Our interview this week is with the play by play voice of the Edmonton Oilers Jack Michaels. You can follow jack on twitter @edmontonjack and read his NHL mock draft at http://oilers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=675018
Jack, How long have you been in broadcasting?
- 20 years…fortunate enough to go to a great school, especially in terms of getting on the air right away, like Ithaca College.
When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?
- 1989 Preakness stretch drive between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer. Dave Johnson had an unbelievable call….and even though I was just a kid, I already was aware of my athletic limitations.
How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?
- Hockey is a pretty compressed schedule, so a lot of work comes before the season ever starts….once you’re in the midst of it, though, from game-to-game it goes something like this…..I usually read a at least a week’s worth of articles about the opponent, so I know what’s going on and has been with them. I’ll also watch their previous game with their commentators so I can take appropriate notes….I’ll already have done flow charts with their lines and D-men before the year, but I’ll update that as well due to injuries/call-ups. I’ll then go to their pre-game skate and work the room afterward, recording a couple of interviews and just getting the general tenor…then I’ll move onto the game notes for both clubs, fill out my scorebook and I should be good. For the Oilers, I attend every practice and media session leading up to and for all games, so I usually don’t have a ton of prep on that side—just make sure I catch any pertinent milestones or trends against a given opponent. My prep is done at least four hours before the start of a game…that way I’m relaxed and ready to roll—NO EXCUSE FOR NOT BEING PREPARED!
Have you always done just hockey?
- Not at all…If you’d asked me when I was 20 I would’ve said that would have been least likely…..I’ve done baseball, basketball, football, soccer, lacrosse, wrestling, and even a few greyhound races.
Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting?
- As I mentioned, Dave Johnson in horse racing. Doc Emrick and Mike Lange in hockey. Pat Summerall in football, Vin Scully in baseball, and Dick Stockton in basketball. I’d argue long and hard that Doc, Pat, Vin, and Dick are unquestionably the best in the four major sports…..as far as scripted, John Fascenda, and it’s not even close….I cannot begin to tell you how many hours of NFL Films I watched as a kid.
Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?
- Doc—My Dad was in higher education for 40 years, and even he is impressed with Doc’s ability to weave in a vastly superior vocabulary into a telecast that’s highly intelligent without being pompous.
Which sport that you’ve called would you say is your favorite?
- I like calling hockey the best….but as far as a fan, I’m an NFL guy….not by much, but you can’t take the Western PA out of the boy even if you take him out of that region.
Are there any memorable stories from the booth you can share with us?
- I did a period with Steven Tyler at an Alaska Aces game….But my first game in the NHL, Battle of Alberta, the goal of the year, as it turned out (Jordan Eberle, look it up if you haven’t seen it), and a one-punch knockout….after nearly 1000 games in the minors, pretty hard to top that, ever.
What was it like to step into the shoes of such a great broadcaster in Rod Phillips who was known as the best Play by play guy in both the WHA and NHL (and who called over 3,000 games)?
- Never looked at it that way….He’s an absolute legend, and I’m proud to call him a friend now…even worked with him for 10 games in my first season. But I will never “step into the shoes” or “replace” Rod Phillips. I can only be myself, and over time, with consistent dedication and effort, I hope create my own niche in the Edmonton market.
Speaking of games, you yourself had called over 900 hockey games before even getting to Edmonton (including the ECHL All Star game 5 times), but what was it like getting the call from the Oilers and them asking you to be only the SECOND voice of the club in team history?
- It probably was the greatest day of my life. I was in Hawaii with my wife and two children, and we had a chance to celebrate it together in a beautiful setting. The call from the Oilers, however, was surpassed by the subsequent call—the call I made to my Dad immediately thereafter.
As an American calling hockey in a Canadian city how have you handled the criticism you’ve received?
- Fortunately, I haven’t run into that criticism. I’ve found Canadians are just like Americans when it comes to evaluating broadcasters. If you’re passionate about what you do and you’ve put in the work, it comes out in the broadcast and it doesn’t matter where you’re from.
Did living in Alaska prepare you for the cold winter nights in Edmonton?
- Absolutely—it’s actually a little colder, on average, in Edmonton. But Edmonton has plenty of sunshine so you don’t feel it as much. Dress warm, it’s not an issue. I love living in Edmonton and quite frankly, I enjoyed Anchorage as well.
Is it true that when you were working in the minors you once sold your penalty kill sponsorship to a funeral home?
- Not quite—boy, you’ve done your research….how on Earth did you know that? Never mind, I’m answering the questions….it was actually the Keys to the Game…..as in “Tonight’s keys to burying the Bakersfield Condors, brought to you by Witzleben Funeral Homes…..” Hey, anything to help the club and make a few bucks, right?
What advice would you give to someone trying to make a living in this business?
- Find a way to stay solvent and keep yourself in the game….whether it’s selling for the club you’re working for, working a little on the side to make some extra money—whatever it takes to keep your life moving forward (spouse, kids, house) while keeping the dream alive. The less sacrifice you feel you’re making from a life perspective, the more likely you are to outlast the numbers game that’s a huge part of this business.
Thanks again for reading PBP Stories, if you’d like to be interviewed or have someone you think I should check into interviewing please tweet me @michaelhirnpbp or send check out my website www.michaelhirn.com