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Seattle Kraken broadcasting duo makes NHL history as first all-Black TV crew

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The Seattle Kraken hockey team made NHL history with its TV broadcast crew last night. Announcers Everett Fitzhugh and JT Brown called the Kraken's game against the Winnipeg Jets as the league's first all-Black play-by-play team.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

EVERETT FITZHUGH: Finds a lane, shoots. He scores. Marcus Johansson.

A MARTINEZ, HOST:

JT Brown is new to broadcasting as the Kraken's new TV color commentator. He's making the transition after playing seven seasons in the NHL, most of them for the Tampa Bay Lightning as one of the few Black players in the league. Here he is making a big play against the Anaheim Ducks back in 2017.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: ...The puck around, shoots, scores. JT Brown.

MARTINEZ: Everett Fitzhugh normally does the radio play-by-play for the Kraken. He's the first Black play-by-play announcer in NHL history. And last night, he filled in for the regular TV announcer. Fitzhugh says he and Brown make a unique duo.

FITZHUGH: We've learned from each other. You know, how often do you get to talk to a former NHLer on a daily basis?

FADEL: Brown says he formed a friendship with Fitzhugh during the offseason. They called mock games together to help Brown prepare for his new gig.

JT BROWN: For us to be able to practice, it was good for me. And I think it was also good for Everett to see the TV side 'cause we knew at some point, this may happen.

FADEL: Still, less than 5% of NHL players are black. Brown says the league is taking the right steps to make hockey more inclusive. But barriers remain between them and the student athletes they need to scout.

BROWN: One of them is location, access to ice, how much it costs to enter this game. It's more expensive than the majority of the other sports of what you need to play and to practice.

MARTINEZ: While the NHL works through these roadblocks, Fitzhugh says last night's broadcast sent a message to the sports world.

FITZHUGH: It's OK to be Black. It's OK to be a member of a historically underrepresented community and want to be involved in the game of hockey.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANIMAL ZOUNDS' "COME TAKE A RIDE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.