagues are exactly as one might expect. Here's a small sampling of the many heartfelt thoughts being shared.
It?s hard for me to put into words how special and important of a person Barry has been to me since we started working together at ESPN. He is the best teammate and person that I know. Not many people can light up a room or light up a crowd with sheer presence like Barry does.? https://t.co/dc8fu2q1ek
— Colby Cohen (@ColbyCohen36) October 10, 2023
We'll have a tribute to Barry Melrose on Thursday's episode of The Drop, but suffice it to say: Barry was an absolute gem to work with. No one was more welcoming when I made the jump from Puck Daddy.
He's a hockey TV icon. Deserves the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, IMO. pic.twitter.com/2Xq9HaRCKA
— Greg Wyshynski (@wyshynski) October 10, 2023
I know as close to nothing about hockey but Barry Melrose made me pop my head up and listen every time he was on ESPN. Especially when he teamed up with Bucci. True sign of a great analyst who loved their craft
Life is crazy. Prayers to him and his family https://t.co/QTCA1Oon77
— Rob Lopez (@r0bato) October 10, 2023
That last one feels like it resonates the most, as Melrose always seemed to house that rare gift of pulling people into the game who weren't necessarily into the game.
We wish nothing but the best for the great Barry Melrose as he battles through this horrible disease.
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