Howie Rose, the Islanders’ lead TV play-by-play announcer since 1995, informed MSG Network officials on Wednesday that he will leave the job, citing a desire to reduce his workload.
Rose also does radio play-by-play for the Mets on WOR, meaning he has had no real offseason the past two decades.
Before calling Wednesday night’s Nationals-Mets game at Citi Field, he said of his decision, “It’s the textbook definition of mixed emotions. That’s exactly what it is. I don’t know that I’ve ever been more conflicted about a decision I have had to make in my life. But I’m confident I made really the only one I could make at this point in time in my career and life.
“Strictly, it’s the idea that I could have an offseason like most people who do what I do for a living. Maybe my wife would disagree on some level, but I think it’s only right that she has her husband around more than he’s been. Again, that might be open to her interpretation.
“But at the end of the day it’s something that I do with, as I say, the epitome of mixed emotions.”
Rose, 62, has worked for MSG since 1985, first as a substitute radio announcer for Rangers games before he took over as the full-time radio voice in 1989.
It was in that role that he made his most famous hockey call, after Stephane Matteau scored in double-overtime as the Rangers won Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference final over the Devils.
His favorite moment with the Islanders was his final one — another double-overtime goal from behind the net, this one by John Tavares on April 24 to clinch a first-round playoff victory over the Panthers. It was the Islanders’ first postseason series victory of Rose’s tenure.
“That’s the one,” Rose said. “I don’t know how else to describe it but that it was my little Stanley Cup for the Islanders because we don’t do any more than the first round. I was really starting to become afraid that I would be known as the Horace Clarke of the Islanders and so when Tavares scored that goal it was a release, even a catharsis to an extent.”
Rose knew it might be his final game, and he said he “couldn’t have written a better script myself. It was really cool and I think I’ll only appreciate that more as the years pass.”
“The Islanders congratulate Howie Rose on a memorable 21-year career as the team’s TV play-by-play announcer on MSG Networks,” the Islanders said in a statement. “His voice has become synonymous with big Islanders moments, which culminated in his final game call of John Tavares’ overtime, series-clinching goal at Barclays Center in Game 6 of the team’s first-round Stanley Cup series against the Florida Panthers. We wish Howie and his family nothing but the best moving forward.”
MSG will begin a search for Rose’s successor immediately.
“Howie Rose began a 31-year career at MSG Networks as a fill-in radio play-by-play announcer for the Rangers in 1985 and has been a cherished member of our MSG family ever since,” Andrea Greenberg, president and CEO of MSG Networks, said in a statement issued by the network.
“We are grateful for Howie’s excellent work for the Rangers and then for the Islanders for the past 21 years. His memorable calls of key moments will live on with fans forever. Howie will always have a special place with us and we wish him luck going forward.”
Rose said the added burden this past season of commuting to Brooklyn from his home in Roslyn was not a factor in his decision.
“This transcends anything like that,” he said. “It’s just going to work. I went to one place that took a little more time to get to than the other, but that was it. I really love the fact we have that vantage point [at Barclays Center]. It was fabulous. We felt so in the game. I’m going to miss that.
“It had nothing to do with Brooklyn. It was about managing my life in a way that was more amenable to sustaining a family.” (Rose has two grown daughters.)
Rose said he had been thinking about leaving for some time.
“You don’t make a spontaneous, impulsive decision of this magnitude; believe me, it is well, well thought out,” he said. “Over the last couple of years the grind of doing both was becoming more and more difficult. It’s not just the fact you’re always going to an airport or staying in a hotel. It’s the amount of time you spend away from the people you love, and it finally won out.
“I have nothing but the sweetest, most happy memories of over three decades at MSG and I would hope to be able to stay available to them in whatever capacity. I will stay in shape, stay loose and if they need someone off the bench I hopefully can still put the ball in play.”
Rose said he realized there are people now in their 30s who have known no other Islanders play-by-play man, and consider him part of their fan experience — and lives. “I’m very flattered by that,” he said.
Asked how long he wants to keep calling Mets games, Rose said, “Forever.” But the Islanders part of his professional life — at least on a full-time basis — is over.
“There are times when I think about what I’m giving up and I wonder how I could ever possibly step away from it,” he said. “When I think of what I’m gaining, which is an offseason to recharge the batteries and reconnect with people and live as close to a normal baseball life as a broadcaster can ever live, then I become very excited.”
Rose first came to the Islanders known for his work on Rangers games.
“To have come to be considered, at least by some people, an Islander and to have been their longest-running TV or radio play-by-play or color guy, I’m extremely proud of that,” he said. “Not Jiggs , not Eddie , not Barry Landers, not anybody else worked as long in an on-air capacity with the Islanders as I did. I’m very, very proud of that.”