Prime-time crew

TY PILSON -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

Ten years ago, Brian Shanahan admits he would have never thought it possible.

I mean, a professional lacrosse game being aired live by NBC to 160-million homes in North America, Asia and Europe? Gimme a break, joked Shanahan.

However, the 43-year-old veteran National Lacrosse League colour analyst will sit down in the broadcast booth at the 'Dome Saturday and talk about the game he loves to the biggest TV audience in the history of the sport.

"I never thought I'd ever get an opportunity like this, especially 10 years ago," said Shanahan, whose brother Brendan is a forward with the Detroit Red Wings. "I saw it building and knew the sport was growing the last few years but if it was 10 years ago and I was daydreaming about how much I liked lacrosse, never in a million years."

The NLL and NBC officially announced the broadcast team yesterday for this weekend's showcase tilt in Calgary and, to no one's surprise, Shanahan was included in the three-man team.

Shanahan, who has been doing lacrosse colour for seven years on The Score, Rogers Sportsnet and Fox Sports Net, will be joined in the booth by veteran NHL play-by-play man Mike Emrick.

Emrick -- known as Doc to his fans -- has spent the last 14 years as the voice of the New Jersey Devils and has done national hockey broadcasts for NBC, ABC, Fox and ESPN.

Mark Morgan, who has covered a wide range of sports including the Final Four, NBA Finals, NBA All-Star Game and Stanley Cup finals, will serve as the sideline reporter.

The NLL paid NBC to broadcast its all-star game and the championship final in May -- referred to as a time-buy in the industry -- and the league will sell ad time during the games. Even though they bought the air time, the fact NBC was interested in airing the games is seen as a major boon for the NLL. It's the first step by any up-and-coming sports league that wants to secure a longer-term national deal.

The trick now for the NLL is to get good ratings and impress the folks at NBC.

Emrick, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee, said the key to maximizing the NLL's exposure to a worldwide audience and selling them on the game is to inform them about the 'every-man' athletes that play it.

"The most critical thing to me is to let people know a lot more about these players," said Emrick. "Especially first-time fans who might not realize the players do other things during the week. They aren't paid an excessive amount of money, that they don't come in limos, that they don't have posse. This is a different kind of professional athlete and I think there is a great positive to be sold whenever we can tell stories about them."

Emrick was already familiar with the league, having watched Philadelphia Wings' games back in the late '80s when he was the play-by-play man for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Shanahan, who played many years of senior A lacrosse in Ontario and one NLL season with the Ontario Raiders in 1998, is looking forward to the historic broadcast.

"This game is for a new audience so we want to sell it to them," said Shanahan. "Sure we're going to have our Canadian fans and our regular fans watching it but the goal for us this game is to sell it to a new audience. We'll be thinking about that new American viewer who just happens to be turning the channel and says 'what's this?' We do have to keep that in mind."

QUICK STICKS: Calgary Roughnecks captain Tracey Kelusky, a starter in Saturday's all-star game, will serve as an assistant captain for the West Division ... Arizona Sting defender Scott Self has pulled out of this weekend's all-star game due to personal reasons and has been replaced on the West Division roster by Colorado Mammoth defender Jay Jalbert, who was an all-star last year. Toronto Rock head coach Terry Sanderson, slated to serve as the assistant coach for the East Division team, has also pulled out due to personal reasons. Rochester Knight- hawks assistant coach Ed Comeau will fill in for the East.


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