Ryan Burgess is a P. A. announcer in western New York and this past hockey pre-season, he was given a great opportunity to announce an exhibition game for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. His story about that game is below. I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I’m Ryan, and you
Ryan Burgess is a P. A. announcer in western New York and this past hockey pre-season, he was given a great opportunity to announce an exhibition game for the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League. His story about that game is below.
I suppose I should start by introducing myself. I’m Ryan, and you can usually find me in a hockey rink somewhere. I serve as the public address announcer (and DJ) for several teams here in the Buffalo, NY area including the National Women Hockey League’s Buffalo Beauts; Canisius College’s NCAA hockey program; the Buffalo Jr. Sabres’ Tier-II junior hockey team; and both club teams for the University at Buffalo. Most of my teams play at the HARBORCENTER complex in downtown Buffalo.
I’ve always wanted to be a professional hockey announcer – since I was a kid. When HARBORCENTER opened in October 2014, I asked Director of Hockey Operations Nik Fattey if I could do the Public Address and music for their HARBORCENTER CUP tournaments. Nik agreed, and soon my number was being called for my first international event – the 2015 IIHF Women’s Under-18 World Championships. I was also on duty for the 2015 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships. These days, when HARBORCENTER has a sizable event, I get the call asking if I’m available.
This is how the Rochester Americans came calling. When the announcement came out that a preseason game against the Binghamton Senators would be played at HARBORCENTER on October 6, 2016, I didn’t think anything of it. I thought the Americans would bring their own staff down the New York State Thruway to do the game.
I was wrong. I got the call from HARBORCENTER’s program coordinator, Jeff Sabatini, a couple of weeks before the game. I asked Jeff if I would be doing just the public address – and I found out that they wanted me to handle the music as well.
Sign me up!
A few days before the game, I received an email from Caitlin Salemi, the Amerks’ director of game presentation. Caitlin laid out the basic protocol, as well as the team’s specific music choices. The goal song is “Spark” by Fitz & The Tantrums, the power play song is Metallica’s “Seek And Destroy”. The night before the game, I got another email from Caitlin asking if I had any of a list of songs that the players wanted for warmups. I got to work mixing a specific warmup track for the game. The Amerks would bring the warm-up mix with them to their regular season games in Rochester.
The day of the game, I got to the rink around 4:30. My wife met me there soon after, though my parents couldn’t make it as they had a long commute to get to the game. I met Caitlin and went over player pronunciations with Don Stevens, the legendary play-by-play voice. It was then that I found out things work a little differently in the American Hockey League with regard to scoring.
Up to this point, I’ve been radioed the goal and any assists by the score box. In the AHL, the goal scorer was communicated to me. That information was provided to the scoring staff who sat next to me. They provided the assists. In addition, this was the first time I announced off-ice staff and the visiting starters before the game.
With all that out of the way, here come the Rochester Americans onto the ice! Caitlin’s right next to me, helping with the timing & letting me know when to speak. I announce the starters in my normal format (defense, forwards, and goaltender). There’s no anthem singer, so I have instrumentals of ‘O Canada’ and ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ ready.
Puck, meet ice. Game on!
This is where I’m the most nervous. Keep track of stoppages and picking music. Watching for a puck to enter the Binghamton net. It doesn’t take long. The first goal was just 2:57 into the game, when Jean Dupuy deposited a Mac Benett rebound to put the Amerks up 1-0. By the midway point of the first, Rochester held a 3-0 lead with goals from Daniel Muzito-Bagenda & William Carrier. I’m getting a workout with these goal calls. The Senators scored twice on the power play late in the period to make it 3-2 after the first.
Neither team was able to score in the second, so on to the third we go. “Bingo” ties it while shorthanded with 8:58 to go. Not long after that, Evan Rodrigues got knocked down. He grabbed the puck after getting back up, streaked up ice, turned the Senators defenseman around, and found the trailer in defenseman Paul Geiger, who promptly deposited the biscuit in the basket with a one-timer for the game-winner with 5:55 left.
Your final score in American Hockey League action this evening: the Rochester Americans 4, the Binghamton Senators 3. Amerks win! After that, the game’s three stars – in another first for me, the Americans’ stars came out for the curtain call to the delight of the fans.
After the game, I was able to get a game puck to mark my first AHL game. The scorers also gave me the official lineup sheets for each team.
The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive – from the Amerks representatives to the HARBORCENTER staff. I was later told that the Amerks’ president had said that I had the best situational music he’s ever heard at a game. I’ve been working for most of my life (going on fifteen years) at this, so to hear feedback like this means a lot to me.
I’d like to thank the Rochester Americans and HARBORCENTER for allowing me to work this game. Hopefully, this is the precursor to more professional action!