BARRY MELROSE’s expertise has been a staple of ESPN hockey cablecasting since joining the network as an analyst in 1996. His experience in the league (defenseman with Winnipeg, Toronto, and Detroit, and head coach of the L.A. Kings when the team went to the Stanley Cup finals in 1992-93) only adds fuel to the fiery action on the ice, which he has made a living analyzing. He has helped turn regular hockey talk into an art form, and as the NHL playoffs approach, you can bet Mr. Melrose will have plenty to say.

AW: How do you go from playing 11 years in the league, then coaching a Stanley Cup finals team, to sitting in a cablecast booth?
When I got fired from the L.A. Kings, the first phone call I got was from ESPN.
AW: Is there anything you miss about coaching or playing?
You miss the locker room. I know there’s a lot of clichés about it, but I miss being part of the group. As a coach, you’re not part of the group quite as much as a player, but you can still get part of the group feel. But, boy, as a player, there’s nothing better than having 23 buddies all going through the same things. The camaraderie — it’s the same feeling when you’re 7 years old or when you’re 37 years old.
AW: Why do you think hockey has picked up so much pace in the U.S. lately?
Hockey is just so American. You’ve got speed, and the toughness of hockey players has to be admired, not to mention their athleticism. They do what all the other athletes do except they do it on a pair of blades on ice. I think you can see that in the South and other places, Americans are really starting to take up the game. The Stars are a perfect example with their move from Minnesota. Dallas has turned into a great hockey town.

AW: What’s the most exciting thing about the game today?
I see our athletes getting so good and so strong. The speed of the game has totally increased. I think we’ve done a lot of good things with the game to make it faster and more exciting for the crowd. I just think our game is exploding right now.