Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Road-Trip Chornicles (Part Seven).

*Continued from Wednesday afternoon*

4:00 - We hop aboard the bus and we begin our voyage to Melville. I was unable to sleep at all in the afternoon due to the fact that Man vs. Food was on TV. I don't go out of my way to watch too many shows that aren't sports related, but MVF is one of them. Adam Richman has a pretty sweet gig.

4:15 - We leave the Farrell Agencies Arena after the boys have loaded their gear. Quite often the team will leave their equipment in a vacant dressing room until it's time to take off the next day. Most the fellas are already dressed in their suits and ties, while others are still in their street clothes, and will change on the bus before we arrive in Melville. Quite a few players have their head-phones in, and are already getting focused for the task at hand.

4:50 - We arrive in Melville, and immediately I leave the bus and I head behind the Star's bench to set up my equipment. In Melville a broadcaster has two options:

1) A corner broadcast booth.
2) Directly behind the player's benches.

I have never met a broadcaster that prefers a corner booth to anything, so the obvious choice here is to go behind the player's bench. I couldn't the last time I was in Melville because Craig Stein was also calling a game that night. The general rule (in my opinion) is that the home-team broadcaster gets first dibs on broadcast location. It's only fair.

5:11 - I have just completed my interview with Dale Jackson. The interview will during the first intermission of the broadcast. Dale and I spoke for nearly six full minutes which is a solid chunk of time. Again, I deeply admire his passion for the work that he does. Not all of us are wired for that type of thing, but Dale certainly is, and the Stars are lucky to have him.

5:30 - I have now completed interviews with both Ken Pearson and Keith Grondin. Pearson's attitude has not changed since our post-game conversation the night before. He stresses the importance of the two points at hand, and he specifically mentions Blake Tatchell and Colin Phaneuf as two players that need to be better in tonight's game. My interview with Grondin was about three-minutes long, and went smoothly as well. Grondin scored four goals the night before, but as usual was very humble and more team-driven than anything else.

5:35 - I knock on Melville Coach/GM Jamie Fiesel's door. No answer. He has yet to arrive.

6:00 - I am almost done my large black coffee, and I debate going to give coach Fiesel another try. I have spent the past 20 minutes or so in the Melville lobby, looking at old team photos and trophies, and I also spend some time talking with Tanner Schwab and Samuel Fortier. Schwab is scratched for tonight's game while Fortier is also sipping a pre-game coffee. Together we make small-talk about travel. It's moments like this that allow me to get a better idea of who these players are off the ice. Stars fans can take comfort in the fact that these kids are (for the most part) genuine, kind-hearted individuals off the ice who care deeply for their teammates and their community. Fortier is originally from Victoriaville which is an hour away from both Montreal and Quebec. He's almost always got a smile on his face, and he admits that he's enjoying life in the Battlefords.

I'd like to think that the players consider me a part of their team and family. I always make sure I'm friendly and encouraging to them. Off the top of my head I can't think of any particular player over the past four years that I haven't gotten along with. They realize that I have a job to do, and they are receptive to that. Part of the fun for me is making these kids sound good, and building them up through the radio and through the blog.

I've gone for the occasional meal with players throughout the years, but I'd confidently say that a majority of my dealings with the players are all hockey-related. I'll happily chat with a player about their life and my own, but I sure as hell won't be the one to critique their play, or give them life advice. Often during the summer I'll see some of the kids around town or on the golf-course, and we'll chat for a few minutes here or there, but I learned a long time ago that it's important to keep things professional. Players an coaches come and go, so it's important not to become 'too attached or dependant' on something or somebody in the Junior Hockey World.

6:15 - I have just finished an interview with Melville Coach/GM Jamie Fiesel. Fiesel is very easy to deal with. He's very approachable, and forthcoming, and he has a genuine love for coaching and for the town of Melville.

I take a lot of pride and put a lot of emphasis on my rapport with SJHL Coaches. I do my best to ask fair and educated questions, and I make sure to thank them for making time.

I don't have too many horror stories involving other team's coaches. I did have one coach refuse an interview with me last year because of some things that I alledgedly said about his team on a prior broadcast. It caught me off guard, and I admit that I was saddened by the fact that I had messed up my rapport with him, but at the same time I completely disagreed with his reasoning, and was able to defend myself and hold my head up high to the point where though I didn't get an interview, he did shake my hand and commend my effort. The Stars won 9-2 that night, so I quickly got over it.

6:45 - It's nearly time for me to head to the booth to watch pre-game warmup. For the past half-hour I've been back in the arena lobby chatting with Tony Oak's Dad and Kyle Hall's Dad and Grandpa. I'm informed that Hall's Grandpa is celebrating his 80th birthday. I mention that, "Hopefully Kyle can score one for you." He did. Happy birthday Grandpa Hall!

One of the greatest parts about my job is getting a chance to meet and get to know the parents of the players. Quite often they will come and find me at the rink and chat with me for a few moments about the team, the upcoming game, and life outside of hockey.

Being a hockey parent surely can't be easy when you're child is away from home in a different city. Hopefully this blog and the radio broadcasts serve as a source of comfort to them knowing they can log on and either read or hear that their kids are doing okay.

When My Mom passed away this past summer, I received some very kind e-mails, and phone calls from several players and parents. To this day, that means more to me than you'll ever truly know.

7:10 - I am now connected to my operator back at master control and all-set to go. Here's to a great game.

*The Stars fall 6-3 to Melville.

10:30 - We have left Melville and are on the bumpy road back home. Each player has a bag of A&W food kindly purchased by the coach and is quietly eating. Most players have already changed out of their suits and into their normal street clothes. No win - No movie. So if we're going to have a quiet bus-ride home, we might as well do so comfortably.

3:15 AM *This morning* - After two tries at successfully typing all of this, I can happily say that the journey is complete. The bus pulls into the Civic Center parking lot, and the kids, coaches and broadcaster unload their gear and they head-home to bed. The 6-3 loss still lingers in the mind of everybody involved. The life of a junior-hockey player/broadcaster is an enjoyable one, but can also be bitterly harsh when the results don't always go as planned.

With that, the Road-Trip Chronicles have come to an end. I hope you have found these pieces entertaining and informative. Again, I am extremely grateful for the positive feedback and comments that I have already received.

Doing the radio broadcasts for the Battlefords North Stars is a rewarding experience that I do not take for granted. All I've ever wanted to do in life is be a hockey broadcaster, and I am blessed to be able to do so for each of the past five winters, and I don't plan on slowing down.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this, as much as I enjoy living it.

Don't be a stranger.

- Dan O'Connor
The Voice of the North Stars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great Job Dan! The Stars deserved better on that road trip but thats the way hockey goes sometimes.
Terriers Fan!