The life of an ECHL broadcaster

Published by Michael Keeley, Maine Mariners Media Relations and Broadcast Manager

As stressful as the job can be, this view makes it all worth it.

Living the dream isn't easy. Don't get me wrong: I wouldn't trade this job for the world. There are fewer than 100 teams in affiliated pro hockey, and I am blessed to be the broadcaster for one of them. There are hundreds if not thousands of people who would kill to be in my shoes. But I write this blog post today for those that may think the job entails three hours behind the mic and nothing more. I write not to complain, or brag, but to inform - about the sometimes hectic but always rewarding life of an ECHL broadcaster.

The road setup at Cool Insuring Arena in Glens Falls, NY.

From the time I realized and started sharing with people that I wanted to be a play-by-play announcer, I was told I'd have to develop other skills to make a full time career out of it. When people ask about my job, they commonly say "so, what do you do when you're not broadcasting?" In my time working in a full-time capacity as a hockey broadcaster, I've done sales, marketing, graphic design, social media, ticketing, ordering merchandise, booking travel - you name it. With the Mariners, my title is "Media Relations and Broadcast Manager." My weekly tasks take place within the marketing department, helping make the people of Portland and beyond aware of who we are and why they should come watch a game. But even on game days, there's much more than just the headset.

The media guide will be much larger next year when there are team records to report.

For a standard 7 PM home game, I arrive at the office at 9 AM. I leave the rink around 11 PM. Roughly two and a half hours is actually spent on the air. Such is the life of a full time broadcaster in minor league hockey. If I'm lucky, I've had some time to prepare in-depth for my broadcast a few days in advance of game day. Of course, with a 3-4 game per week schedule, this isn't always possible. On top of that, other tasks move to the front of the priority line, and of course, sleep is required. Often times, sleep is more a luxury in this business. Item #1 when I arrive at the rink is making sure both locker rooms (home and away) have ticket lists and game notes. I check in with our coaching staff to get that night's lineup, and then head back to the front office, to start killing trees.

Always recycle.

Starting with that night's roster sheet for the fans, I go through a lot of copy paper and ink on each game day. Stacks of league game notes, my game notes, visiting game notes, rosters, bios, and more are all printed and sorted to supply to the press box, media room, and visiting broadcaster. I'm also responsible for printing and cutting press credentials and vendor credentials for our guests that night. Runs over to the lamination machine in the rink offices are frequent.

By early afternoon, I've hopefully eaten something, and I've run back and forth between the arena and front office at least four to five times. It's about that time that I head over to the press box to set up my broadcasting equipment, test the internet connections, and tidy things up for any guests that we'll have up there that night.

It would be a lot more fun running back and forth if the weather was like this all season!

Just when I feel like everything is on track, my phone buzzes or something comes up that needs my immediate attention - just the nature of the business. I collect the home ticket sheet so our ticket coordinator can get started on pulling tickets, and finally sit down to write story lines for my broadcast. A few random trips to the arena and back later, it's getting close to game time. The staff meal arrives and I grab a bite if I have time. Either way I'm going to be starving by the end of the night. Any broadcaster will tell you: the only thing that makes you hungrier than calling a game would be playing in it.

About 2 hours prior to faceoff, I head over to the press box with my laptop and complete my broadcast setup. I make sure the visiting broadcaster has everything he needs, and 45 minutes later, I head down to interview Coach Armstrong. I grab the visiting ticket sheet, bring that to the box office, and head back up. With the help of our tech crew, we test the audio - home and away, and I finally get a chance to sit for awhile and mentally prepare to hit the air.

The first of many interviews with head coach Riley Armstrong.

Fifteen minutes before puck drop, it's time for the pregame show. Just because I'm on the air, doesn't mean my multi-tasking is over for the night. During Riley's interview being played I'm tweeting out the starting lineup. During intermission breaks, posting end of period stats. During the game - texting our marketing group chat. Still haven't mastered that one yet. As part of my broadcast setup, I'm also running my own commercial breaks - making sure the right buttons are pressed and knobs are turned so that everything is going across Mixlr and correctly. Late in the third I have to choose the game's three stars - which of course, could change. Several times. During the Mariners' three goal comeback in the final 14 minutes of the third period against Manchester on November 28th, my stars changed roughly four times. The sequence of texts to our Game Ops and Marketing Coordinator, Ryer, looked something like this:

[14 minutes remaining in the 3rd, 4-1 Manchester]
3rd STAR: Riley Bourbonnais (he had scored our Teddy Bear Toss goal)
2nd STAR: Cole Kehler (Manchester's goalie)
1st STAR: Zeb Knutson (2 goals for Manchester)

[12 minutes remaining in the 3rd, 4-3 Manchester]
3rd STAR: Riley Bourbonnais
2nd STAR: Ty Ronning (had a goal and an assist at this point)
1st STAR: Zeb Knutson

[8 minutes remaining in the 3rd, 4-4 tie]
"Uh, standby"

[4 minutes remaining in the 3rd, 5-4 Mariners]
3rd STAR: Riley Bourbonnais
2nd STAR: Vince Pedrie (the go-ahead goal and an assist)
1st STAR: Ty Ronning (now with four points in the game)

Fortunately, Ronning finished the hat trick with his fifth point, and that was that. Did I mention I was broadcasting the thrilling comeback during all this?

So, the game is over, I sign off the air and I'm done for the night, right? Wrong. If any media wants to speak to players or coaches, I have to make sure that happens (and quickly - they have deadlines). I have my own deadline too - to get the game recap out to any media not present. So it's back up to the press box to write that. Finally, I cut and post highlights. Very few people are left at this point besides the arena clean up crew and sometimes my fellow broadcaster or a writer. Before heading out, I'm sure to tidy up the press box one last time and do a triple-check to make sure I didn't leave anything behind that I'll need before the next home game. About 14 hours have passed since my game day began. Time to get ready for the next one.

Thanks for reading and we'll see you on the radio!

But first, a few hours of sleep.