Ryan Whitney is excited about the latest chapter in his hockey career.
Whitney, who played as a defenseman in the NHL for nine years, has been doing some television work since September. He started with Sportsnet in Canada and joined NHL Network this week. He made his debut Wednesday night and will work for the NHL's television station a few times a month for the rest of the season.
The move to TV after his playing days finished has helped ease Whitney's transition from playing to being an outside observer.
"People ask me, 'Do you miss playing?' I had so many injuries and, by the end, my ankle was so messed up that I haven't skated since [I retired]," said Whitney, who last played in the NHL in 2013-14, a seven-game stint with the Florida Panthers. "I don't really miss playing hockey, but the aspect of being around the guys and your teammates; that's what I miss.
"So, in a sense, you kind of have this again. It's different, but it is still your team at whatever network or studio you are at. Because of that, you get close with guys and have your little inside jokes. It's similar to being in a locker room, just without the aspect of being a professional hockey player."
Whitney, 34, was selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins with the No. 5 pick in the 2002 NHL Draft. He played for the Penguins, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and Panthers during his League career, with 259 points (50 goals, 2009 assists) in 481 games.
But foot and ankle injuries sidelined him on a regular basis. In his nine NHL seasons, he played more than 70 games three times.
Yet Whitney still gets excited about the game, especially at the NHL level, despite the fact he didn't get to play as long or as often as he would have liked. Sharing his passion for the game with fans is the perfect way, he says, to give back to the game that has given him so much.
Joining the NHL Network in a recurring role as the 2016-17 season enters the home stretch couldn't be better timing.
"Being around the game still is great," he said Tuesday, one night before before taking his first shift with the Network. "I owe everything to hockey. I love watching hockey and always have. It doesn't really change with retirement for me. I think with some guys it does, but I still enjoy watching games, especially when [Stanley Cup] playoffs come and the second half of the year; it's better as teams start finding out what is going down. That's when hockey really becomes great, down the stretch."
Whitney figures he will be just about hitting his stride as the games heat up and winter turns toward spring. He's still learning the nuances of being a television analyst. Always an engaging player during his career, Whitney has never been shy of opinions or explaining them. Now he finds himself having to offer his views in a more limited time frame because of the rapid-fire, segmented nature of studio highlight shows.
"The only thing I noticed [on TV] is you want to make your point," he said, "but you also have a producer in your ear telling you that you have 30 seconds for this and sometimes you get a countdown on when commercials start or when you have to go to a different subject.
"The whole aspect of getting things in on a time frame while still being well-spoken and getting your point across that can be a little difficult. Just getting the reps makes it a lot easier."