Sports | May 18, 2021 11:27 am

ESPN Set to Make Leah Hextall First Female NHL Play-By-Play Voice on National TV Broadcast

The exact number of games Hextall will call is unknown

Jaroslav Halak speaks to Leah Hextall
Jaroslav Halak speaks to Leah Hextall after a World Cup of Hockey in 2016.
Vaughn Ridley/World Cup of Hockey via Getty

First reported by The New York Post, ESPN has signed longtime NHL broadcaster Leah Hextall to a deal that will make her the first woman to do play-by-play as part of a national TV package.

While the exact number of games Hextall will broadcast is unknown, she has been broadcasting hockey for 17 years and figures to be a prominent part of ESPN’s revamped NHL coverage. However, it does not sound as if Hextall will be the network’s top play-by-play voice. “ESPN has not settled on its No. 1 play-by-player, but Steve Levy and Sean McDonough have emerged as the favorites for the top spot, according to sources,” according to The Post.

Last year, Hextall made history as the first woman to call play-by-play for an NHL game on Sportsnet in Canada that was handled by an all-female broadcast team. The year before, Hextall became the first woman to call play-by-play for the men’s NCAA Division I Hockey Tournament.

In 2018, hockey broadcasting legend Mike “Doc” Emrick told The Athletic he thought Hextall would be the first woman to do play-by-play for an NHL team.

“All I did was encourage her,” Emrick said. “[Hextall] has done some games in Canada and some Winnipeg Jets games from a booth up there. She is really good and she wants to do play-by-play. This is the avenue you take. It is just a matter of getting reps and practicing and doing it over and over again. I fully believe she will be a play-by-play announcer for a professional team and maybe eventually an NHL team because she is really good.”

In related news, veteran NHL reporter Frank Seravalli is leaving TSN after six years breaking news and working on written and video features north of the border.

Seravalli’s exit at TSN has fueled speculation he’ll be joining Turner Sports or The Worldwide Leader.