Inside the NBA on TNT host Charles Barkley is an NBA legend well-known for his love of hockey, but that apparently doesn't mean much to Vegas Golden Knights star Jack Eichel, a rival to the Florida Panthers' Matthew Tkachuk, who Charles is a fan of.
At least, that’s how Barkley felt about an exchange the two had at a Florida hotel before Game 4 of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final. Barkley was in Florida after covering the NBA Finals between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets, allowing him to also pay a visit to the Florida Panthers. This led to an interview where Chuck shared a story of him meeting Jack Eichel.
“I was at the hotel. I walked up to Jack Eichel and said how great he was. I think he had zero idea who I was. I did. He was at the hotel. We were at the same hotel. I said, ‘Hey, Mr. Eichel, it's an honor. You're a great player. You're a great player.' But he looked at me like, ‘Who the hell are you?'” Barkley said during an interview with Sportsnet’s Kyle Bukauskas. “It was funny.”
Unless a person has been living under a rock, it's impossible for that person to not know who Sir Charles is. Then again, it’s possible that Eichel recognized Barkley and “Sir Charles” merely got the wrong idea.
Another theory could be that Eichel views Chuck as a Matthew Tkachuk guy, and thus decided to cold-shoulder the former NBA star after all. Remember, Barkley raved about Tkachuk, saying he's even better than his father Keith was, and the NBA on TNT broadcast once featured Tkachuk hamming it up with Barkley, Shaq & Co. while the Florida Panthers were awaiting the winner of the series between the Golden Knights and Dallas Stars.
One theory that’s less fun: maybe Eichel is banged up? Earlier in the Stanley Cup Final, Tkachuk landed a thunderous hit on Eichel, one that had people worried about serious injury implications for Eichel. Fortunately and impressively, Eichel avoided missing much time, but that doesn’t mean he’s at full strength.
Maybe Eichel would’ve been like a kid at a candy store meeting Barkley under different circumstances.