Sunday, January 12, 2014

For One Day, I Was an AHL Lead Announcer

From today's game notes sheet
If I'm done today, if this is it (that sounds like a song), then I will always have this one.

Today, I was the lead announcer of a professional sports team: the Bridgeport Sound Tigers of the American Hockey League.

I don't take this honor lightly. Anything but.

I wanted so many times to be the lead dog of the Hudson Valley Renegades. Baseball - the game that is in my blood. I felt after years of being Sean Ford's accomplice, that I had earned a chance. The team went different ways each year after Sean left. So it goes.

But Phil Giubileo, the fabulous voice of the Sound Tigers, needed a number two to back him up. I didn't know if time would allow me to do so. I still don't, really.

Then I had a terrible crisis of confidence. It took me a while to figure out what it was all about, but I think I found it.

First, I had called one game since early 2012, a high school game on WGCH in March of 2013. I wouldn't call another hockey game until December.

Then I worked color with Phil on our first Sound Tigers games, before he had me handle the second period of a different game. I was off - way off. Didn't know the players. Didn't know the teams. Just felt lost.

To be honest, I was crushed. My second time was better, but not by much.

That feeling carried over to my work on Hersam Acorn Radio (and, maybe, WGCH soon). I felt like I couldn't find a rhythm.

Yesterday, with the familiarity of Darien and New Canaan in high school hockey (teams that I've seen a few times this season), I found a groove again. I heard some really kind words for John Kovach and I (along with Chris Kaelin and Josh Fisher) following our call of the 1-1 tie between the two rivals.

That led to today. There is no doubt that I was absolutely terrified when I walked into Webster Bank Arena around Noon. I'll be blunt: if someone had said that I couldn't call the game, I think I would have said "OK."

At first, nobody knew who I was when I arrived.

Then the equipment was no where to be found. But, in quick order, Sound Tigers Communications Manager Corey Hersch showed up, and we grabbed the tools of the trade. I had things set up after that, and was soon escorted by Corey to the Sound Tigers locker room, where I interviewed captain Chris Bruton and head coach Scott Pellerin. Both men couldn't have been nicer and more accommodating.

I ate my lunch (burger and fries - ah, media food), and came up to the booth near section 105 to review my notes. Hartford Wolf Pack broadcaster Bob Crawford stopped by to introduce himself and we quickly spoke. He helped me with a few pronunciations.

The Silverfarb's - Beth, Connor, Luke, and papa Paul, stopped up to say hello, as they had tickets for the game. Richie Spezzano, a great hockey mind from Greenwich, was also in the crowd and texted me to say hello.

As air time approached, I made a sad discovery. AHL Live, the broadcasting arm of the American Hockey League, had not picked up our feed. As of game time, I wasn't on the air.

Phil Giubileo was monitoring things from New Haven, where his wife Tina had given birth to baby Bianca Louise. Corey Hersch tried to fixed things.

I - we - all decided that I would go on as if I was on the air. Did this help soothe my nerves? I suppose.

For one solid period, featuring numerous scuffles and penalties, as well as a 2-1 Sound Tiger lead, I broadcast the game to an audience of one: me.

But if you listen to the tape of the broadcast, you'll never know the difference.

Phil told me later on that the issue wasn't anything I did. The equipment was set up correctly. There was something wrong separate from the booth. The Sound Tigers had to use the radio call of the Portland Pirates for Saturday night's game, since I couldn't get to Bridgeport in time to fill-in for Phil following the Darien/New Canaan game. Perhaps things didn't get switched correctly. I honestly don't know.

As the second period began, it was now official: I was broadcasting professional minor league hockey.


I kept the same approach the first period: calm, hopefully professional, but excited at the right times. I was probably more excitable on Saturday, but today's call stayed more low-key. Yes, I'm sure I made my mistakes, and can absolutely get better, for I felt sort-of maybe kind of OK as I signed off. I kept it simple. I didn't worry about making highlights today so I could focus on the task at hand. So there were no post game highlights, and I'm good with that. I reported, told stories, shared laughs, and was essentially the same person I've been on the air.

Finally, it was over, and I said good night to the world. In quick order, a photographer stopped by to say that I did a great job, and that his son, a hockey player, was listening in Canada. He told his father, "Phil's great, but this guy is really good also." He said he was impressed.

I was stunned, and God knows those words meant a ton to me. Then I had a personal message from Tim Parry, and that also lifted my spirits. Plus I have the support of Lisa, who knew how nervous I was. The first two times I did play-by-play here for the Sound Tigers, working with Phil, just weren't what I expected.

I felt like a high school broadcaster. I honestly wasn't sure I belonged.

Before the game today, I gave myself a pep talk.

But what was the difference?

I remember that, back during the Renegades days, I always felt that it was Sean Ford's booth. And, to be honest, it was. When Geoff Brault and Nick Gagalis each came in, I knew it was their booth as well. The same went with Phil. It's not that any of these guys made me feel like an outsider. They couldn't have been more accommodating and accepting.

Even when I worked in the Bluefish booth last year, only doing color, it just wasn't my booth. I didn't want to mess things up for them.

Today, here, at Webster Bank Arena, on January 12, 2014, it was my booth.

I didn't own it (well, maybe I did for today), but merely kept the seat warm. Phil Giubileo is the voice of the Sound Tigers. Perhaps, one day, I will be again. I'm here if he needs me, and if I'm available.

But I can walk out of this arena, where I'm still sitting, proud of the fact that finally, after years of wanting it, I was the voice of a pro sports team.

Even if it was only for one day.

A few pictures from the booth.
The Sound Tigers celebrate after beating Hartford, 6-3.

During the warm-up.

A stick salute for the crowd of 6,006 in attendance.


Kenn Tomasch said...

Scott Pellerin was playing in the IHL back when I was calling minor-league hockey, kid!

Congrats. I am sure you did great.

Rob Adams said...

Thanks, KT, and thanks for the advice over on Facebook. Definitely something I'll keep in mind.