Wednesday, May 18, 2016

TYMNHS-Game 2 WCF

-Let's not talk about the game. Sharks tie the series 1-1.
  • There's been a lot of discussion lately about the Rally Boobs lady who sits directly behind the visiting coach. Some readers of this blog have asked me to explain what's going on. But I was beaten to the punch by columnist Aisha Sultan of the Post-Dispatch and stltoday.com. Read all about it here
  • If you're lucky, moneyed enough, or well-connected, you may some day get to spend quality between-periods and before-and-after-game time in the Sub Zero Vodka Bar. It's high-end space that sits right next to the hallway leading from the Blues locker room to the rink. While enjoying a libation, patrons can get up-close-and-personal with the players, coaches and support personnel. I snapped a photo before the game so you
    could have a glimpse of what you and I are missing.
  • To me, there was a surprising number of fans on hand last night wearing Sharks gear. After the game, there were quite a few capturing photos of themselves standing in front of the rink glass in the afterglow of a big win. I figured there would only be a handful of Sharks fans on hand given the distance between StL and the Bay area. But, of course, there are always fans from every major metro area who happen to live in StL and are pulling for the home boys. 
  • Yes, the officials like to warm up before the game on a stationary bike; or at least have that
    option. 
  • Once again, the buffet line in the press lounge featured a carving station. This time, delicious roast beef. 
  • While in the line, I bumped into NBC broadcaster Joe Micheletti who was featured in my last post. I asked if he had read all of the "slanderous material" I wrote about him since the last game. And, to his credit, with a smile he answered.."I don't read, or participate in, any social media." Not many broadcasters can get away with that in the current mass-media climate. Good for him!
  • During the pre-game skate the stand-by officials are asked to be a presence in the penalty box
    just in case any "monkey business" should break out. Usually this is just a precaution. But there have been a few instances in the past in which a simmering grudge was cause for combat. Last night the stand-by ref was Wes McCauley and the linesman Greg Devorski
  • If you are following the series even halfway closely, you should be familiar with the story of Wyatt and Gerry Nelson of Saskatoon. If not, here's a link to the Post-Dispatch story of their visit to last night's game. The in-house presentation featured the Nelson's story on the
    videoboard and some of Wyatt's play-by-play audio. Classy move by the Blues organization and Saskatchewan native Kelly Chase, who's heart is as big as all outdoors, for bringing this hockey-fanatical dad and son to town. 
  • Speaking of Saskatoon, many of us older folks remember how close the Blues were to moving there back in 1983. For you younger fans, it's an amazing story that writer Jeff Fahrenkrog compiled for stlouisgametime.com back in 2009. After you read this, we should all consider ourselves extremely lucky to even have pro hockey, and this current playoff run, to enjoy in 2016. 
More TYMNHS after Monday's Game 5. Thanks for reading.

Monday, May 16, 2016

TYMNHS-5/15/16 Game 1 Western Conference Finals

So most of the talking heads believe that the Sharks were the better team in Game 1 (Final 2-1 Blues) but didn't win the game. Well, in this corner we think that if you score more goals than the other team, you are the better team on that night. If you take the goaltenders out of the game, maybe SJ was better. But you can't do that. Moose was better than Jones. And they still play the game with goaltenders. But I would like to see the Blues control the puck a lot more in Tuesday's game. On to the Things You Might Not Have Seen on TV in Game 1.
  • Joe Micheletti is probably the nicest guy in the world...or at least in the top ten.
    The former Blues defenseman is working the Blues-Sharks series for NBC in the booth with Kenny Albert and Brian Boucher at ice level. I got to know Joe well during his days doing radio for the Blues with the great Dan Kelly at around the same time I started doing the Blues PA announcing. I was always impressed with his genuine interest in people and their well-being. He would always ask about how my wife and kids were doing and we would discuss our families. This was at a time when he was a young family man and just starting to have kids of his own. We usually talked about "real life things" more than hockey. Every time Joe is back in town, I make an effort, or he does, to get together somewhere in Scottrade and say hello and catch up. And he always asks about my family...and I do the same of him. He is the kind of person you are lucky to know...and thrilled to see have success in broadcasting at a very high level. But I will always be jealous of the fact that he doesn't seem to age...while my hair keeps getting whiter. Joe, a Hibbing MN native, played for the legendary Herb Brooks at U of Minnesota and was named the MVP of the 1976 NCAA hockey finals. He's another outstanding broadcaster that traces his professional roots back to the Gateway City
  • Jamie Hersch, another Minnesota native and a studio host for NHL Network, is in town for this series.
    When I reported to my microphone for game 1, she was doing a live shot on NHL Network in the penalty box. When she was finished, we chatted and each took a selfie. Obviously, she is quite photogenic while I still have the "face for radio". I also have an issue with holding the phone steady...sorry about the blur. 
  • In my last edition, I mentioned how the press lounge food is always consistently good, but that high-end touches such as carving stations hadn't been seen
    since the Dave Checketts ownership days. Well...voila!! The picture illustrates my power over things with the Blues organization :) Delicious pork tenderloin being doled out at the carving station last night. Of course, I had nothing to do with this. It has much more to do with the Blues stepping up the game for the national press group covering the WC finals. And, there was a large group of out-of-town press on hand. 
  • The pre-game show was tweaked a bit for this next round of the playoffs. Another outstanding presentation by our group
    of professionals. This shot of the rink was taken during the pre-game rehearsal which is standard for the playoffs at around 2-1/2 hours before game time. 
  • The back-up officials for last night's game were referee Francis Charron and linesman Jonny Murray. So two of the best were once again ready if needed. 
  • In earlier days, Blues fans loved to hate Mike Ricci, a former agitator for the Sharks. I noticed on the game notes that he continues to be employed by the Bay-area fish in a player-development job. Talk about a face for radio. I think he's got
    me beat. 
  • The crowd was very supportive and loud at all the right times last night. I was a bit worried about this going in because some of the 300-level fans sometimes have a difficult time affording playoff tickets. But last night's crowd was in it from the start and gave the team the home-ice advantage they needed. 
Thanks for reading. I'll have another edition after game 2.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

TYMNHS- Game 6 - 5/9/16

Things You Might Not Have Seen on the tube. Well... The crowd of 19,808 was into it. The game entertainment crew (pic to the right) was hitting on all cylinders. Everything was perfect for a clincher...but...a bad stretch in the first period sends the series back to Dallas for Game 7 tomorrow night. Final..3-2 Stars.
  • The production crew has a meeting, usually about 2-1/2 hours before each game. Director of Entertainment Jason Pippi (that's him peaking into the picture from the right) goes over the script and timing of events for that night's game. Senior Director of Event Presentation Chris Frome makes sure all of the technical necessities are in order. All of the "players" are in attendance...Yours truly, In-game host Angella Sharpe, Organist Jeremy Boyer, Music Coordinator Carl Middleman and, as you can see, many others totally adept at what they do. (The photo doesn't include several other key people) Camera operators, technical directors, scoreboard and matrix board operators, and, for the playoffs, our visiting crew of on-ice projection folks, are all involved. We discuss any new and different elements in detail. Much preparation, production, creativity, and thought goes into each element of the game. That's why Scottrade Center's presentation has been judged one of the tops in sports. 
  • I first met Trevor Nickerson when he was a teenager and working as a production
    assistant for the late Joe May who was operating a company that produced numerous high school sports broadcasts in the Metro-East. Trevor, obviously a talented and thoughtful young man, quickly established himself as a valuable person on the technical and production side of the broadcasting business. I don't have his complete resume' to work with, but he eventually worked his way into a broadcast engineer vital to the CBS Radio operations in St. Louis. (KMOX/Y-98/KEZK). In the recent past he accepted the position of Producer/Editor for the Blues. He will engineer the radio broadcasts of the games, home and away. And he performs many other important, but usually unseen, broadcasting and production tasks for the team. Here he is getting ready in the KMOX booth, where he works with Chris Kerber and Kelly Chase, for last night's broadcast. 
  • I'm often asked about the pre-game meal at Scottrade. Usually 2 hours before game time, the
    press lounge buffet line becomes active. Most employees of the team are provided with coupons for a free meal. Members of the press and other credentialed personnel are provided a meal at a highly-reasonable $7. As to how the quality of the food compares to that offered elsewhere, I can't comment. But I keep hearing that Chicago offers a stellar feed. During the Dave Checketts ownership, food started out at barely edible (a carryover from the Bill Laurie days) to occasionally spectacular with carving stations and other high-end offerings that you would only find in a top restaurant. The menu these days is not nearly so spectacular...but very good on a consistent basis with few complaints being heard.  
  • Winning The Hardware...the in-house feature added for the playoffs spotlighted the great Hall-of-Famer Brett Hull at last night's game. We all remember his 86-goal season and the Stanley
    Cup-winning goal he scored while with the Stars. We all also should remember that his spectacular offensive shows brought fans back to the Blues and made it possible for the franchise to transition from almost moving to Saskatoon in the mid-80's...to it becoming possible to build a new arena downtown in the early 90's which would house pro hockey in StL for many years. His contribution to our enjoyment of the sport in the Heartland of Hockey can never be over-estimated. After I read the summary of his career on the PA system, in-house video cut to a shot of Hullie in one of the management suites. By then the Blues were down 3-0 and he had an understandable look of total disappointment for the video board. Hopefully, the boys will remember their knack for winning on the road at American Airlines Center tomorrow night. 
  • Poor John Kelly and Darren Pang. Their first-intermission, in-house report for the crowd last
    night had to be a severe challenge. With the team down 3-0 at the time and everybody wondering what the hell had happened, the guys did a great job of analyzing the situation and also keeping things as positive as possible. 
  • Two of the best, referee Brad Watson and linesman Greg Devorski were the back-up officials for last night's game. 
  • In my last post, I complained about the energy level in the crowd at last Thursday's game that Dallas won in overtime. I couldn't understand how so many people could be so quiet and uninvolved for a playoff game. Well, as I said at the top, the crowd was into it last night in a big way. Lots of energy at the start...and until Dallas went up 3-0. But as the Blues crept back into the game the crowd was really great. Way to go Blues fans! The loss had nothing to do with atmosphere in the building. 
  • I'll have another of these after we play game 1 of the Conference finals. Thanks for reading. 

Friday, May 06, 2016

TYMNHS Game 4- 5/5/16

-Stars win on an overtime goal 3-2. Take back home ice advantage, tying series at 2-2. Some things you might have missed if you weren't in the building...
  • Started hearing the Tara-senko-de-Mayo references on TV Thursday morning. Signs were all over the Scottrade Center having fun with the play on Vladimir Tarasenko's name. It looked like Vladdie was in the mood to celebrate the new Blues holiday when he scored on the breakaway early. But his next glorious opportunity rang off the outside of the post...and things started getting away from the Blues, and the fans, after that. 
  • Following up on that, I wasn't the only one working the game who thought last night's
    gathering of just under 20-thousand was one of the worst crowds ever for an important playoff game. There seemed to be little energy or crowd noise generated by the gathering except when the Blues scored. I can't imagine why anyone would have been hesitant to make a racket at last night's game, but there was a noticeable reluctance to make playoff-type noise on their own. Thursday night? Expecting bad things to happen? Over-confident after Tuesday's blow-out win? Not as fired up about playing Dallas as Chicago? Not enough beer in their bellies? One thing is for sure, Entertainment Director Jason Pippi and the crew did everything possible to stir up the group, but there were long stretches of uneasy quiet during this one. The Blues are taking a run at the Stanley Cup people. Make some damn noise for crying out loud!
  • If the Blues had won, Alex Pietrangelo was going to be announced as the first star of the game.
    Game winning goal-scorer would have been second star. Brian Elliott third. 
  • Starting with Tuesday night's game, TV voice of the Blues John Kelly and analyst Darren Pang are doing an intermission report that appears only on the videoboard inside Scottrade. They analyze each period and show highlights provided by Video Production Manager Eric Siders, Director of Event Presentation Chris Frome and the outstanding audio/video crew at Scottrade. It's a welcome addition to the in-arena experience for the playoffs. Especially since the national TV contract
    with NBC takes JK and Panger out of their usual duties. 
  • Winning The Hardware...the new in-game feature that points up the award-winning Blues stars of the past, highlighted amazing goaltender from the early days of the franchise...Glenn Hall. Mr. Goalie won the Vezina Trophy as the league's top netminder three times during his long career. His remarkable play for the Blues vs. the Montreal Canadiens in the Stanley Cup playoffs of 1968 earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the
    playoffs; an award that rarely goes to a player from the losing team. 
  • I mentioned in the report after Tuesday's game that, from my seat in the penalty box, Stars captain Jamie Benn looked frustrated and possibly resigned to losing after the Blues got their big lead in Game 3. I also mentioned that I thought he and his teammates would come back strong for Game 4. It might have been different if the Blues could have converted some of their scoring chances in the first period, but give the Stars credit for not throwing in the towel early and coming back strong to win. 
  • Cardinals players on hand for the game and shown on the video board-- Yadier Molina, Matt Holliday, Jhonny Peralta, Carlos Martinez. 
  • In case you hadn't heard, Game 6 will be at Scottrade Monday night. And, thankfully, it will start at 7pm. 

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

TYMNHS-5/3/16

-After a very welcome 6-1 Blues clobbering of the Stars last night at Scottrade, here comes another set of Things You Might Not Have Seen on the TV version of the game. As reported from my perspective as PA announcer. (Obviously, from what I read, some of you didn't see all of the game on TV either because of the overtime in the Tampa/Islanders game shown on NBCSN.)

  • I happened to run into Blues lead owner Tom Stillman in the hallway near the Blues locker
    room after the game. The exchange went something like- 
    • TC-"Wow, you don't see a game like that very often in the playoffs. That was fun."
    • TS-"Right...that was great. Now we have to bring it again on Thursday."
    • TC-"Yes...the boys seemed really focused tonight."
    • TS-"Let's keep it up." -- Mr. Stillman was obviously pleased as he was wearing that big smile of his. But also obviously not taking anything for granted going forward. Smart. 
  • Before the fight near the end of the game, Ryan Reaves and Stars forward Vernon Fiddler
    were in the penalty box for a little while in the middle of the second period after a little scrum. By then the score was already 4-1 Blues. And many of us near the ice sensed that things could get "chippy" before the game was over. Not sure if these guys have had a running feud, but it sure seemed like it from the "way back" references they were making in a verbal battle in the penalty box. They were yapping like crazy the whole 2 minutes they were in the box...and none of us in there had any idea what they were talking about. I heard a few references such as--fantasy camp, diapers, and stick boy that made no sense to me. I think each was trying to be louder than the other through most of it. 
  • As compared to the Chicago series in Round 1, there was practically no visible media presence from the Dallas market on hand for last night's game. The media lounge for the pre-game meal was noticeably "uncrowded". Oh, I'm sure there were the usual beat writers and local market radio guys. But as for Dallas TV stations...I couldn't see any. There were Chicago TV people crawling all over the place during the previous series. I know the TV ratings for Stars games in that market haven't been great...and not anywhere close to Blues games in the St. Louis market. 
  • The talented in-game host Angella Sharpe was featured prominently on local television
    Tuesday morning helping to promote last night's game. A task that would require her to be out of bed VERY early. I asked her in our pre-game production meeting if she got a nap before the game. She says she did...but only because of  the late start. If she pulls the same duty tomorrow, she won't be able to "rest up" for her energy-packed evening. (7pm start Thursday). 
  • One of our in-game features Tuesday night was Winning the Hardware...a short script read by me...and a video montage designed to spotlight Blues award
    winners of the past and point out the rich history of players who have worn The Note. Last night's featured player was the big defenseman who just became a Hall-of-Famer, Chris Pronger. The script pointed out the fantastic '99-2000 season in which he won both the Norris Trophy as the league's top defenseman, and the Hart Trophy as league MVP. Prongs was in the building last night, but chose to decline the opportunity to appear on the video board to receive an ovation after the presentation. A great, and still humble, Blues player of the recent past.
  • Tony X--(in real life Anthony Holmes) a Twitter sensation locally, and nationally, with his
    tweets about finding hockey to be exciting on TV during the Blackhawks series, was a guest of the Blues at last night's game. He was shown on the video board a few times. And, once again displaying the power of social media, was cheered loudly by the crowd. Things have definitely changed in a big way since I got into this mass-media thing. 
  • Being up close, I like to watch the facial expressions of key players to get a read on their mood when I have some time between announcements. Last night, after the Blues took the lead, I decided to keep an eye on Stars captain Jamie Benn. The disappointment, frustration, (and it's entirely possible I could be reading more into this one
    than is there) resignation, he displayed was apparent to me. I'm quite sure he and his team will come out refreshed and ready on Thursday. 
I'll have another edition of TYMNHS after Game 4. Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

TYMNHS-Game 7

-Things You Might Not Have Seen (on TV in game 7 of the Blues-Blackhawks series. And almost 20% of the entire Chicago and St. Louis markets were watching last night's game. Record-setting numbers.)

Blues win 3-2 on Troy Brouwer's third-period goal and move on to meet Dallas in the second round. As a side note, I have done the PA announcing for over 1300 Blues games, and only a few stick out in my memory. (Of course my memory isn't what it used to be). But, last night's win, and the amazing, electric atmosphere at Scottrade Center, especially late in the third period, will stick with me for as long as I'm still around. Here's what you might not have seen on TV last night.

  • Charles Glenn, (the regular anthem singer for the Blues) and occasional special-guest anthem
    singer Generald Wilson had cooked up what would have been an amazing duet for last night's national anthem. However, Charles was a little under the weather and didn't feel up to it. So Mr. Wilson (who has performed at many big-time, national sporting events in his Navy uniform) did his usual spectacular job as the soloist. If you can't be inspired by Generald's anthem, you had better check your pulse to see if you still have one. 
  • Some in the crowd were, no doubt, wondering why there was a start and stop, and start again to one of the in-arena promotions early in the
    game. Well...TV timeouts are taken on regular stoppages in play...and not on icing calls. Last night's NHL TV timeout coordinator (and there's nobody better) Kevin Boschert thought that icing had been called when it actually was an offside call. The rest of us on headset thought it was just a regular stoppage and proceeded to get into the promotion planned for talented in-game host Angella Sharpe on the TV timeout. Then Kevin realized it was actually not an icing call...and the game operations folks at the same time realized that he hadn't called for the TV timeout and stopped poor Angella mid-sentence. After the confusion was cleared up Angella proceeded to the entertainment part as planned. Oh well...stuff happens. 
  • To follow up on that, the pre-game show put on by Sr. Director of Event Presentation Chris Frome and Entertainment Director Jason Pippi was once again awe-inspiring and an amazing electric charge to get the fans prepped for action. 
  • Francis Charron who was a stand-by referee, and Scott Cherrey a stand-by linesman, in an earlier game in the series both skated in last night's game. Congrats to last night's crew. There weren't many complaints from anybody about the way the game was called. 
  • I happened to run into Blues GM Doug Armstrong in the hallway after the game. When I
    shook his hand and congratulated him I thought I felt a sense of his (probably enormous) relief after last night's win. But he always has a sense of "there's more work to be done" about him too. 
  • As luck would have it, just after running into Army, I also encountered Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville. I guessed that he had just had a post-game talk with his team and was headed to the press conference down the hall. He had just come through a set of double doors
    that separates visitor territory from the Blues locker room area. Coach Q coached here in StL for several years and I always enjoyed chatting with him when given the chance. But I sensed that he was in no mood to talk last night. I just stopped in my tracks as he put his head down and put a hand up to his forehead in the corner made by the doors and the hallway. His emotional distress was obvious. What a classy and caring gentleman.   
  • My sense of the fan breakdown last night. 25% or so Hawks fans in the lower bowl. Maybe 5% in the upper bowl. I guess if you are traveling from Chicago to see a game in St. Louis, you may as well buy the expensive seats. 
  • You might ask..."How much fun was it last night to announce 'One minute to play in the third period'? Answer- What an amazing thrill to set 20-thousand people off into a thunderous frenzy like that. It must be like announcing the stretch run of a horse race. The finish line is in sight and anything still can happen. Wow! 
Just a final note- I'm so happy for Tom Stillman and the ownership group. If things had not gone the
Blues way last night, I can't imagine how painful from a personal and business standpoint it would have been. The guy loves hockey, the Blues, winning, and St. Louis. Could there be a better owner?


Friday, April 22, 2016

TYMNHS

-Things You Might Not Have Seen (on TV in Game 5 of the Blues/Blackhawks Series)

Hawks win in 2nd OT 4-3 on Patrick Kane's first goal of the playoff series. You saw that.(If you were able to stay up late enough to watch) Here's what you might not have seen unless you were in the building...or up as close as me.
  •  Coach's Challenge?- After Kane's game-winner, the on-ice officials made sure the maintenance people and other folks who have on-ice duties after the game did not come onto the ice surface. Then they all skated over to the scorer's bench by me and waited to see if there would be a coach's challenge. They obviously thought that some of the traffic in front of the goal, and Brian Elliott complaining about it, might result in a replay situation. Obviously, the Blues video people didn't think there was anything that was worth a challenge and everyone eventually headed for the locker room. Elliott complained about not being able to get back over to defend the open net that Kane shot into. But replays show there wasn't much for him to complain about. He appears to get bumped by his own D-men. 
  • Stand by Ref/Linesman- The NHL sends a back-up referee to each playoff game just in case
    one of the on-ice guys gets injured or can't continue for some reason. The back-up guy would sub for either a ref or linesman. This actually happened a few years ago in one of our games when a linesman developed a rapid heartbeat. The back-up guy jumped in to call lines. Before the game the extra guy comes out to the penalty box in street clothes to observe the warm-up skate. Last night two guys showed up. I asked why there was two. The answer- in an elimination game they send an extra ref and linesman. So
    a ref won't have to call lines...a job he's not used to. Last night Francis Charron was the back-up ref. Brad Kovachik was the back-up linesman. 
  • The Blues led by Senior Director of Event Presentation Chris Frome and Director of Entertainment Jason Pippi put together a fabulous pre-game presentation which included video shown on the ice with a full-rink projection system. The guys from a company in Quebec
    who were brought in for the playoffs last year are back for another visit in '16. It adds a spectacular element for the enjoyment of the fans and really helps get the crowd amped-up. 
  • While we've become used to seeing a high-percentage of Hawks fans at recent Blues regular-season games, there wasn't much red to be seen in the crowd last night by my observation. 
  • During the playoffs, the Blues have been making an effort to get fans back into the old...and
    wonderful...habit of singing When the Blues (Saints) Come Marching In during the game. In the old Arena days it was mostly spontaneous. The idea seems to be catching on thanks to the leadership of uber-talented singer Charles Glenn leading the charge in our show. 
  • You won't realize it while watching the game, but the league actually uses different pucks during the playoffs. The pucks are actually the same regulation size...but they carry a logo of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the back with the Blue Note (or whomever is the host team) on the front. During the regular season it's just the NHL shield on the back. 
If there is a game 7 at Scottrade Monday night, I'll have some similar observations here about that one. (Hoping our next game will be in Round 2). Thanks for reading.