As Islanders players and fans looked to a relaxing Thursday night after Wednesday’s exhausting overtime thriller against the Penguins, the team’s lead TV play-by-play voice was preparing to get right back at it.
Brendan Burke called Game 1 of Penguins-Islanders for MSG Plus on Wednesday and was to call Game 1 of Hurricanes-Capitals in Washington on USA Network on Thursday, then go back to Long Island for Game 2 on Friday, then back to Washington for Game 2 there on Saturday.
Because Sunday’s Islanders-Penguins Game 3 is an NBC exclusive and thus not on MSG, that will be a travel day for Burke ahead of Game 3 in Raleigh on Monday. Then he will be in Pittsburgh for Game 4 on Tuesday.
If you’re scoring at home, that’s six games in seven nights.
Burke, 34, had done West Coast playoff games for NBC cable outlets, but this will be his first time on national games in East Coast prime time, and Saturday will be his first NBC national exclusive.
“I thought that my availability being limited would stop me from doing anything [other than the Islanders], so the fact that they were willing to work me into their schedule, I’m really appreciative of that,” Burke said. “I assumed that it wouldn’t be possible.
“I’m also appreciative of MSG allowing them to work me into their schedule, because they didn’t have to. The schedule played out where it’s possible to do six games in seven nights, and I’m happy to do ’em.”
Pierre McGuire will be Burke’s analyst for the three Hurricanes-Capitals games. Game 4 of that series conflicts with Game 5 of Islanders-Penguins, so Burke is scheduled for only three.
Does he worry that the grueling schedule will affect his performance?
“I guess we’ll find out next week,” he said, smiling. “I spent 10 years riding buses in the minor leagues, where four games in five nights was part of the routine. Those were on radio by myself. So I’ve called a lot of hockey in short periods of time with a lot of terrible bus travel. I have a feeling I won’t even feel the travel because of how exciting it is to be involved.”
Hockey announcers are known for travel gymnastics during the playoffs. One of the masters is Kenny Albert, who is calling the first three games of Islanders-Penguins for NBC.
In 2015, he famously commuted from coast to coast during the conference finals, working the West for NBC — including games in Anaheim — while doing Rangers radio in the East.
“I should talk to him and ask him for pointers,” Burke said. “People have asked me what my goal is, and I’ve always said I wanted to be Kenny Albert. That would be a great goal. This is as close as I’ve gotten to realizing that dream.”
SIX GAMES, SEVEN NIGHTS
Brendan Burke’s playoff broadcasting itinerary:
Wednesday — Long Island: Penguins at Islanders, Game 1
Thursday — Washington: Hurricanes at Capitals, Game 1
Friday — Long Island: Penguins at Islanders, Game 2
Saturday — Washington: Hurricanes at Capitals, Game 2
Sunday — Travel day
Monday — Raleigh, N.C.: Capitals at Hurricanes, Game 3
Tuesday — Pittsburgh: Islanders at Penguins, Game 4