Darren Pang’s addition to Chicago Blackhawks broadcast booth is official, while Colby Cohen leaves with ‘a lot of gratitude’

The Chicago Blackhawks have a new — but familiar — face providing commentary and interviews during games next season: former Hawks goalie and longtime TV analyst Darren Pang.

The team officially announced the move Thursday morning, with president of business operations Jamie Faulkner saying in a statement that Pang’s “expertise on the game, his energy and the relationships he has within the NHL will elevate the storytelling of this next chapter of team history.”

Meanwhile, Colby Cohen, the between-the-benches analyst the previous two seasons, announced he has left his role with the Hawks and NBC Sports Chicago and is heading home to the Philadelphia area.

“I’m leaving with a lot of gratitude,” he said.

Pang spent 14 seasons working the bench for St. Louis Blues games before his contract with Bally Sports Midwest expired last season. He also has worked for TNT on national broadcasts.

With the Hawks, Pang will team up with play-by-play announcer Chris Vosters as the color analyst in the booth.

Pang, who stood out during his NHL playing career as a 5-foot-5 goaltender, played 81 games for the Hawks, all but one between 1987 and 1989.

“Panger” often makes himself the butt of jokes during broadcasts, rarely turning down an opportunity to play up the entertainment side of hockey.

“He’s always a character,” Hawks coach Luke Richardson said in November about his fellow Ottawa native, who joined the TNT crew for a Hawks-Blues game at the United Center.

When Pang’s services became available for any NHL team, Cohen said he could see the writing on the wall.

“It’s all pretty fresh,” Cohen told the Tribune. “When I heard about the Darren Pang news seven or eight days ago, I started to think, ‘Hmm.’ I wondered what that means for me and my future with the organization.

“I always thought there was a chance that maybe I would be a placeholder there, just seeing as I’m not an (alumnus) and whatnot. And so we just kind of realized that I’m probably not the long-term answer in Chicago. So it’s probably the best time for them — and for us, really.”

Cohen is a new father. Daughter Sloane is 10 weeks old, something he and wife Alexandra had been considering since returning to “The Shore” in New Jersey, he said.

“Something we realized over the last couple of weeks, how great it is for us to be around our family, who have helped with our baby — it’s just been such a blessing for us,” he said. “So it kind of got us thinking a little that Chicago is great, and we’re grateful for our time there, but if things felt sort of iffy there, maybe it was the right time to mutually kind of go our separate ways.”

Cohen carries some memorable moments from his stint in Chicago, particularly getting to work with former Hawks color commentator Eddie Olczyk, who’s now serving in the same role for the Seattle Kraken.

“The first game that I did with Edzo, I was kind of like, ‘Wow, I’m between the benches with Eddie Olczyk,’” Cohen said. “That was a moment that I definitely will remember.”

Another perk was having a “front-row seat” for Patrick Kane’s final seasons in Chicago.

Cohen extended well-wishes to other members of the TV and radio crew.

“I hope (play-by-play announcer) Chris (Vosters) can learn the game and learn from Panger,” he said. “And I can’t say enough good things about (color analyst) Troy Murray. Troy is the first person that I heard from when the news got out.

“And it’s funny because Troy was also the first person I heard from when I got hired there a couple years ago, and I didn’t even know Troy. He was really sick (from cancer) at the time. … He’s a class act of a guy. (Radio play-by-play announcer) John Wiedeman couldn’t have treated me any better while I was there, couldn’t have been more classy toward me.”

Cohen said the multiple roles he filled tested him from the outset.

“My first season was challenging in that I was in a different role every game,” said Cohen, though he also called it a blessing. “It’s the booth, it’s between the benches, it’s the studio, it’s the podcast, it’s the Q&A live thing. I got to do all these different great things.”

Meanwhile, the Hawks auditioned several play-by-play candidates — including Vosters — to replace Hawks broadcasting legend Pat Foley, who was retiring after the 2021-22 season.

“I did almost every audition with their play-by-play guys … and it was challenging that first year to really get any chemistry or get comfortable in any one seat,” Cohen said.

Cohen isn’t sure yet what’s in store for him. He said he hasn’t reached out to the Philadelphia Flyers and isn’t sure when or if he’ll be up for another NHL role.

The Boston University alumnus also has called college hockey games, teaming up with Barry Melrose and John Buccigross for ESPN’s coverage of the NCAA Tournament and the Frozen Four, and Cohen hopes to continue that work.

He said he’s also open to working on the personnel side in the NHL if an opportunity becomes available.

“I don’t do what I do because I like the sound of my own voice,” he said. “I do it because I like sharing knowledge that I feel like I’ve developed over the course of my career and things that I’ve learned from a vastly different set of coaches and GMs and scouts.”

Cohen was a regular at Hawks practices and had access to key front-office figures.

“I have a lot of interest in player development,” he said. “I got really close with (general manager) Kyle Davidson when I was in Chicago, even before he became the GM. … I was always asking him questions about how they scout and trying to learn as much about that whole scouting and development phase as I could.

“I have no idea if that’s something that I will pursue, but being as close to it as I was in Chicago and then tying that into how much I like the college game and the prospect stuff — yeah, that might be something I look into because I do really enjoy that part of it.”

©2023 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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