LOS ANGELES - Mike Francesa had no idea who Julie Stewart-Binks was in April when a caller jokingly referred to the "amazing" transformation of WFAN update man John Minko into an attractive blond woman.
Francesa knew Fox Sports 1 did not show Minko's updates on its simulcast, but he said he had not yet seen the TV update person and had to ask someone off-screen for her name.
Stewart-Binks was not offended, but nevertheless Francesa called that week to apologize for not being familiar with her.
"I'm not someone to know, so I said, 'Don't worry about it; it's fine,' " she said Wednesday before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final, which she is covering for Fox.
Francesa invited her to come on the show next time she was in New York, which she was for Games 3 and 4 of the Eastern Conference final between the Rangers and Canadiens.
"I went on before Game 3," Stewart-Binks said. "I had no idea what we were going to do. I figured we were going to talk hockey, but we talked about everything. I was on for 16 minutes.
"Everyone afterward was calling him 'Flirty Francesa,' I guess," Stewart-Binks said. (Fox Sports blogger Jimmy Traina indeed used that term on Twitter.) "But he was great. I'm hoping to be back on again when we go back to New York [next week]."
Stewart-Binks, 27, who is based in Los Angeles, said she sees Francesa's show when she does updates, but having grown up in Canada and moved to the U.S. only last July 4, she only was vaguely familiar with him previously.
"Coming to America, it's like a different culture," she said. "I grew up with Canadian broadcasters."
She called the in-studio Francesa experience "great."
"We talked hockey, talked about my last name, about everything," she said. "He was extremely friendly and nice. I didn't realize how many people would be watching.
"I went in and didn't prep or anything, was just me. Afterward I saw on Twitter how many people were watching and tweeting at me. Good Fox cross-promoting."
Francesa can't be blamed for not initially knowing Stewart-Binks. Few Americans did until recently.
She grew up in Toronto, spent time in England completing a Masters in International Broadcast Journalism and until last summer was working for CTV in Regina, Saskatchewan.
"This whole year has been crazy," she said. "Last spring I was covering the Memorial Cup for CTV Regina."
Now, she is on hiatus from Francesa updates and covering the Cup Final.
"This is living the dream," she said. "This is what I have always wanted to do: Be on the road, cover hockey, be a reporter. I've always wanted to be a hockey insider, the first female hockey insider . . . To be here now, to be the main reporter on this, is surreal in a way."
Stewart-Binks asked to cover the Eastern final because she already knew the Kings and Blackhawks well and figured if she were to work the Final she should learn more about the Rangers and Canadiens.
Along the way she scored a sitdown interview with Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist that was supposed to last 10 minutes but instead ran nearly 20.
"We could have kept going forever," she said. "He's such a good interview. He was really open and honest about a lot of stuff."
Stewart-Binks' hockey knowledge is deeper than merely having grown up in Canada and covered the sport there. She played the game growing up, including for her high school team and intramurals in college. She sometimes plays pickup games at the Kings' practice facility.
Right wing is her position. How good is she? "I downplay it," she said. "I'm in more of a third-line kind of energy role."