It's mid-April, and that means that Steve Levy, the affable NHL
play-by-play man for ESPN, will find himself on the business end
of a lot of nasty looks from his colleagues. Levy, you see,
attracts overtime games the way the Fox network attracts voyeurs.
When Levy shows up in the press box, "beat writers look at me and
go, 'Oh no, there go the deadlines. Levy's here,'" he says.
The beauty of the NHL playoffs (unlike the regular season, when
overtime is limited to five minutes) is that a game can go on
infinitely. The odds increase when Levy is on hand. He has called
the third longest game--and longest televised game--in league
history, a five-overtime Flyers-Penguins Eastern Conference
semifinals match last May 4 and 5 that Philadelphia won (at 2:37
in the morning) on a goal by Keith Primeau. Levy also was the
announcer for the second longest TV game, a Capitals-Penguins
four-overtime affair in 1996.
As grueling as overtime is on players, it's almost as tough on
the announcers, who must conserve their vocal cords. Bill
Clement, an ESPN color commentator, solves that problem by
clamming up during the extra periods. "The game is saying it all
at that point," he says. Moreover, announcers dread being
inaccurate, especially on the deciding goal. "It really starts in
the second overtime," says Levy. "That's when I find myself
thinking, Don't blow the call." Levy nailed Primeau's game-winner
and even had the presence of mind at that hour to add that the
score provided a measure of redemption for the maligned center.
"When you go to a fifth overtime, you've done more than two full
games," says Levy. "It's possible to get a little loopy."
Loopy doesn't begin to describe Clement on April 18 and 19,
1987, during Game 7 of a Capitals-Islanders Patrick Division
semifinal that went into four spectacularly played overtimes. "I
wanted to let people know that it transcended the normalcy of a
spring event," says Clement. So he did what any normal announcer
would do: He began removing his clothes between OT periods.
Clement finished the game, which ended at 1:56 in the morning,
having removed his coat and tie and unbuttoned his shirt. He
still gets excited talking about it. "It was," he says, "one of
the best"--if longest--"nights of my life."
"When you go to a fifth overtime," says extra-period magnet Levy,
"it's possible to get a little loopy."