NBC Sports Executive Producer Sam Flood took note when Scott Gomez was playing in the NHL that he possessed a flashiness that extended beyond his gifted hands.
“He always was a guy who could give a good quote and have some fun,” Flood said. “I always like guys with a sparkle in their eyes.”
That’s the primary reason why Flood hired Gomez to be an analyst, a job he will start tonight (January 12th, 2017) on "NHL Live" alongside Kathryn Tappen and Mike Milbury on NBC Sports Network. (Montreal visits Minnesota at 8 p.m. ET.)
“He always had a wry sense of humor even during on-ice interviews,” Flood recalled. “In all of those years he played for the New Jersey Devils, that humor had to be sheltered a bit, hidden behind a wall. I think that personality will come to the fore and it will be fun having him play with our guys.”
Gomez, 37, said he always enjoyed the "banter” with media when he played and suspected he might someday switch teams. But he didn’t believe it would happen this quickly. He played 34 games with the St. Louis Blues and Ottawa Senators and 13 in the American Hockey League last season before realizing it was time to move to a different arena.
What will he offer as an analyst? “I think fans will love to hear the back story of what’s really going on,” Gomez said.
With 1,079 NHL regular-season games on his resume, Gomez believes he's qualified to fill in the gaps for his viewers.
“There is more to it than a guy is not playing well,” Gomez told USA TODAY Sports “Well there’s a reason why he’s not playing well.”
He wants to discuss line combinations, and players’ comfort level with playing certain positions.
“There is a lot that goes on … (I want) to get on the inside of that,” said Gomez, who a career-high 33 goals in 2005-06. “I’ll call it the way it was. We are all big boys.”
Entering this profession quickly after retirement means he is critiquing some players he knows well.
“I’ve ripped a couple of guys (while with NHL Network) who are friends,” Gomez said, noting that the players handled it well because they knew he was being fair.
Gomez played for general manager Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey. Lamoriello had a reputation for wanting to control the message.
But Gomez said Lamoriello never once talked with him about what he said in interviews. It was the players themselves, said Gomez, who chose to be reserved in their approach with the media.
“No one put a muzzle around my mouth,” Gomez said. “We took more of the Bill Belichick approach. We were there to win. That’s it.”
Gomez said he will likely poke fun at former teammates from time to time because that is a hockey tradition. When he was on television on NHL Network, former teammates lit up his cellphone.
"I’m on set and they are telling me how bad my suit looks,” Gomez said, chuckling.
Flood seems to want Gomez to be himself, and that works because Gomez won't do it any other way.
“I am not changing who I am,” he said. “That’s just the way it is.”