No matter how far the Islanders go, one thing is certain: Kenny Albert will call the final playoff game at Nassau Coliseum, tying a tidy historical bow. "Things have sort of come full circle," he said.
That is because not only did he grow up on Long Island, in Port Washington, but his first NHL broadcast was an Islanders game, when he was a 21-year-old senior at NYU.
Albert did four games in 1989-90 as a radio fill-in, starting in Winnipeg on Dec. 2, 1989. The Islanders beat the Jets, 6-3, behind two goals from Pat LaFontaine. He also worked two home games with analyst Bobby Nystrom.
Even though he grew up a fan of the Canucks and Rangers, in that order, he also had many memorable visits to the Coliseum in his youth.
They included the 1979 playoff series against the Rangers, the 1982 Cup Final against Vancouver and the ‘84 game in which Ken Morrow eliminated the Rangers in overtime.
"Obviously, growing up on Long Island, all my friends were Islander fans," he said. "I have great memories of attending games at the Coliseum. Most were against the Rangers, so it was always such a great atmosphere."
When Albert was a senior at Paul D. Schreiber High School in 1985-86, he attended 20 or so Islanders games to practice announcing into a tape recorder.
Now, here he is, working the NHL semifinal between the Islanders and Lightning, including Game 2 on Tuesday night in Tampa, with anywhere from two to seven games ahead at the Coliseum.
That is because, upon the retirement of Mike "Doc" Emrick, NBC made Albert its lead play-by-play voice. He will call the Cup Final with analysts Ed Olczyk and Brian Boucher.
Albert, 53, is the Rangers’ longtime radio play-by-play man, a job in which he was preceded by his father, Marv.
He has called eight Cup Finals on radio but only one Finals game on TV — Game 1 of Rangers-Kings in 2014, when Emrick was at a funeral. For a guy who played hockey as a kid at the old Twin Rinks in Port Washington, this is special.
Not only will Albert call the 2021 Final for NBC, but Turner has signed him and Olczyk for the new TV deal that kicks in next season. So Albert also has the Final in 2023. (ESPN has it in 2022.)
The news of the NBC promotion and the Turner hire came around the same time. Albert called it "surreal."
"I refer to Doc as the ‘Vin Scully of hockey,’ obviously one of the great play-by-play broadcasters of all time, so big shoes to fill replacing a legend," Albert said.
"It hasn’t sunk in yet. It probably won’t until we’re in the booth for Game 1 of the Final."
Albert praised his partners, Olczyk and Boucher, and crew for their work to this point, and more broadly NBC for its partnership with the NHL over the past 15 years. Albert first called hockey for NBC at the 2002 Olympics.
Come Thursday, he will be calling a league semifinal near his hometown.
But wait, there’s more: Islanders coach Barry Trotz was Albert’s road roommate for two seasons in the early 1990s, when the former was coaching with the AHL’s Baltimore Skipjacks and the latter was their announcer.
While Albert was set for Game 2 on Tampa on Tuesday, Marv was to do Game 5 of the Bucks-Nets series in Brooklyn for Turner. Marv, who turned 80 on Saturday, will retire after the Eastern Conference final.
"I just thought he would work forever, as long as he could," Kenny said. "I never thought I would hear him utter the word ‘retirement.’ But he really seems at peace and happy about his decision. He feels it’s the right time.
"I know he’s looking forward to finishing up the playoffs this year and really seems happy about the timing of it."