"Saying Goodbye & Happy Hockey Everyone"June 26, 2012 - United States Hockey League (USHL) Tri-City Storm
That phrase led off each of my 360 games broadcasting hockey, which includes exactly 200 games with the Tri-City Storm.
That was also the phrase I used on April 17, 2012 to begin the broadcast on Classic Hits 98.9 FM in Game 2 at Waterloo. Not knowing at the time, Game 2 would become my final play-by-play broadcast in hockey, including with the Storm.
Following eight seasons in hockey and 12 years in broadcasting, I have decided that it is time to say goodbye to the business to pursue new career endeavors that are close to my heart. In addition, it is time to spend more time with my wife and son, who have been supportive in so many ways.
I thought as I leave the game I love to broadcast, I would share with everyone what this career has meant to me, and the people I'm extremely grateful for in this business. I apologize in advance if I forget to mention someone. There are hundreds of people that have made an impact on my life and in this business.
There is an overwhelming emotion bestowed on me as I write and try to organize my thoughts. It is hard to describe, however I will do my best to "paint a picture" of this amazing time leading me into broadcasting, hockey and working for the Storm.
Ever since I can remember, I would listen to Bill Schonely (Mr. RIP City, as some may know) broadcast for the Portland Trail Blazers through an alarm clock radio in my bedroom that my father got me when I was roughly my son's age (three or four years old).
I remember falling in love with radio and the idea that someone could use words to "paint a picture" without physically seeing anything. This is still probably one of my favorite childhood memories. Thank you Dad and Mr. Schonely!
When I was seven years old, I started to think calling sporting events is something that I wanted to do with my life. It became the dream that I would pursue for over 20 years.
Being exposed to hockey from my Canadian relatives (mostly my grandfather), I knew that was the sport that spoke to me the most. Also, I figured it was the sport I was capable of keeping up with the most on the broadcast due to my ability to talk quick.
I would listen to the Portland Winterhawks' former broadcaster Dean "Scooter" Vrooman, and occasionally when it was dark enough for the AM frequencies to travel further at night, I would listen to the Calgary Flames' Hall of Fame broadcaster Peter Maher on that same alarm clock my father bought me. (By the way, my brother did not like rooming with me when we were young kids, as the radio was always on.)
Those two play-by-play hockey broadcasters triggered my hunger more and more to do the same as them. Adding to the opportunity of sitting next to Tri-City Americans broadcaster Craig West, and listening to him broadcast a game about nine years ago proved to hook me for good (or so I thought at least)!
My start and first fulltime job in hockey would come thanks to a Junior B team in Vancouver, Wash. named the Fort Vancouver Pioneers.
It was there that I would begin the phrase "Happy Hockey" and develop some distinct goal calls that are often a start to the conversation with fans and co-workers alike. My wife was always the person that would nix or approve those calls, as she listened to the games from time-to-time.
The simplicity of selling hockey to small groups of fans was an enjoyable thing to do, and so I wanted to continue up the latter. Nevertheless, the Pioneers were my stepping-stone, and I'm grateful for the several people who were involved.
After a few stops along the way, and working one season for the Bismarck Bobcats, I reached out to Storm V.P. of Marketing and Game Operations Kyle Means about the one-year absence of the Storm being on the radio. We talked on the phone at a greater-length than he wanted, but he was never opposed to meet with me in Kearney that summer and discuss if I could assist in the matter.
Upon my arrival to Central Nebraska with my wife and infant son, I met with Mr. Means for an interview in a crazy humid building that has changed in so many ways since visiting on that summer day in 2009.
Kyle and I talked at depth about the opportunity and the challenges that were present. However, I remained hopeful that I could broadcast someday for the Storm.
The next step in Kearney was to talk to Storm President Greg Shea, who at the time was still away from hockey working for the Kearney Area Chamber of Commerce. He met my small family in his office at the Chamber building, as the meet-and-greet turned into a sudden job interview. It was an interview that I was fully happy to have happened.
Weeks following my visit to Kearney, I received an offer to work for the Storm as the Director of Media Relations and Broadcasting. Thank you to both Kyle and Greg, as you were important to my decision to come to this place I call home.
During the first month with the Storm, I would stay with a billet family in Kearney while I was in search of a place to live in a tough housing market to find anything. So, Al & Andee Stuehm agreed to take me in and get me acclimated to "The Good Life" (the slogan for Nebraska for those that don't know). They assisted in helping me find a place, tour the town, and meet new people. My family is grateful for the Stuehm family, whom we are still happy to spend time with on occasion.
As I went along on my job during that month, I finally met Storm Owner Kirk Brooks days after I started. At first, I thought he was a maintenance worker since he was working on projects in the arena. To my surprise, he was the owner and you could sense his passion immediately in the initial meeting.
Mr. Brooks was, and is, a hands-on owner, who demands the very best from himself as well as everyone associated with the logo. I knew back then that I would have to try to be at my best as much as humanly possible. That knowledge forced me into learning new things to do my job the best. Thank you Mr. Brooks for giving me a chance to live my dream and learn every day with the Storm.
With any job there are teammates you have to work with daily, and for me it has been working with Storm/Viaero Event Center V.P. of Operations/Communications Todd Gottula and Director of Finance/Graphic Designer Dana Wright.
Working with Todd, I was challenged and encouraged daily to become a better writer and media relations director. Our relationship was challenging at times, as he pushed me like great coaches push their players to become the best. However, he helped shape me to the person I am today, and I will always call him a mentor and friend.
When it came to needing a friend to talk to about work, Dana was that sounding board for me. He inspired new ideas that we worked on together, and he is a friend that I admire for his countless hours helping me perform my duties at fluent rate. Thank you to Todd and Dana, I will miss working with you guys on a daily basis. You both mean a lot to me and my future success.
Then there is the hockey operations staff and players that I owe a deeper thank you as well. When I was with Fort Vancouver to start my career, I realized quickly that while I didn't play in the games, I was a part of the team in the way I interacted with the coaches, trainers, equipment managers, and players on a daily basis. And, in most cases on a nightly basis as well.
I have spent approximately 700 nights on the road in my eight-year hockey career with different hockey staff members and players. That is nearly two years combined with people that become a family in this business. We all pick each other up when things are rough and celebrate success when things are good. Thank you to all of the hockey staff members and players who were a part of my family over the last eight years. There are simply too many people to mention that I would feel bad for not mentioning, if I mentioned one. You are always a part of my life and family.
I need to thank the fans, parents of players, and media that made my job amazing in Tri-City and other stops along the way. There is so many of you out there that I appreciate and will miss interacting with on a daily basis. You are all part of what makes this job a pleasure to do and I will miss calling the games for you!
Finally, a thank you to the people I'm leaving this career to be with more - My wife, Emily and son, Kellen. Emily and Kellen, I love you so much and it means a great deal to me that you stood by me while pursuing a childhood dream. I hope that I can now do the same for you as a husband and father, as you have done for me over the last eight years.
Again, thank you to everyone for being a part of this childhood dream that I have had the chance to live. I feel tremendously blessed to have gotten the chance to pursue my career and learn from many people who have influenced my life.
So, for the final time, I say to all of you - "Happy Hockey Everyone!"
United States Hockey League Stories from June 26, 2012
- "Saying Goodbye & Happy Hockey Everyone" - Tri-City Storm
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