Kenny Albert Is Living His Dream Calling The Stanley Cup Final

Kenny Albert’s familiar voice welcomed TNT viewers into T-Mobile Arena for Game 1 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final between the Las Vegas Golden Knights and the Florida Panthers this weekend. Albert’s been a mainstay of hockey (and basketball, baseball, and football) broadcasts for 30 years, but it’s only the second time he has been on the national TV call for the Stanley Cup Final, having taken over the booth following Doc Emrick’s retirement for NBC’s final broadcast of the series in 2021.

This year feels different for Albert, though, as it’s the first time he’s called a Cup Final with full arenas — the Lightning-Canadiens series that featured hm on the call was played with COVID-19 restrictions in place. It’s the culmination of a lifelong aspiration to get to this point, as he’s grown up dreaming of being a play-by-play broadcaster and reaching this stage. The son of legendary broadcaster Marv Albert — his uncles, Steve and Al, are also play-by-play men — Kenny never imagined a path to anywhere other than the booth. Albert jokes the dinner table at family get-togethers growing up was the nation’s first all-sports radio station, where his passion for all sports grew. There was never any external pressure on him to go into the family business, it’s just what he always wanted to do — he asked for a tape recorder at age six so he could practice calling games into it.

While Albert calls games for the four major men’s professional sports leagues in the United States, hockey holds a particularly special place to him, which makes his place in the Stanley Cup Final broadcast booth “surreal to think about.”

“I’ve been real fortunate throughout my career to have worked eight Olympics, six Winter Olympics,” Albert tells Uproxx Sports. “I called one Super Bowl on the International Feed. I’ve done playoff games in the NFL, baseball, basketball. I loved all sports, and when I sat with my tape recorder as a kid, I would announce all of them. So I’ve always loved the variety, but to me, hockey always was so special. I loved playing hockey as a kid. I played club hockey in both high school and college. I wasn’t very good, but I was on the team. And it’s what I’ve done the longest. I started in the minor leagues in Baltimore in 1990. I started doing NHL games in ’92.”

Albert is the son of New York broadcasting royalty and has spent most of his career there, but he’s particularly grateful for starting his career outside the city. It allowed him to work on his craft outside the shadow of his famous family, find his own voice, and “establish my own identity,” something that he’s learned is critical as he’s stepped into bigger assignments and filled the seats of legends, like Emrick.

“I never really think of it as stepping in to replace somebody or filling in for somebody,” Albert says. “I just try to do the job to the best of my abilities. And Doc Emrick’s a guy that I’ve had so much respect for — I refer to him as the Vin Scully of hockey, he was among the greatest of all time in the sport. I’ve known Doc for about 40 years. I actually did some statistical work for him when I was in high school and college, when he was filling in on some [New York] Rangers radio games, ironically, which has been one of my jobs over the last 28 years, doing the Rangers on the radio.”

Talk to Albert long enough and you’ll come to realize he has a story like that about everybody. Having worked NHL, NBA, NFL, and MLB broadcasts for decades across a number of networks, he’s been in every stadium and seemingly interacted with every person in the sports world. When I tell him his Wikipedia page notes he’s worked with nearly 75 broadcast partners, he laughs and says that’s well short of the actual total of 250, which he recently listed out as part of his upcoming book A Mic For All Seasons.

Some of those have been one-offs and others have been years-long partnerships, but each has a unique story and taught him how to make quick chemistry in the booth. That was easier to create with his current broadcast partners on TNT, Eddie Olczyk and Keith Jones, because while they’ve only been together for two years, he has a connection to both that extends well beyond three decades.

“In 1984, I was 16 years old and a big hockey fan. Eddie was 17 and made the US Olympic team. It was the Olympics after The Miracle in ’80. So, back then I collected some autographs of athletes, like a lot of kids did back in the day. And for some reason I wrote a letter to Eddie Olczyk,” Albert laughs. “Somehow it found its way to Eddie, and he sent me back, in 1984, a team photo of the U.S. Olympic hockey team with his autograph. I still have the actual photo at home. So, over three decades before we started working together, Eddie sent me an autographed picture, personalized.

“And then with Keith Jones, my first job in Baltimore, I did the radio play-by-play for a minor league hockey team called the Baltimore Skipjacks,” he continues. “I was hired in 1990. And I was there for two years, ’90 through ’92. We were the Washington Capitals affiliate. And Keith was drafted by Washington in the late 80s. So he played four years at Western Michigan collegiately. And towards the end of the ’91-92 season, he joined our team in Baltimore when his collegiate career was over. I actually called his first goal that he ever scored professionally on the radio. And I distinctly remember he was sitting behind me on a couple of the bus trips when he joined the team. So, we first met in ’92, and then I did the Washington Capitals games for three years after that.”

That chemistry is important, particularly given the unique setup of a national hockey broadcast, with Jones between the benches on the ice while Albert and Olczyk sit in the press box high above. Even before he called NHL games nationally for NBC, Albert could lean on another past experience to aid in directing traffic with an analyst who wasn’t in the booth, as he spent eight years doing NFL games with Daryl Johnston alongside and Tony Siragusa calling action from the field with Fox. While Albert notes the rhythm of football is far different, the lesson from that experience that translated was that it was incumbent on him to know his analysts well enough to know what they’d want to discuss and leave room for them to jump in when those topics came up.

“A lot of it is getting to know the analyst, sort of studying their tendencies throughout the games that you work with them,” Albert says. “A lot of it’s by feel, if I feel like he wants to say something, and if not, then you know to jump back in about two seconds later. If I take a breather, and Eddie doesn’t say anything and Keith doesn’t say anything, okay, I’ll pick it back up. It’s not an exact science, but amazingly, whether it was Moose [Daryl Johnston] and Goose [Tony Siragusa] on the football side, Eddie and Pierre McGuire at NBC, Eddie and Keith Jones here, Brian Boucher at NBC with Eddie and I at times, they just all had a great feel for one another and very rarely stepped on each other.”

TNT producer Kevin Brown highlighted that ability as well, noting that he thinks a lot of it comes from the camaraderie built off camera — dinners after games with the crew and post-morning skate walks with Jones — as those conversations can inform what goes into the broadcast. It’s all part of Albert’s preparation for games, which Brown notes is invaluable to the broadcast because, inevitably, he has something in his notes on teams that even the packets from the league and teams won’t have.

“I would say as far as like, stats go, I tend to do pretty thorough research, and the league and teams put out great packets, we have a research group that puts out packets,” Brown says. “And then Kenny will, on game day, usually around like two o’clock in the afternoon, he’ll email me a note sheet. It’s usually two or three sheets of notes that he has on each team. And I look it over, I give it to our graphics folks, and there’s always one or two things like, how the heck did you find that?

“We had a game earlier this year where he has on his sheet every time we did a game with Tristan Jarry of the Penguins, he has written on a sheet ‘scored a goal in the AHL,'” Brown continues. “I saw that one game and I said, oh, that’s kind of a neat nugget, maybe next time we have the Penguins, I put in a footage request for that goal from the AHL, whatever it was, six years ago. And then we had a game this year where it was the Penguins and the net was empty at the other end and Tristan Jarry shot the puck down the ice twice trying to score and we had we had that flashback ready. And it was pretty much because Kenny had the note ready in an earlier game.”

The notes are the product of Albert’s first job in the business, which gave him a glimpse into all the preparation necessary to putting on a seamless broadcast for the viewer or listener.

“I would do the stats for my father at Knicks games, Rangers games, NFL games, so I just felt like I had such a head start just by absorbing everything and watching how he worked and the preparation,” Albert recalls. “That’s the number one thing I learned is the preparation that goes into each and every broadcast, and that’s something that I share with young broadcasters when I speak to them, is that the preparation is the most important thing.”

Now, Albert is at the pinnacle of hockey broadcasting, but he’s still as eager as he was as a kid with his tape recorder, running stats, or calling games for the Baltimore Skipjacks. The lessons from his family, mentors, and the many jobs he’s held along the way built the foundation that got him to his dream gig, and he will not taking for granted the opportunity to deliver the call when either the Knights or Panthers lift the Stanley Cup.