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Albert trying to stay busy during NHL pause due to coronavirus

Broadcaster cleaning out office, spending time with family with sports world on hold

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / Staff Writer

Under normal circumstances, Kenny Albert would have been preparing to do the play-by-play on MSG Radio Network for the New York Rangers against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday.

Instead, the 52-year-old was in his house in northern New Jersey cleaning his home office. This has become the new normal that Albert, usually one of the busiest broadcasters in North America, has been adjusting to since the NHL paused its season on March 12, and the rest of the sports world essentially stopped play, due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus.

"I always said I would need a couple of months to get this home office cleaned and I never knew when it would happen," Albert said. "Unfortunately, I have the time now."  

But Albert doesn't want to make it sound like he's complaining. 

"There's a lot of people in worse shape," he said. "It's just a strange time, and we'll see how long it goes."

In addition to calling Rangers games, Albert also does play-by-play for NHL games for NBC Sports, fills in on MSG Network telecasts of New York Knicks games, and calls MLB and NFL games for Fox Sports. This time of the year, with the NHL ramping up toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs in April and MLB opening day approaching, would ordinarily be hectic for Albert.

After calling the Rangers game at the Colorado Avalanche on March 11, he was scheduled to fly to Miami to work the Knicks game against the Heat on March 13, then rejoin the Rangers in time for their game at the Arizona Coyotes on March 14. After the NBA announced on March 11 that it was suspending its season, Albert remained with the Rangers in Denver following a 3-2 overtime loss to the Avalanche and waited with them there until the NHL announced its pause the following day.

"We actually went with the team to the airport, and once we got to the airport it was going to be determined whether we were going to Arizona or going back home," Albert said. "We ended up going home."

If play had not been paused, Albert was scheduled to do 10 more Rangers regular-season broadcasts, seven Knicks regular-season games, one NHL game on NBC, and one MLB game. After that, he was slated to do the first three rounds of the playoffs for NBC Sports and the Stanley Cup Final on Westwood One/NBC Sports Radio Network, in addition to any Rangers postseason games if they qualified.

Albert was also supposed to be a part of NBC's broadcast team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (his assignment had yet to be determined) before the International Olympic Committee announced Tuesday that it was postponing the games beyond 2020 (but no later than summer of 2021). 

"Sometimes in the summer, I have an occasional 10-12 day stretch of not working, but I guess the weirdest thing is just, all of us -- broadcasters, writers -- we all have the next event to look forward to that you're planning for," Albert said. "For the first time in 30 years, you don't know when that next event is going to be."

The silver lining has been the unexpected quality time Albert has been able to spend with his wife, Barbara, and their daughters, Amanda and Sydney. Amanda was studying abroad in Australia when the NHL pause began but was able to travel home last week, and Sydney's high school is closed, so like with most families during this time, everyone is home.

"It's the most time the four of us have spent together in years," Albert said.

Most of the time when Albert is cleaning his office, he has the news on the television in the background to keep up with what's going on. On Monday, he changed it up and watched some old NHL games on NHL Network and NBCSN, and a couple of NFL games on NFL Network.

Albert said he's about 20 percent finished going through the stacks of old newspapers, game notes and other files he's collected over the years.  

"One of the few places I've gone is to the recycling center in town every couple of days," he said. "I've probably brought 12-15 bags over there so far just filled with newspaper, magazines, files. The problem is we're all so busy and things pile up. You always think you're going to get to it and you never do."

In addition to cleaning his office, Albert went through one of his closets and found a bunch of old T-shirts. He discarded most of them.

"The two T-shirts I found that stood out were an Al Iafrate "Wild Thing" Washington Capitals T-shirt from the early '90s, and from (broadcaster) Dave Starman and his days coaching there, a Macon Whoopee (of the defunct Central Hockey League) T-shirt," Albert said. "I got rid of a lot, but I kept those. They had sentimental value."

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