This time of year is about as good as it gets for being a sports fan if you are Kevin Sylvester, the co-host with Andrew Peters of “Sabres Hockey Hotline” on WGR Radio.
The Stanley Cup finals will get under way next week, as will golf’s U.S. Open at Merion. Hockey and golf are not just two passions in life for Sylvester, they also provide him with a living as a broadcaster.
“Sabres Hockey Hotline,” which is sponsored by the team and originates from the Sabres Store at First Niagara Center, will celebrate its one-year anniversary on June 18.
Sylvester also hosts the “Tee 2 Green Golf Show,” which airs on WGRZ Channel 2 and on WGR 550. (The TV version, which is on Saturday mornings at 10:30 and Sundays at midnight, winds up its season next weekend. The radio show, co-hosted by Brian Koziol, will continue from 7-8 a.m. on Saturdays.)
“If you love hockey and golf, the next couple of weeks are going to be fantastic,” Sylvester said by phone on Friday. “If you count the Memorial golf tournament, it’s been a fun few weeks. I don’t know if my wife would agree with that.”
Sylvester has a well-developed sense of humor when it comes to golf. Last year he wrote a book called “The Married Man’s Guide to Golf,” a humorous look at how to keep the game from turning into a good marriage spoiled. (There is more on the book at KevinSylvester.com.)
His light touch behind the microphone also has a lot to do with the success of “Sabres Hockey Hotline.” He and Andrew Peters, the former Sabres forward, have fun together on the air and have developed a nice rapport.
An interview they did back in mid-February on the air with the NHL’s czar of discipline and player safety, Brendan Shanahan, was an example of how the show’s laid-back approach can pay dividends. Shanahan discussed several discipline cases, but also had some fun reconnecting with Peters, a former teammate.
“Because of Andrew Peters’ relationship with Shanahan from training camp years ago with the Devils, it really worked well,” Sylvester said. “It was a nice conversation to have with him where he was more relaxed than maybe he normally would have been.”
Sylvester added that he and Peters have become a good team.
“As a matter of fact, you can’t shut us up during the breaks. We always have to be told, ‘Hey, we’re coming back!’ We’re really having fun doing it.”
One year in, Sylvester said “Sabres Hockey Hotline” is in the midst of an evaluation period involving him and management from the Sabres and WGR.
“We sit down and say, ‘This is where we’ve gone and what can we do better?,’ because you can always improve. We’ve had some great input from everybody involved. Now we’re trying to implement that input to a plan going forward. And I’m very excited about some of the things we’re going to try to do over the summer and when the season starts.”
Sylvester is paid by the Sabres to do “Hockey Hotline,” so there’s always the notion that one is hearing the party line when it comes to discussing issues around the team. But he says he gets very little interference from team ownership or management when it comes to planning the show.
“I can honestly say in the past 12 months I have never been told what to say on the show,” Sylvester said. “They have asked if I would be willing to have a guest on, but it’s never been, ‘Hey, you’re going to have so and so on and talk about this.’
“In the same vein, I’ve asked, can we do this? And they say, we’re going to have to wait to have that person on, and so forth.
“They’ve been great about it. … They’ve given me a lot of latitude with it, which is important.”
Sylvester’s broadcast schedule during the Sabres’ offseason does permit him to keep his golf game in shape. He played in a media day outing last Monday at Oak Hill in Pittsford, site of this year’s PGA Championship. To challenge himself, he played from the championship tees.
“How many times do you watch like the U.S. Open at Merion and you say to yourself, ‘Oh, could I break 100 there from where they’re playing it?” he said.
“I was completely humbled at Oak Hill,” he said. “I broke 100 - I shot 91. Everyone says, ‘Well, that was a great score,’ but it didn’t feel like it. I was in the rough all day. But it was great to play, it was a thrill.”
• Peter King, the venerable NFL columnist for Sports Illustrated, is taking on a new role with SI, developing a so-called microsite within SI.com. The site, which hasn’t been named, will focus on all NFL, all the time. The model for microsites is Bill Simmons’ Grantland, which is part of ESPN.com and covers pop culture as well as various sports.
“We’re not going to be writing about Veep or Mad Men or Homeland,” King told AwfulAnnouncing.com, “other than me writing in Monday Morning Quarterback that I love Veep.” The site’s launch is planned for July 22.
• Golf fans can whet their appetites for the U.S. Open with a look back at Lee Trevino’s win over Jack Nicklaus in the 1971 Open at Merion Golf Club. “Lee Trevino, An American Champion,” airs today at 5 p.m. and will be replayed June 17 on the Golf Channel at 10 p.m. “Merion gave me my career,” Trevino says of his playoff win over the Golden Bear.