Posts Tagged ‘hockey’

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

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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.

Jordan Eberle Goal

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

Welcome to another entry to our ongoing blog of Play by play stories, we are lucky to have been joined today by the PBP voice of the Powell River Kings as well as the editor of The Broadcaster Hub (www.thebroadcasterhub.com) Alex Rawnsley:
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Alex, How long have you been in broadcasting?

The upcoming season will be my 5th year broadcasting, and my 3rd season with the Powell River Kings in the BCHL. I began doing regular hockey games in 2010/2011 with the Cariboo Cougars in the British Columbia Major Midget League. The team made the league final that year, but got swept by North West.
Prior to that I worked for a season with the Prince George Fury, a now defunct indoor soccer franchise. I got to travel across Canada and into the North-West United States with the team.
When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?
Being born in Australia, it would be hard to say I’ve known all my life I wanted to be a hockey announcer. I’ve known most of my life that I wanted to do something in sports. Originally it was the player and team management side, the business aspect of this industry, but in 2003 I fell in love with broadcasting, worked and went to school for the technical and production side of the television industry, and then transitioned into play-by-play from there.

I think I knew this is what I wanted to do when I was with the Cougars during the 10/11 season. Every spare moment I had was put into prep, or web site stuff, or anything related to the team. I figured that if I was working this hard when I wasn’t getting paid, and I still liked it, then I could be onto something.
How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?
It’s constant. I don’t sit down and say ‘ok I’m going to prep for 2 hours.’ I consider my morning blog reading prep, any chats I have with other announcers is prep. In terms of sitting down, pouring over numbers and getting my paperwork ready, I’d say about 2-3 hours. The bulk of my time is spent reading reports and blogs, talking with players and coaches from both teams, and having nice anecdotes to work into the show, as opposed to just numbers.

What sports do you currently broadcast?
I currently only cover hockey, however I would love to branch out a little. I did an international baseball tournament in Prince George in 2011 and that was a lot of fun. I’m not really a baseball ‘fan’, but had a blast calling games, because the pace of the game really allowed you to tell stories. I’ve been asked to do roller derby too, and will do that this summer.

Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting?
Directly related to hockey, guys like Jim Hughson and Doc Emrick are the two guys I look to and say ‘ok, that’s what to do’. I try not to copy anyone, but have taken methods and phrases from a variety of different announcers, even ones I work with. I am also huge fans of both Richie Benaud and Bruce McAvaney, two Australian announcers. Richie is the Vin Scully of Australian cricket, and a true master of the artform. McAvaney is a talented network announcer who covers multiple sports, ranging from track and field to Australian Rules Football.

Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?

I don’t think so. I don’t look at a game and say “oh I have to copy that”. If I came out and starting poaching “Holy Mackinaw” and “Great Save (goaltender)”, then I think it would come off as corny. The thing I take most from other announcers are vocab…ways to describe different areas of the playing surface. Perhaps it’s an ordinary term I haven’t thought of, that really works. What is your favorite on air story you can share with us?

One of my favourite coaches interviews happened late into my 1st season in the BCHL. For his sake, I won’t mention who it was, but it was before the game and I was chatting to the other team’s head coach for my pre-game show. The Coach and I had a good repore, and often spoke more off air than we did on.
During the interview, he was trying to eat a mandarin orange. While I would ask a question, he would eat a piece, and while he was answering a question, he would peel the next one. The only catch was he kept dropping that next piece, and every time he did, he’d give me a look as if to say “I can’t believe I just did that.”
We were getting to the end of the interview, and by this time, there are 2-3 pieces of orange at his feet. He had tried to pick them up while I asked a question, but they were slippery. I didn’t see it happen at the time, but also during the interview, a piece of orange pulp had jumped up and was sitting on his eyebrow. I noticed it during my last question, but kept a straight face.
He answered the question, with the pulp on his eyebrow. In closing, I finished the interview with “Thanks (Name), and there’s a piece of orange on your eye brow”. We both just paused and he burst out laughing. He gave me a look, again as if to say “I can’t believe that happened” and we had a good chat about it after. I cut out the final line for air, but that remains one of my favourite interviews I’ve done.

You’ve recently started your own broadcasting resource website, could you tell us a little bit about that?
Shameless plug….The Broadcaster Hub (http://www.thebroadcasterhub.com/) is a resource web site for sports broadcasters. It features both original content, as well as links to other places on the web with information and resources specific to the play-by-play industry.

I was constantly trying to find this information, and then when I did find it, I’d often lose it and have to seek it out again. I design my own web sites on the side, including an online portfolio for myself, so I felt I had the skills to build this site. It’s started off well, the response has been very positive, and I’m excited to see it grow with both original and linked content.
Be sure to check out http://www.thebroadcastinghub.com as it is a very valuable resource for any play by play guy, and follow Alex on twitter @alexrawnsley

ALVIN WASHINGTON

“Commitment to Tomorrow’s Champions”.  That’s been the underlying force behind veteran play-by-play man Alvin Washington.  One of the co-founders of ISNet Sports Media, Washington has been with the company since its inception at Chicago State University in 1995.  Having cut his proverbial chops with the Chicago State women’s basketball team, Washington has had the opportunity to call events in such iconic venues as Soldier Field, U-S Cellular Field, Wrigley Field and the United Center.

 
How long have you been in broadcasting?

2013 marks my 18th year doing sports, 24th overall.
When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?
Mass communication seminar at a university in New Orleans in 1988

How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?

usually 2 days; six hours if I know the opponents really well.

What sports do you currently broadcast?

Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, water polo and softball.

Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting?

Considering I’m African-American, most of the broadcasters i saw growing up were athletes.  However, further proliferation of technology in the media world has allowed me to look up to such current luminaries as Greg Gumbel, Stuart Scott, Mike Tirico, and baseball’s last Black man to do play by play for the Major Leagues, Paul Oden.

Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?

I study those who are at the next level, but in the end, I can only be me.  And in these past 18 years, I think I’ve done a good job of doing that.

What is your favorite on air story you can share with us?

One thing I love doing is picking random commentators who may be off from their beat to join me on the broadcast and it becomes an instant classic for the both of us.  One that comes to mind was a 2005 Sweet 16 basketball game in Illinois between Waukegan and Glenbrook North.  I grabbed a sportscaster from the host school (Loyola-Chicago) station
join me on the call.  It turned out to be a memorable night indeed.  Oh yeah, some kid named Jon Scheyer was playing.
 
If there is anything else or any stories you really want to share please feel free to do so.
The Internet age has slowly allowed minorities to further themselves in the world of play-by-play, especially at the college level.  It is my sincere hope that they understand what it takes to be the best at this craft, because it doesn’t come overnight.
As these interviews have been viewed more and have gone on I’ve gotten offers from some amazing people that I respect a ton(both the people interviewed already and some that are coming up here in the future) to do these, and here is another one I am so grateful to be able to share with you in legendary broadcaster Phil Giubileo. Phil for those of you who don’t know is a legendary voice from New York who came out of Fordham and is currently the play by play voice of the AHL affiliate of the NY Islanders, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
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Phil, How long have you been in broadcasting?
A long time! I started working professionally in 1995 after graduating from Fordham University, where I worked at WFUV during my time in school, including two years as the station’s Sports Director. My very first paid broadcasting assignment was the 1995 Little League East Regional, where I worked for a syndicator called ISI Sports and called the games for three stations, and earned a whopping $250 and hotel room for my time.
When did you know that it was what you wanted to do?
I didn’t realize that I wanted to be a play-by-play announcer until I actually started doing it at WFUV. I did go to Fordham mainly to work at the radio station, as I used to call the weekly sports show, One-on-One, which is (still) New York’s longest running sports call-in show. I was a regular caller during most of my time in high school, and it gave me the itch to want to work in broadcasting. At the time, 24-hour sports talk was very much still a new concept, as WFAN was only a couple of years old at the time.
 
However, once I was working at WFUV, I had the chance to meet Marty Glickman, who coached us in play-by-play. I was hooked immediately once I actually started calling demo broadcasts early in my sophomore year in football and basketball.
How much time do you spend preparing for a broadcast?
I attempt to be fairly efficient in how I prepare for my broadcasts, and over a long hockey season, it does get easier over time. Typically I spend a couple of hours preparing for my next broadcast, which isn’t always easy or convenient when you have three games in three nights. Fortunately in my situation I see the same teams, and I know the league very well, so it doesn’t take me as much time for instance, when the Bridgeport Sound Tigers are playing the Connecticut Whale for the 6th time (as they are tonight 2/1/13), as opposed to when they played back on October 12th, which was the season opener.

What sports do you currently broadcast?

 

My primary sport at this point is hockey. I’m in my 7th season of broadcasting for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in the AHL. I also do a marathon day of broadcasting women’s basketball once a year for the Big East, as I am the play-by-play voice of the Women’s Big East Tournament opening round, which is exclusively covered on BigEast.tv (i.e., the only round that is not on broadcast television). I’ll be handling that task once again in March, but unlike past seasons where I’ve had to prepare to call four opening round games; there are only three this season.
 Who are/were the people you look/looked up to in broadcasting?
I was a complete NBA junkie as a kid (not so much anymore). I looked up to Marv Albert and Mike Breen as far as basketball announcers go. I thought when Breen was calling the Knicks on radio that he was the best in the business at the time. As much as I love baseball, I didn’t really have any announcers that I looked up to, but I enjoyed listening to games on radio as well.
 
It probably wasn’t until I was in college when I started listening to broadcasters differently then when I was a kid, and really started to appreciate the work of a number of top guys. In regards to baseball, there’s nobody better than Vin Scully, but I also liked the work of Jack Buck. I also thought Buck was underrated as a football play-by-play announcer as well.
 
As far as hockey announcers went, I liked Gary Thorne’s call. Great pipes and called a solid game. He was getting a lot of great assignments back in the early 1990’s.
 
In regards to today’s broadcasters, I would say that I honestly am not a fan of most NFL play-by-play announcers on radio. I think the sport (on radio) has devolved into an unabashed homer fest. As an East Coast guy, I like my play-by-play to be somewhat unbiased, yet still have an exciting call. The New York guys (Bob Papa w/the Giants and Bob Wischusen w/the Jets) do come as close as you can get. What you hear from some of these other cities is actually pretty hysterical. As far as TV goes, I think Ian Eagle does a splendid job on whatever he calls, but I like his NFL work in particular.
With baseball, I am still very much a Mets fan, and I really appreciate the work of their whole crew on SNY (Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling), as well as Howie Rose on Mets radio.
 
Since I work primarily in hockey, I have the obligation to listen/watch to as much of it as possible when I’m not calling games, especially since I also freelance for the NHL as well voicing over highlight packages that are broadcast in the arenas during games. Nobody calls a better game than Doc Emrick, and it’s hard to find many who would disagree. Although I am not a Rangers fan, I’m a big Sam Rosen fan, and he does a great job, as does Howie Rose with the Islanders on TV.
 
In terms of hockey broadcasters on radio, I think that John Wiedeman on the Blackhawks radio network. He used to call games for the Islanders, although he left just as I joined the Sound Tigers, so I’ve never had the opportunity to speak with him. He calls a game on radio about as well as you can call one, very descriptive and energetic. There are a lot of very good guys calling games at the NHL level, but there are just as many in the AHL that (in my opinion) are just as good. It’s been great to see a number of AHL announcers move up in the past several years!
Is there anyone you emulate, and if so in what way?
I try to call my own game. One of the things that I learned from Marty Glickman (and it’s a thought echoed by Vin Scully) is that you have to be yourself. The most unique thing you can bring to the broadcast is YOU.
 
However, I do think about what certain broadcasters do very well and try to ensure that is part of my broadcast, but in my own way. So when I call a hockey game, I want to make sure that I’m covering all of the basics (time, score, description of the play) because those are still the most important things to bring to a broadcast on radio. However, I really like that Doc Emrick is great with varying his vocabulary, and I like that Howie Rose will bring some levity and humor at times to his call (his ability to do this definitely comes from his extensive baseball work), but isn’t a “catch phrase” guy or tries to be overly witty.
 
I was fortunate enough to learn about hockey play-by-play under former St. Louis Blues voice Ken Wilson, who called games for 20 seasons. He was also highly regarded as a baseball announcer, where he worked for a number of teams and called some big moments (including Pete Rose’s record breaking hit). Ken really called a great game, both on radio and TV. He did have one big catch phrase (Ohh Baby) that was shared with John Davidson (who used it frequently when he was an analyst), but he taught me a lot about how to effectively call a game, which was important considering that I was hired to work in the USHL without any hockey experience whatsoever in 2003.
 
I call pretty much a straight up game, without a ton of “bells and whistles”. By that, I try to make the game the experience, and not (as other announcers sometimes do) make it about me. Hockey is a fast-paced, hard-hitting sport, and I use my voice to describe it as such. So yes, I get very excited during my call on a big hit or a fight, or a big save/goal. What I don’t do is quote movies or make up catchphrases that try to show off my pop culture knowledge or wittiness. There are opportunities to bring that part of my personality to the game, but not at the expense of the on-ice action.
What was it like to work under the legendary Marty Glickman (a legendary man, athlete and broadcaster in his own right, people please go look him up)
The most amazing experience one could have as a young broadcaster. I wouldn’t be in this business if not for Marty. I could spend hours and hours here recounting stories, but instead, here’s a link to an article I wrote a few months ago that gives a little insight on my time with Marty:
Outside of sports you’ve worked for some who’s who in terms of broadcasting like Sean Hannity and Curtis Sliwa, how much did you learn from those experiences and what was that like?
I worked at WABC for a couple of years, as well as one of the first online broadcasters (talkspot.com) in the late 90’s, and they were both great experiences. I learned important skills like how to be a good show producer as well as how to drive a good talk show. As far as my sports broadcasting goes, working with those guys really didn’t do much in that regard, but in terms of hosting talk programming, I learned a lot into how to grab an audience and hold them.
 
Mostly it was a lot of fun. I once produced a four-hour show for Curtis about White Castle burgers. He would often do off-the-wall topics that were engaging to fans regardless of your political leanings, and that made it fun to listen to. It wasn’t national politics 100% of the time as you see today in the major markets. Even Sean Hannity was different on radio when I was at WABC when compared to his national program. Back then we were on from 11pm – 2am, and he also covered local topics as well as the national ones. There was definitely more time (re: less national sponsors, etc.) and as a result, the programming was definitely more interesting.
 
What I might have learned from these guys (who are both heavy hitters in the talk world, especially Sean) is that it’s very important to be good to the people that you work with, and treat them with respect. Just because someone gains national popularity shouldn’t mean that you still can’t be a nice person. Some people forget about that and let their egos get in the way—and it’s still ok to have a big ego (it’s hard to carry a national show w/o one), but you can still treat others with respect—it’s not mutually exclusive.
 
I also learned how to cover major events. While in Seattle I was a senior producer for the news/politics channel, and I covered Columbine and the whole Bill Clinton/Monicagate scandal. I had never covered that level of breaking news, so it certainly added skills for my overall broadcast toolbox.
What is your favorite on air story you can share with us?
Well, my favorite single game broadcast experience was a triple-overtime game that the Danbury Trashers won up in Glens Falls against the Adirondack Frostbite during the 2005 Colonial Cup Playoffs. It was an amazing game between two rivals, and the game didn’t end until nearly 2am. Barry Melrose and Steve Levy were co-owners of the Frostbite and both attended the game. They sold beer until they ran out sometime during the 2nd overtime. There was a good crowd and they were lubed up. Made for a fun atmosphere!
 
In terms of something a little different—I called a minor league game once with Joe Pott (the old Sonic Crosstown Clash between the River City Rascals and Gateway Grizzlies) and during one of the games in Sauget, Illinois (was GMC Stadium at the time), we had to deal with the experience of a streaker who jumped onto the field and ran from foul pole to foul pole before finally getting tackled and removed by security.
 
We wouldn’t give the guy the respect of describing what was going on, so we basically talked over the event (basically there’s an idiot causing a disturbance that is delaying the game type of stuff), but we had quite a laugh over it during the commercial breaks.
Thank you so much for doing this Phil, it is much appreciated.
You’re quite welcome! I always enjoy the opportunity to talk about broadcasting, and I do think it’s important to give back to those who wish to be part of the industry. It’s a great industry and I love calling games. There are certainly quite a few challenges, especially personal ones, which go into doing this for a living, so you really have to take a personal inventory of what you want out of life if this is something you’re going to pursue. I don’t think many younger guys and gals who want to do this really think about the potential personal sacrifice that they’re making by choosing to work as a sports broadcaster—especially those who wish to get rich off of it—because as most of us know, that’s not happening for 99% of us.