Tripp Tracy talks Carolina Hurricanes coverage, run-ins with NFL stars

Rich Salgado, the host of the Big Daddy and Friends show, caught up with Carolina Hurricanes television and radio color commentator Tripp Tracy to chat about covering hockey, playing cards with Bubba Franks, and Bill Cowher.

Like Kevin Weekes, Tracy has NHL experience on and off the ice. He laced up his skates as a Philadelphia Flyers goaltender before signing a free-agent contract with Carolina, where he spent two seasons playing for their farm teams. Then, starting in the 1998-99 season, he became the Tripp Tracy we know today: the go-to broadcaster for all things Canes. He even covered the club’s legendary 2006 Stanley Cup run.

Tracy caught up with Salgado to share some stories and some laughs.

Tripp Tracy discusses his friendship with Dennis Seidenberg

When the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, Tracy says, it was large in part to Dennis Seidenberg. He holds the view that Seidenberg played “even better than Zdeno Chara. I had Seids as the MVP.”

Tracy’s admiration for Seidenberg’s play eventually led to a lifelong friendship, even though, as Tracy notes, it didn’t get off to a great start.

Seidenberg had just been traded from the Coyotes to the Hurricanes, and he went up to Tracy in the stands one day. Seidenberg told him, Tracy says, that his wife was watching the Hurricanes broadcast the night before and heard Tracy call Seidenberg a “sensitive type of defenseman.”

The response? “Seids, the fact that you’re bringing this up to me only confirms that you’re sensitive,” Tracy said.

Tripp Tracy on playing cards with Bubba Franks

Tracy was excited to share more football stories with Salgado, probably because he has some great ones to tell and far more where that Cowher anecdote came from.

While in New Orleans with former NHLer Bates Battaglia, Tracy attended Super Bowl XXXVI, when the New England Patriots upset the Rams 20-17 in the first of the franchise’s six championships. But the day before that massive moment in NFL history, Tracy remembers he and Battaglia were at a casino playing blackjack during the NHL All-Star Game. Then, they looked up and recognized Bubba Franks, the former Green Bay Packers tight end.

Franks played blackjack alongside the two gents, and much to Tracy’s surprise, deployed the unconventional strategy of hitting 20, and splitting the kings.

“I’ve never seen that before. I’m like, ‘Bubba, what are you doing?'” Tracy said.

They got to talking, Tracy recalls, and then the action went back around the table to his turn. Tracy had a 2 and a 5, and he said he would stay, even though it all but guaranteed him a loss. After that, it was Franks’ turn to ask Tracy what he was thinking, to which his response channeled the mojo of Austin Powers.

“I said, ‘I, too, like to live dangerously, Bubba,'” Tracy retorted to Franks, laughing.

Tripp Tracy crossed paths with former Steelers coach Bill Cowher

Tracy shared a what he said was a genuinely cool interaction with NFL legend Bill Cowher, who won eight division titles, two AFC Championships and a Super Bowl as the head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He retired in 2007, and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame earlier this year.

“I remember Kevin Westgarth, who was a tough guy in the NHL — he married Bill Cowher’s daughter,” Tracy said. “And so when Kevin was playing for the Hurricanes, Bill Cowher came on for the second period with us one night. I had never met him and he walked into the booth. And he said, ‘Hey Trace, its good to meet you.'”

Cowher went on to say a few more nice things about watching the Hurricanes broadcast, but Tracy says Cowher had a look that made Tripp Tracy immediately want to step up for him. That one look, Tracy says, made him want to swim through oceans for Cowher — and no doubt was part of what led to the Steelers’ success on many NFL Sundays with the tenured, beloved coach at the helm.

Tripp Tracy on covering the Carolina Hurricanes, NHL broadcasting

Tripp Tracy on covering NHL's Carolina Hurricanes
Feb 29, 2020; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Haydn Fleury (4) celebrates his goal against Montreal Canadiens with teammates during the second period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

During his early days covering the game, Tracy was a little harsher in his evaluation of players and had a shorter fuse in terms of how a franchise would go about building a team. However, that’s changed with experience and an evolved, deeper understanding of the game.

“I try to be more patient, because it’s a game of mistakes, and even veteran players would tell you that,” Tracy says. He added that young players find NHL success in a routine and in an approach, doing the same thing day in and day out. Even though it seems boring, Tracy contends that having a consistent routine like that is the way that you win and build a lasting career.

Tracy pointed to John Davidson, who covered the New York Rangers for a long time, as an inspiration for color broadcasting in particular, discussing some of the Davidson qualities he’s tried to emulate over the years.

“[Davidson] always found a way to tell the truth without throwing a player or the team under the bus. And simultaneously sell the game,” Tracy said.

And so, one key element of Tripp Tracy’s broadcasting remains his willingness to be candid in pointing out when a player makes a mistake. However, he will try to analyze the error objectively, still try to be an advocate for the sport, and often subconsciously look for the same player to do something good later in the game.

Sometimes that’s easier said than done in practice, of course. As Tracy put it, “I think that’s one of the biggest challenges of broadcasting.”

The Hurricanes certainly tested the patience of their fanbase and even commentators like Tracy amid a woeful stretch over the past decade or so. However, Tracy and Carolina fans have more to cheer about these days, as the Canes have snapped a nine-year playoff drought by appearing in each of the past two NHL postseasons, including a trip to the Conference Finals in 2019.