Barry Melrose, a former NHL coach and player who has worked as an Emmy Award-winning hockey analyst for ESPN since 1996, announced his retirement on Tuesday after receiving a Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.
“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, 67, 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.”
Melrose coached the Los Angeles Kings under Wayne Gretzky before joining ESPN in 1996, leading them to the Stanley Cup Final in the first of his three seasons in charge. In 2008, he left the network to take the bench once more, this time as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s head coach for 16 games.
As a head coach, Melrose has a final record of 84-108-29.
His funny demeanor, fancy clothes, unmistakable goatee, slicked-back hair, and mullet, however, made him popular with hockey fans all around the world during his time as an ESPN studio analyst.
“He’s bigger than any team,” Gretzky said in a video tribute for ESPN. “For decades, he’s been suiting up — and I mean suiting up — for the game, for the sport, for hockey. … You see, hockey is more than a game, it’s a community — a finely tuned orchestra — and Barry was our conductor.
“Barry has given so much to the game. And now he needs our support, and all of us in hockey are here for him.”
“Barry has had a connection to the sport for an astonishing 50 years as a player, coach and analyst, and he has left an indelible mark both on and off the ice,” ESPN chairman Jimmy Pitaro said. “We wish him and his family the very best.”
Over the course of his career, Melrose frequently collaborated with Steve Levy and John Buccigross on ESPN’s hockey coverage, which includes All-Star Games, Stanley Cup playoffs, and the Stanley Cup Final.
“I’ve worked with Barry at ESPN for over a quarter-century,” Buccigross posted to X. “Cold beers and hearty laughs in smokey cigar bars. A razor sharp wit, he was always early and looked like a million bucks. I love him; I’ll miss him.”
The “gigantic personality” of Melrose, according to NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, made the game “bigger, more exciting, and more entertaining.”
In 1987, Melrose launched his coaching career by guiding the Medicine Hat Tigers to the WHL Memorial Cup victory. Additionally, he served as the head coach of the Adirondack Red Wings of the American Hockey League for three seasons (1989–92), winning the Calder Cup in 1991, and the Seattle Thunderbirds during the 1988–89 season.
In the NHL, Melrose played defense for the Winnipeg Jets, Toronto Maple Leafs, and Detroit Red Wings (1979–1986) during the course of his 11-year career. In the WHA, he spent three seasons (1976–1979) with Cincinnati.
In 300 NHL games, he finished with 10 goals, 33 points, and 728 penalty minutes. In 178 games with Cincinnati, he has 5 goals, 32 points, and 343 penalty minutes in the WHA.