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."