The Islanders never would admit to a preferred opponent for their first-round playoff series, should they qualify. Shannon Hogan can.
Initially, it was the Rangers or Devils, but that hope was dashed early. Then it was Boston or Washington, easily reachable by train, but the current standings make that appear improbable.
So come mid-April, if the Islanders are off to Pittsburgh, Raleigh, Columbus, Montreal or points unknown for their road games, Hogan will not be with them as MSG Networks’ host and reporter.
She is approaching a personal and professional juncture that, while nothing but happy news, has led to a bit of a scheduling conflict. On May 6, she is due to give birth to her first child.
“I want to be a part of as much of the season as possible, as the baby allows, my doctor allows, as I physically and mentally can handle it,” she said.
“It’s the best part of the season . . . I hope I’m a part of it as long as I can be and that the Islanders move on past the point where I physically will not be able to be there.”
That point presumably would be the second round, but even the first is TBD. A Northeast Corridor series would help.
“In the words of my doctor: ‘There are some great hospitals in Boston and D.C,, and you can always get off the train on the way,’” she said.
Her husband of eight months, Brendan Gorey, understood. “He’s been so supportive of me doing this pregnancy in our way,” she said. “Me saying, ‘I hope they play Washington in the first round,’ he would expect nothing less.”
She still hopes to cover home games as long as she is able. She is to miss three regular-season games —at Montreal, Winnipeg and Florida — because of air travel restrictions. (The allowable window for air travel while pregnant is broader for domestic flights than international ones, so she does plan to fly to the March 26 game at Columbus.)
“I don’t want to fully commit to anything,” she said. “But somebody’s going to have to tell me to stop, probably.”
Hogan, who turns 34 on Saturday, is aware she is not the first woman to work through a pregnancy and that others have more physically demanding jobs, often with less personal and professional support.
Still, it is not commonplace to do so while covering an NHL team home and away, a travel-heavy, sleep-depriving, healthy-meal-challenged, crowded-locker-room gig in a heavily male environment.
Adding to Hogan’s logistical challenge has been that under president Lou Lamoriello, radio and TV crews no longer travel with the team. But that affords her more flexibility for doctor appointments and visits to family and friends.
“The hardest part for me has been that I’m a go-go-go person by nature — work, social life, all that stuff combined,” she said. “I just thought, ‘All right, I’ll be pregnant, I’ll work, and it will be great.’
“I was really surprised — you are growing a human, obviously — but how draining it is and how I wasn’t able emotionally and mentally to partake in everything I thought I would be able to do . . . I’m a little tired and my feet are swollen. I can no longer wear my high heels.”
Hogan was not complaining, and rarely does. Her upbeat persona has made her popular with fans.
She began to tear up as she recounted the support from those who have wished her well when she is on the MSG set at home games.
“I wasn’t sure if people were going to make comments about my body,” she said. “I wasn’t sure if people were going to be invasive about our lives, and from the get-go people just started showing up with cards and presents, and I couldn’t get over it, every single time.”
Hogan was born in Syracuse and lived in Connecticut, Georgia and Oklahoma before moving to Michigan in high school as the family followed her father’s sales job.
It was soon after arriving in Michigan that she became a hockey fan, enthralled by the Red Wings games for which her father’s company had season tickets.
After attending Missouri, where she was a star swimmer, and starting at a small television station in California, she returned to Michigan at Fox Sports Detroit, then moved to MSG in 2014.
Part of the appeal was living in Manhattan — after spending her first season living in Huntington — and the commute from there to Barclays Center is a dream. But she is on board with the partial return to the Coliseum.
“It was pretty clear within a couple of years that the fans were really excited about going back to Long Island, and by that point I was so ingrained in the culture of this team and this fan base that I was thrilled,” she said.
It was at the Coliseum, after a game against the Ducks on March 28, 2015, that Hogan met Gorey. He was there with a friend who was dating an intern for MSG’s Stan Fischler. He saw her at work and asked for an introduction.
“When I saw him it was like really cheesy movie fireworks,” she said. “We were just looking at each other.”
Soon she learned he was a casual Islanders fan, and an avid Mets fan who grew up in West Islip. When she went with him to a Mets game that season, she knew he would be impressed when she introduced him to announcer Howie Rose.
“I’m pretty sure he bought the ring then,” she said. “Girl’s got to do what a girl’s got to do.”
They were married last July in Ireland. Hogan informed Gorey that she was pregnant in Chicago in late August, the night before he attended his first game at Wrigley Field, with the Mets in town.
In the early days, before they told friends and colleagues, there were days Hogan felt “awful” and relied on Gorey for “everything domestically for both of us.” (He works for Total Fleet Solutions in asset management and, like Hogan, travels extensively.)
She said Gorey’s help has made it all manageable, with big assists from her MSG “family.”
“I have support at home, and I have support at work,” she said.
That includes from her studio analysts, A.J. Mleczko and Jen Botterill, both of whom are Olympic gold medalists and are rare women analyzing men’s NHL games. Both worked through pregnancies and can offer advice.
Botterill’s children are 3 ½ and 16 months. “They’re the ultimate joy for me, but it is tough in terms of balancing your energy,” she said. “Essentially your body is not just yours anymore.”
Mleczko has four children, ages 15 to 7. She was pregnant with her 11-year-old son the entire month she was in Turin in 2006 covering the Olympics for NBC.
The timing of Hogan’s pregnancy gives her built-in maternity leave before the 2019-20 season begins in October.
In the meantime, what if the Islanders reach the Cup Final? After the first round, the games would not be on MSG, but the network would provide postgame coverage.
“If I wasn’t able to be there, that would be hard,” she said, “but at the same time I know I have the biggest miracle of life that’s on the way . . . If nothing else, it will be a fantastic story for this baby.”
And if the Islanders win the Cup in the year of her pregnancy? She already has informed her husband, “No, we’re not naming the baby ‘Stanley.’ I’m like, ‘We can have a little dog named that.’”