February 16, 2013 - National Lacrosse League (NLL) - Rochester Knighthawks
While veteran forward Dan Dawson is two points away from his 900th career point, and Mike Accursi is five shy of 800, Rochester Knighthawks' broadcaster Craig "Ripper" Rybczynski will reach a milestone of his own on Saturday.
Rybczynski, who is entering his 12th season as the voice of the Knighthawks' radio and television play-by-play and his 14th with the team, will be calling his 200th consecutive game tonight against the Buffalo Bandits.
The Hamburg, NY native called his first Knighthawks game on November 24, 2001, and he hasn't missed a game since, including two National Lacrosse League titles.
"We played the Albany Attack," said Rybczynski about his first game. "I know we won 22-16. It was a little nerve-racking, especially when you have to call all of those goals. I was really nervous because you never want to make a mistake, especially when you're taking over for the likes of Rich Funke. He was the first broadcaster and there were a couple of good broadcasters after him. I wanted to follow in their footsteps."
Rybczynski's ironman streak appeared to be in jeopardy when his wife, Amy, became pregnant with the couple's second child and her due date was set for the middle of the season. Fortunately, the couple welcomed their second son to the world on Friday, February 15th, less than 24 hours before his milestone game.
"I've never thought about missing a (Knighthawks) game ever," said Rybczynski, who did miss a Rochester Rattlers' broadcast for the birth of his first son, Jacob. "I've been sick, really sick, where I had to call a game raspy in Philadelphia with a sinus infection. There are other games where I have splitting headaches."
As an undergraduate communications student at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., Rybczynski began his broadcasting career as the color commentator for the college's hockey team. He called play-by-play for the team during his junior and senior years. His favorite season was in 1995 when the team made school history.
"My senior year we went to the Division II Finals, so I got to broadcast the NCAA Finals in Division II hockey," he said. "We won the ECACs to get there and we hardly ever won that. We beat RIT and (eventual Knighthawk) Steve Toll was on that team."
Rybczynski mentioned that while working for the Lakers, he had a trademark goal-call for the team's top scorer.
"We used to have a guy named John Johnson. He was from a small town, Ford City, Pa. When he scored I'd say 'Wake up Ford City, Johnny has turned on the light!'"
He also commentated for various other sports on campus, and hosted a show on Mercyhurst's college radio station, WMCE 88.5 FM, during the summer of 1995.
"I had my own show and I did it every day," Rybczynski said. "The days of the 90s with Snoop Dogg, who was really big back then. I remember using cassette tapes because there were no CDs back then. It was a good experience."
After Mercyhurst, he earned a master's degree in newspaper journalism from Syracuse University. His first job took him back to Erie as he worked for two seasons in the sports information department at Mercyhurst College (1997-99). He arrived in Rochester in September 1999 and joined the Americans and Knighthawks.
For over a decade, he worked then managed communications department for the Amerks. He also managed communications for the Rattlers and Rhinos during his tenure in Rochester. In 2006, he was named the NLL's Public Relations Executive of the Year.
Rybczynski states that one of the most memorable moments of his broadcasting career was the 2012 Champion's Cup, which the Knighthawks won 9-6 over the Edmonton Rush on May 19, 2012 at The Blue Cross Arena.
"I'd have to say the championship game of 2012 was some of the most fun I've had because we were losing by four in the first half, then to come back and have all that momentum," he said. "It was probably one of the most exciting broadcasts I've ever had the chance of doing."
Mike Accursi's iconic nickname "No Mercy" was and still is one of Rybczynski's favorite monikers to use on air, but he wanted to apologize again to the McCready's, Joel and Pat.
"For some reason, Pat and Joel McCready just killed me," Rybczynski said. "Pat and his wife just had a kid, and I said it was Joel. They told me afterwards, and I can't believe I did that. I always messed up Pat and Joel. For one broadcast, I went back and forth just messing it up, and I even apologized during the broadcast."
Tonight, he will have the opportunity to call another Knighthawks game from his familiar perch at The Blue Cross Arena.
"I really have a lot of fun doing it," Rybczynski said. "You shouldn't be doing it if do don't have a lot of fun. I really enjoy preparing and sitting there and getting ready for games. I generally get really excited about every single game that I get to broadcast."