Former Penguin returns in new role after 2 years away from the NHL.

A brand new role for a former NHLer.

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A former National Hockey League forward is making his return to the game in a very unique way after more than two years away from the NHL.

According to a report from St. Louis Blues insider Jeremy Rutherford of The Athletic, the St. Louis Blues will be making a big change to their broadcast team for the upcoming 2018 - 2019 National Hockey League regular season when a new announcer joins the team. Rutherford reports that the new color analyst for St. Louis Blues flagship station KMOX sports will be none other than former NHL center Joe Vitale.

Vitale, a long time member of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization as well as a former member of the Arizona Cotes  has spent the last two plus years away from the NHL and is set to return in a role that we don't often see former players gravitate towards. It will be especially interesting to see how well Vitale does as a color analyst because I personally have never heard him call a game before at any level. Obviously the St. Louis Blues organization and KMOX sports both feel extremely confident in his abilities as they have moved him to a rather prominent position very quickly.

Vitale was something of a late bloomer as far far as the National Hockey League is concerned. The veteran forwward was initially drafted in the 7th round (195th overal) of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and normally you don't expect guys who pick in the 7th round to ever make it to the NHL, at least not if you are playing the odds. Vitale would go on to spend a full 4 years at Northeastern University before eventually coming over and joining the Penguins organization, but even then it was not at the NHL level. Vitale would spend 3 seasons with the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League before finally breaking into the NHL at 26 years of age.

In spite of that slow start however he overcame the odds and would go on to play in a total of 234 NHL games split between both the Penguins and the Coyotes and recorded 11 goals and 33 assists for a total of 44 career points in the NHL. Pretty damn good for a guy who was never expected to even get a sniff of NHL hockey.

Perhaps the most surprising part of this announcement however is the fact that this opportunity comes from a team that he has never played for rather than say with the Penguins or with the Coyotes. You would think a former player would have more marketability in either of those markets but the Blues were likely the first to give him a real shot. Vitale is a native of St. Louis Missouri so he certainly does have some local appeal in spite of having never played for the Blues professionally. 

That being said though Vitale has shown an ability to exceed expectations in the past and I hope he can do the same for fans in St. Louis inside the broadcast boost. I wish him all the best moving forward on this new endeavor.