GANGNEUNG, South Korea — AJ Mleczko understands there is not a lot of women’s hockey on television outside the Olympics.
Mleczko took home Olympic gold with the U.S. in 1998 and silver in 2002. She took on a broadcaster’s role for the 2006 Games. And now she will make the transition to men’s hockey at the NHL level for at least one day when she does color analysis on NBC’s national broadcast March 6 when the Detroit Red Wings visit the Boston Bruins.
The 42-year-old Mleczko follows the footsteps of former U.S. national teammate and Hockey Hall of Famer Cammi Granato, who did rinkside reporting for NBC in 2006-07 and Cassie Campbell-Pascall, who works NHL games for Sportsnet in Canada and was the first woman to do color commentary on “Hockey Night In Canada.”
“I’m excited because it’s a big opportunity for me and I love being involved in hockey,” Mleczko said. “This opens up doors for me to be able to do this.”
Hockey has been a bit slower than some other sports in getting women into the broadcast booth for play-by-play or color analyst roles. ESPN has used Jessica Mendoza full-time on “Sunday Night Baseball” since 2016 and has had Doris Burke doing college and pro basketball color work since 2000.
Mleczko impressed executives so much with her work in South Korea that NBC Sports executive producer and president of production Sam Flood asked her what she was doing March 6 and if she’d be interested in being in the booth with play-by-play announcer Chris Cuthbert and work with between-the-benches analyst Brian Boucher for the Detroit-Boston game.
Of course Mleczko was interested, so it’s her gig.
“AJ has done a wonderful job as an analyst at the Olympics, both in Pyeongchang and dating back to her work at the Torino Games more than a decade ago,” Flood said. “She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the booth, and we’re excited to have her team up with Chris and Brian in Boston.”
Mleczko certainly earned her chance with her work on the Olympic women’s tournament that ended with the United States beating Canada for its first gold medal since 1998. She was on the broadcast with Kenny Albert and Pierre McGuire for the instant classic women’s final that went to a shootout .
That’s a more important game than a meeting between the Bruins and Red Wings on a Tuesday night in March, but it’s a reward for Mleczko and perhaps an audition for more NHL games down the road.
“I feel like I’ve learned a lot through the years that I’ve worked with them,” she said. “And the fact that NBC has enough to faith to give me this opportunity, it means a lot to me. It does mean a lot to me and I feel the pressure partly because I want to make them proud and make myself proud of work that hopefully will be able to do.”
Follow Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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