Stanley Cup push marks fifth year for Isles host
Five years into covering the New York Islanders, MSG Networks host/reporter Shannon Hogan is strapping herself in for what promises to be a wild ride. With the team riding the first-year tenure of Hockey Hall of Fame general manager Lou Lamoriello and coach Barry Trotz (fresh off helming the Washington Capitols to their first Stanley Cup win last year), Hogan is fully aware of the Isles over-achieving this season.
“It’s been just a wild ride. I don’t think anybody thought their expectations would be so high going into the playoffs. It’s not so much whether or not they would make the playoffs, how many games they would win or how many points they’d finish with in the regular season. Now, the expectation from the fans is not that the team should squeak into the playoffs as an eighth seed. They want them to win the division, and they want home ice,” she said. “Since I’ve been covering the team, every year it’s been about making the playoffs. With the way that Lou Lamoriello and Barry Trotz molded this group, the expectation is that the team will continue to get better and in the playoffs, they’ll do something.”
The last time New York competed for the Stanley Cup, the team beat the Florida Panthers on the road in 2015-16 before falling 4-1 to the Tampa Bay Lightning in the second round. Whoever the Isles face off against in the first round this year will be the road team, as New York will be opening a playoff series at home for the first time since they last did it in 1988 against the New Jersey Devils. With all the back and forth between Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and the Isles’ ancestral home of Nassau Coliseum, Hogan admits there is some degree of poetic justice to where the series is set to open.
“It’s been so much fun, and it’s featured a lot of the same guys that I’ve had the chance and pleasure to cover in the last five seasons,” she said. “It’s not like there’s that many new faces, which makes [this success] even more surprising. But it’s been so much fun, because you can tell that they are having fun. When you throw in the mix of the fans’ excitement, being back at the Coliseum and big emotional wins, it makes for a great experience and for great television.”
The Michigan transplant knows of what she speaks. Her father’s sales job had him moving his family to Syracuse, Connecticut, Atlanta, Tulsa and, finally, landing in the Motor City.
Growing up in a college sports-obsessed household (mom is a Buckeye while dad is a Gonzaga alum), the New York native attended her first tilt in 2000 at the late Joe Louis Arena as a high school sophomore, thanks to tickets from her pop’s employer. While she has forgotten the score of the Red Wings-Avalanche game, seeing the world’s fastest sport in a live setting left an indelible impression.
“I remember the feeling of walking out of the building and thinking, ‘They play loud music before dropping the puck and there was a fight.’ It was in the winter, and I remember saying to my parents, ‘This is the greatest sporting event live,’” she recalled. “It was so different than anything I’ve ever seen live. I was kind of hooked. It made sense because it was Hockeytown. It was easy to get sucked in, and it was exciting. The [Wings] were in the heyday of their playoff run with [Nicklas] Lidstrom and [Brendan] Shanahan. It was a really exciting time.”
Graduating from the University of Missouri with a degree in broadcast journalism (where she was also a collegiate swimmer), Hogan cut her teeth covering sports and hard news in Salinas, CA, before returning east to work for Fox Sports Detroit. Among the major events she covered were the 2010 U.S. Open, the 2010 and 2012 World Series and the 2010 Big Chill, a massive outdoor college hockey game featuring Michigan vs. Michigan State. She also won a Michigan Emmy Award for her work with the network before getting hired by MSG Networks in 2014. Inspired and encouraged by the likes of veteran Detroit broadcast journalist Jennifer Hammond and MLB Network’s Sam Ryan, Hogan is grateful for the trailblazing done by those who came before her. And that in this highly competitive business, it’s about gaining respect through hard work regardless of gender.
“I’m not the first woman to have this job, but things are a lot smoother than they were 20 or 30 years ago for the women who came before me. That includes friends and mentors who paved the way, worked really hard and did a great job with their craft,” she said. “We’ve come a long way. It might not ever be perfect, and everybody might not be on board, but for the most part, I’ve found people to be very respectful. You also have to do your part to show that you’re a good journalist or reporter—man or woman—it shouldn’t matter.”
With her first child due in May, Hogan is enjoying the ride. Unequivocally embraced by her MSG Networks family, she’s been especially touched and humbled by the connection she’s made with Islanders devotees.
“The fans have been phenomenal. It really has been like a family. They welcome you when you come on and all of a sudden you get married and they’re so excited,” she said with a laugh. “And everybody loves the baby. I’ve been overwhelmed with cute little Islanders presents and cards and people swinging by the set asking how I’m feeling and asking what’s going on. I’ve been thankful to everyone. It’s been great.”