My name is Callan McClurg (Cal-an Mc-Clerg), and nine times out of ten you’ll find me at the Valley View Casino Center or Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California currently serving as the Public Address announcer for both of PLNU’s soccer teams and the baseball team. I also hold the duties of play-by-play commentary for
My name is Callan McClurg (Cal-an Mc-Clerg), and nine times out of ten you’ll find me at the Valley View Casino Center or Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego, California currently serving as the Public Address announcer for both of PLNU’s soccer teams and the baseball team. I also hold the duties of play-by-play commentary for the Sea Lions’ Volleyball and Women’s Basketball teams. Along with the college gigs are my professional gigs with the San Diego Sockers of the Major Arena Soccer League and the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League, the top affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks.
I always knew that I wanted to either play sports or work in the sports industry when I got older, who would’ve thought that I would make my decision for my future at age four? It was in 1998 while watching now current San Diego Padres radio announcer Ted Leitner conduct the sports segments on our San Diego CBS affiliate, KFMB Channel 8, where I knew what my future would be. From that day forward, I was announcing anything and everything. From television game shows, my brother’s Little League games, and even the actual games I was playing in, which resulted in plenty of scoldings from the coaches and my parents on the way home from the game. Wherever I went in my house, I had something in my hand and I used it as a microphone even to the point where I would trace an outline of a microphone on a piece of paper and I’d cut it out and put a TV station on the mic flag and deliver some phony story into my bathroom mirror.
The First Call
My first announcing gig came at 16 when the San Diego Gulls of the Western States Hockey League, a USA Hockey Tier-III junior hockey league, published an advertisement on their Facebook page looking for a play-by-play announcer for the 2009-10 season. After I expressed my interest, I shot off an e-mail to Bruce Miller, the team’s owner, general manager, and head coach about the opportunity to call the games.
I heard back a day later saying that I had gotten the job! For four seasons, I handled play-by-play, intermission interviews, and an hour-long post-game show with players and fans from a nearby barbecue restaurant.
As I prepared to enter my fifth season with the team, there was an ownership and coaching change. Bruce had given up control of the organization to new owners Jim and Karen Cavataio, along with Craig Carlyle, the son of former Norris Trophy winner and Stanley Cup winning coach Randy Carlyle being named the new head coach. While most times when there is front office shuffling, new owners or general managers want “their own people” for certain jobs. In spite of the regime change, I was given a promotion to the Public Address announcer and DJ roles for the 2014-15 season.
Behind the Gulls Name
The San Diego Gulls name dates all the way back to 1966 when the city hosted a team in the Western Hockey League. I 1974, the World Hockey Association would come to town and the name Gulls would fly away for 16 years until the International Hockey League placed a team in San Diego that would move to Los Angeles and Long Beach, before the West Coast Hockey League snapped up the market in 1995. Professional hockey would continue until 2006 and through a transition to the ECHL before folding during the summer after their final season.
Major Changes on the Horizon
During the later part of the season, there were many rumors and chatter about the Anaheim Ducks relocating their AHL franchise from Norkfolk, VA to San Diego as part of a new Pacific Division that would expand and change the overall look of the league.
Anaheim hosted “HockeyFest” on February 22, 2015 at the Valley View Casino Center where over 8,500 San Diego hockey fans who had been without professional hockey in America’s Finest City since 2006, stood in line at the North Entrance of the arena. The line wrapped around the VVCC and all the way onto side streets behind the arena just to see the franchise unveil it’s team name, colors and mingle with former Gulls players, including Willie O’Ree. O’Ree, the first African-American to play in the NHL, was a member of the Gulls from 1967 until 1974 and then again with the WHA San Diego Hawks for the 1978-79 season.
It was at HockeyFest where I was able to chat with Ari Segal, the president of business operations for the newest Gulls and was able to get his e-mail address to talk shop about their Public Address announcer role for the inaugural season.
The Phone Call
In August, I was on my way to have sushi with some friends when I got a phone call from a number I didn’t recognize. Having thought my friend was calling to see where I was, it turns it out it was Dave DesRochers, the Game Day Operations manager for the Gulls calling to say that the team, and a colleague of mine had put in a good word about having me be the team’s P. A. Announcer. He called to invited me to a private audition at the arena for the job.
I threw on the only suit and tie I had and ventured down the hill to the arena where I met Dave, Ari and the rest of the production team. The audition featured a pregame welcome, starting line-ups, a goal being scored, a penalty scenario and a in-game promotion. In spite of getting tongue tied on the in game promotion, everything else sounded great over the arena sound system, so in roughly about five minutes, I was in and out from the audition and waiting to hear back.
After about two weeks, I sent Dave and e-mail to see how the hiring process was going for the season. He had responded with both bad and good news. The bad news was that the organization did not select me for the job, but the good news was the team was open to having me fill their backup PA announcer role for the season.
During the second week of November, I received a call from Dave. The P. A. announcer was unable to work a game and he was wondering if I could fill-in that night.
“ABSOLUTELY!” I said, “I WILL BE THERE!”
After the call, Dave sent me the game script. The game was Friday, November 13 against San Jose with the game being themed around the Tom Cruise film “Top Gun” as part of Veteran’s Weekend.
Much like my audition, I tossed on my only suit and tie to make the short trip from my house in Central San Diego down the hill to the Valley View Casino Center and arrived at 4 p.m. for the pregame meeting with Dave and the Gulls production staff.
As I made my way through the player and staff parking lot, many emotions came over me. As I began to walk down the ramp and into the arena, memories of the Gulls teams of the past who I had seen play many times at the VVCC came through me head. I had gone to my first game in 2000 when the team was in the West Coast Hockey League as an independent organization. I was in first grade and got a voucher from school for two free tickets to the team’s back to school night game, a Friday night game against the Bakersfield Condors, a fellow charter member of the WCHL since it’s inception in 1995.
My Dad took me to the game that night which featured a binder giveaway for all the kids that came to the game. The binder featured photos of goaltender Konstantin Simchuk, defenseman Bret Larson and forward Dan Gravelle along with the season schedule on it. As the game got started and progressed, I was instantly hooked. San Diego won the game that night, and made me a fan of the game, I wanted more.
After that one experience, I went to every weekend game from 2000 until the team folded in 2006. Along the way, I saw the Gulls win two Taylor Cup Championships, the first in 2000-01 over the Idaho Steelheads and in 2002-03 over the Fresno Falcons with both series going seven games in San Diego. I also saw two jersey numbers retired for Martin St. Amour (#18) and B.J. McPherson (#28), the team honor head coach Steve Martinson for his coaching achievements, the merge with the ECHL, the team fold and ultimately return in the AHL. I was going to have the experience of a lifetime to announce for this team that I had grown up watching.
Back to reality, I made my way into the arena’s production office where I met with Dave and his team and we began going over the game day script, which involves everything ranging from P. A. reads to in-game entertainment. We adjourned our production meeting which gave me the opportunity to grab my roster sheets and pronunciation guides before I took the walk from the home tunnel onto the ice and into the penalty box to fill out my score sheet and get familiar with our PA script.
It was now 5:45 p.m. and I had just finished my pregame prep and getting name pronunciations correct when I was able to meet my penalty box partners, George Glover the penalty and goal recorder, Manny Gomes the scoreboard operator, Steve Haley the replay official, Rick Powell the home penalty box attendant and “Big” Jim Lockwood the visiting penalty box attendant, all who were so welcoming and helpful in my preparation before the game with anything I may have needed some assistance in.
As 6 p.m. hit, I could hear the loud whistle from arena security signaling the time to open the doors and let the fans enter for the game, the same time the nerves and adrenaline began to kick in. Twenty minutes later, I can hear Dave radio down to me via our headsets saying “You ready to go?” It was time to introduce the team for warm-ups.
“All set!” I replied.
“Ladies and gentlemen, taking the ice through the California Coast Credit Union high-five tunnel, please welcome, your San Diego Gulls!!!”
The black jerseys, trimmed in orange and blue emerged from the tunnel and onto the ice for the seventeen minute warm-up period. By the time I had welcomed the team out for warm-ups, I began to settle in for the game. As the buzzer sounded for the end of warm-up, I hear Dave say “Stand by for the welcome…and GO!”
The rest of pregame consisted of P. A. reads for merchandise, season, and group tickets before I had to make sure I had the officials and the starting line-ups for both teams. After announcing the officials, it was time to introduce the starters for the Barracuda in the order of Defensemen, Forwards, Center, Goalie and the team’s head coach. Karl Stollery and Dylan DeMelo were on the blue line, Trevor Parkes and Barclay Goodrow on the wings, Scott Timmins in the middle and Troy Groesnick between the pipes under head coach Roy Sommer. A few minutes of down time go by before the production team rolls the team’s intro video synced up to “Born To Rise” by Redlight King, which leads into my introduction of the Gulls starting up:
“And now…the starting line-up for your San Diego Gulls! Defensemen, #24 Jaycob Megna. And #27 Shea Theodore. Forwards, #11 Stefan Noesen. And #20 Nick Ritchie. Center, #18 Mike Sgarbossa. And in goal, #36 John Gibson. The head coach of the Gulls, Dallas Eakins.”
In honor of Veteran’s Weekend and our TOP GUN themed night, a giant American Flag was displayed at center ice as the Star Spangled Banner was sung by local military members. After the anthem’s completion and clearing the ice, it’s time to drop the puck.
In other iterations of the franchise, the PA announcer would say “IT’S SHOWTIME!!” It wasn’t needed for this new incarnation of the Gulls, as the production team rolled a hype video and noise meter to get the crowd of 10,010 engaged in the game early. My watch said 7:05 p.m., the referee’s arm went up and the puck hit the ice, my first professional hockey game as a P. A. announcer is underway.
Some good forecheck pressure from San Diego’s top line resulted in them get rewarded with the games first goal just a minute and forty-six seconds into the game. The referee skated by and said to George “20” for the goal scorer, followed by an upstairs official calling down to give the assists. “20 from 2 and 16 at 1:46” George said to me while handing me the scoring announcement sheet, time to jump on the mic and make my first official goal announcement:
The first goal of the night is out of the way highlighted with some fun extended the pronunciation of Stu Bickel’s name, which drew a loud response of fans dragging out “STU” right alongside me during the goal announcement. Just as quickly as the first goal was scored, now it’s time to get the first penalty out of the way and it’s a power play for the Gulls.
“All right fans, time to get loud! Your San Diego Gulls are on a Valley View Casino and Hotel, POWER PLAY!”
In the time I had announced the Junior Gulls games, I have always announced city first, nickname second: “San Jose Penalty to #45 Mark Cundari, two minutes for playing without a helmet, time of the penalty 2:26. Again for the Barracuda, the penalty on #45 Mark Cundari, two minutes for playing without a helmet at 2:26.”
San Diego failed to convert on the man advantage and the game entered it’s first media timeout, which had two reads, one for the ice crew and for a local pet salon. So the first goal and penalty reads were off the list, now we’ve got the first fight a little over eight-and-a-half minutes into the game between Gus Young and Joseph Cramarossa with both players landing some heavy blows and picking up major penalties.
San Jose would be called for another penalty and put the Gulls back on the power play. Since the power play was sponsored by Valley View Casino and Hotel, a lucky fan was selected as the winner of the power play, having already won a free buffet at the casino’s famous lobster buffet, but if the Gulls scored on the man-advantage the contestant also received a free one night stay at the hotel. San Diego cashed in on the power play opportunity to double the lead to 2-0. Much like the first goal, George relayed the goal to me “15 on the power play from 26 and 17 at 11:04.” The read was the same, except adding in the power play, the sponsor and congratulating the contest winner.
“San Diego GOOOAAALLL! A Valley View Casino and Hotel power play goal, scored by $15 Chris Mueller! Assisted by #26 Brandon Montour. And #17 Nic Kerdiles. Time of the goal, 11:04. Again for the Gulls, the power play goal by Mueller, from Montour and Kerdiles at 11:04!”
As the clock wound down to 1:05 left in the first, the 10,010 electrified crowd had one question for me, “HOW MUCH TIME IS LEFT?!?!”
Ask and you shall receive, “One minute remaining in the first period!”
The clock ran out and George called upstairs to confirm shots on goal for me to do a brief summary of the score and shots. Mission accomplished, my first period as a professional announcer was in the books. During the intermission, I get the first five minutes to leave the ice and stretch my legs out while our in-game host handles the intermission entertainment, which gave me an opportunity to respond to friends who were at the game that sent me photos, videos or messages about the job I had done so far. After my brief break, it was back to work with reads for the flagship radio station, advertisements for upcoming home games, group welcomes and highlights before the action resumed for the second period with San Diego leading.
San Jose picked up the momentum during the middle frame and they responded with their first goal, the first visiting goal I’d announce at the 7:43 mark of the period, “89 from 86 and 45 at 7:43.” While the goal call for San Diego is obviously done with more enthusiasm, the call is the same for both teams with the location being announced first, followed by the nickname when the call is being repeated with a dejected, yet still sounding professional sound for the visiting team scoring. “
San Jose goal, scored by #89 Barclay Goodrow. Assisted by #89 Jeremy Langlois, and #45 Mark Cundari. Time of the goal 7:43. Again for the Barracuda, the goal by Goodrow from Langlois and Cundari…at 7:43.” Much like when there was a minute left in the period, the crowd responded loudly after my goal announcement for San Jose with a thunderous “WHO CARES?!?!” response.
San Diego took a penalty just past the halfway mark of the period, giving San Jose a power play, and signifying the first penalty kill I remember announcing, and much like the power play, the penalty kill was also sponsored, this time by JMG Security Systems.
“San Diego penalty to #26 Brandon Montour, two minutes for high sticking, time of the penalty 8:13. Again for the Gulls the penalty on #26 Brandon Montour, two minutes for high sticking, at 8:13, this is a JMG Security Systems Penalty Kill.” San Jose converted on the power play to tie the game at two and the fourth goal of the game to announce.
“San Jose Goal, a power play goal. Scored by #11 Bryan Lerg. Assisted by #74 Dylan DeMelo, time of the goal 11:15. Again for the Barracuda the power play goal by Lerg from DeMelo at 11:15.” The second period came to a close with and San Jose having momentum after tying the game.
The second intermission featured a “Chuck A Puck” contest, where fans purchase rubber pucks to throw onto the ice for a chance to win prizes ranging from cash and merchandise to local concert and sports tickets. The second intermission is also the heaviest portion of the P. A. script, ranging from a beer commercial to nearby restaurants followed up by a two-minute read to thank all the sponsors of the team.
Following the sponsor reads, the team honored a community member as part of the “Community Spotlight” for their hard work in the San Diego community, the evening’s community member was the Navy SEAL Foundation, who were the recipients of a check donation by the Gulls spearheaded by a jersey auction for the navy blue camouflage jerseys worn by the team on Veteran’s Day. Similar to the end of the first intermission, highlights were shown after the community recognition followed by a hype video and the team returning to the ice heading into the final frame.
At the first media break of the third period, the Gulls took a moment to recognize the men and women of the military who were in attendance at the game to stand and be recognized for their service, which included a roaring applause from the players who gave stick taps on the ice and the bench and the officials clapped while the video board showed the standing military members set to the theme music from TOP GUN. An uneventful third period saw the Barracuda get whistled for a penalty at the 13:06 mark of the period, giving San Diego a man advantage and a chance to break the tie. It wouldn’t take long for the Gulls to take advantage as they scored to retake the lead. “17 on the power play from 26 and 27 at 13:46.” Let’s make it official.
“San Diego GOOOAAALLL!!! A Valley View Casino and Hotel power play goal! Scored by #17 Nic Kerdiles! Assisted by #26 brandon Montour! And #27 Shea Theodore! Time of the goal 13:46. Again for the Gulls, the power play goal by Kerdiles, from Montour an Theodore at 13:46!”
San Diego held the one-goal lead until the final minute when Barracuda Coach Roy Sommer called timeout, pulled his goaltender, and put an extra skater on the ice. His decision payed off as they tied the game with 24 seconds left.
“San Jose Goal scored by #77 Scott Timmins. Assisted by #40 Ryan Carpenter, and #86 Jeremy Langlois. Time of the goal 19:36, again for the Barracuda the goal by Timmins from Carpenter and Langlois at 19:36.” The buzzer for regulation sounded, so what better way to have your first game as a pro announcer end than settling it in overtime?
“Ladies and gentlemen your score at the end of regulation, San Jose Barracuda 3. San Diego Gulls 3. Shots on goal at the end of regulation for San Jose 30. For San Diego 30. With the scored tied, we are going into SUDDEN DEATH OVERTIME!! If the game remains tied after the overtime period, the winner will be determined in a three-player SHOOTOUT!!”
The brief break between the end of regulation and the start of overtime featured several TOP GUN clips to keep the crowd engaged as the Zamboni ice resurfacing machines paraded around the rink for their dry scrap of the ice. After the ice was resurfaced and the doors closed, we were ready for overtime. It didn’t take long for the action to heat up. Just 1:05 into the extra session, a San Diego breakaway was snuffed out by the back checking ‘Cudda defense, but the near official put his arm up and blew the play dead, and pointed to center ice, without hesitation or conferring with George, I knew it was a penalty shot.
“Your attention please, a penalty shot has been awarded to San Diego.”
With the crowd erupting, George tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Great job on that call. That was perfect and well done.” Brandon Montour took the penalty shot, but failed to score and the game remained tied after overtime. We were headed to a shootout. Jeremy Langlois would be the hero of the game as he scored in the third round after Stefan Noesen, Nick Ritchie and Brandon Montour all failed to score for the Gulls, giving San Jose the 4-3 shootout victory.
“Alright fans it’s now time to introduce tonight’s three stars of the game. Tonight’s third star, from San Jose #77 Scott Timmins. Tonight’s second star, FROM THE GULLS #26 BRANDON MONTOUR!! And tonight’s first star, from San Jose #86 Jeremy Langlois.” Timmins was third star for scoring the game tying goal in the 3rd period, Montour was second star for registering two assists, and Langlois was number one star for scoring the Shootout and Game Winning Goal. Following the announcement of the three stars, it was time to sign off for the night:
“Ladies and gentlemen the San Diego Gulls thank you for attending tonight’s game, as always presented by California Coast Credit Union, we look forward to seeing you right back here again tomorrow night when the Gulls conclude the weekend series with the San Jose Barracuda at 7:05 p.m. Until then, good night everybody!”
That was it. My first announcing gig with professional hockey was officially in the history books in front of a crowd of 10,010. My phone would not stop vibrating after the game concluded with so much positive feedback and messages from fans and friends who had attended the game that night. I had seen teachers and friends in high school, friends I hadn’t seen in years that I played sports with all at the game that I had announced. However it was more rewarding to have my Mom and Dad also in attendance that night for my first professional game. I felt the most love though from the Gulls fans on social media who were posting in the team’s fan group about how well of a job I had done, but also how I was able to keep up with the pace and flow of the game.
But the people who were most impressed with the job I did, were the Gulls and Ducks front offices. Team President Ari Segal and Gulls Co-Owner Jillian Samueli approached both myself and Dave after the game to congratulate me on a job well done and to pass along excellent feedback that they either received or gave me on the job done. The organization gave me an encore presentation by allowing me to announce their next three home games against Texas, Ontario the week of Thanksgiving and San Jose, their lone home game before the Christmas break. The three additional games I did were met with the more and more positive responses from the front office and fans. So much so that when the New Year came around, a phone call would change my career.
The Move to Full Time
Prior to the Christmas break game I announced, Ari hosted a “Town Hall Meeting” with the Gulls season ticket holders inside the Stella Lounge, an upscale bar reserved for season ticket holders during the Gulls season where they gathered to discuss what the fans liked, disliked and felt needed to be changed through the team’s first three months as a franchise. Little did I know that a group of nearly 400 season ticket holders attended the meeting and nearly three-quarters of the attendees told Ari “The announcer that we have now is who we want to have the rest of the season.” I received a phone call from Dave two days after the New Year, but it was Ari who had answered the phone and laid out a lot of things he had to say about the job I was doing from responses from the fans at the town hall meeting, feedback from the Ducks ownership and front office along with his own feedback when he finally said:
“We’d like to offer you the Public Address announcer job for the remainder of the 2015-16 season.”
The offer brought me to tears having just lost my grandmother who was a huge hockey fan, but I held myself together and said that I would have to workout my other announcing schedule at Point Loma Nazarene University where I was already in the middle of announcing women’s basketball. After our phone conversation, I immediately called my boss at PLNU to let him know what the scoop was. I told him flat out that the Gulls wanted me to continue to be their P. A. voice for the season, but I was not going to leave the school midseason. Instead I asked what they could do to accommodate me in case I had a conflict with them and the Gulls playing on the same day.
“Callan, call them back and tell them you’ll take the job, we will work to find a back-up for you in case of a conflict.”
Sure enough, I called the Gulls front office and told them I was in for the remainder of the season. I officially took over the full-time position on January 8th when the Gulls hosted the Charlotte Checkers. I announced the team’s final twenty-six regular season games as San Diego finished in 2nd place with a 39-23-4-2 record with 84 points and a .618 points percentage, securing the number two seed and home ice advantage in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs against the Texas Stars. After splitting Games 1 & 2 in Cedar Park, the Gulls returned to the Valley View Casino Center and closed out the Stars in 4 games, winning Game 3 by a 6-2 score and Game 4 by a 6-1 score to win their first ever AHL playoff series. In Round 2, the Gulls would face the Ontario Reign, their primary Pacific Division rival due to not just the geographic location of both teams, but sharing the Freeway Face-off Rivalry between the club’s NHL affiliates, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. Ontario eliminated San Diego in 5 games, including stealing Games 2 & 4 at the VVCC in Overtime thrillers before near capacity crowds in San Diego.
If there’s anyone that I need to thank it’s the entire Gulls and Ducks front office, notably now the former Gulls president of operations Ari Segal and the team’s Game Day Operations manager Dave DesRochers for having the confidence to trust a recently graduated 21 year old college student to be the main voice of a professional sports team. Also the fans who passed along their feedback to both the team and myself about the job I had done filling in for those four games. But naturally, my backbone of supporters, my friends and family who have come out to the games I’ve announced has been and always will be the thing that keeps me going.
Another rewarding moment happened during the 2016-17 preseason when the Gulls played Ontario at Honda Center in Anaheim. I received a credential from the team to watch the game from the press box while Phil Hulett, the longtime voice of the Ducks handled the P. A. duties that night. The best part of the night was hearing Phil announce a goal for the Gulls. His goal call and my call are pretty much identical, a request by the Gulls front office to have the Power Plays and Goals announced the same way as it’s done in Anaheim. San Diego defeated Ontario in the preseason tilt 4-1 and after the game, the PA voices of the top AHL affiliate for it’s NHL parent club shared a moment on the arena floor in front of the “ARENA FLOOR” sign and arrow pointing to where our office is located, on the ice inside the penalty box.