There are no bad hockey play-by-play men, especially on the radio. It’s the same reason there are no bad lion tamers. The bad ones don’t survive.
“I was a sophomore at Ithaca College when I did my first game,” Nick Nickson said. “We were playing Oswego State or somebody. They dropped the puck and it went from D to D to left wing. I had barely gotten out who won the faceoff, and now the puck was down here. How did it get here?
“That was my wake-up call. I said, hmmm, this is pretty fast. When the critical things happen — like the goals — get them right, but even then it’s tough. In San Jose, I thought either Tyler Toffoli or Christian Ehrhoff scored. It was Milan Lucic.”
A guy like Nickson smooths out the most jagged job that sports talkers have. The Kings’ radio play-by-play man thus receives the Foster Hewitt Award, for broadcasting excellence, at the Hockey Hall of Fame ceremonies in Toronto next week. That may be the very definition of talent: the knack of making hard things look easy.
In hockey, the subs don’t come to the scorer’s table. They don’t blow the whistle and say, “Now replacing Jeff Carter, here’s No. 11, Anze Kopitar.”
And Nickson is basically sitting at ceiling level, far enough from players to render them indistinguishable. Yet when the fourth-line center of the Carolina Hurricanes is out there, Nickson has to know him, even if he can’t spot the number.
“That goes back to preparation,” he said. “I know what the line combinations are. I probably prepare an hour for each hour of the game. I’m reading the TSN site, the team sites, anything to put together the pregame show and then the game.”
Nickson has done Kings’ games either as a simulcasting analyst next to Bob Miller or as a radio play-by-play man, for 34 years. That’s millions of words and, for a while, a multitude of losses. That changed, and the Kings’ Stanley Cup runs were picked up by the NHL Radio Network, and Nickson was heard throughout Canada.
That helped Nickson win the Hewitt, which Miller won in 2000. So did his punctuation of the Kings’ 2012 Stanley Cup: “The long wait is over. After 45 years, the Kings can wear their crown.”
“We played Phoenix in the first game of the conference finals and Chris Cuthbert was working it for TSN,” Nickson said. “I saw him during intermission and he said, ‘Well, have you thought about what you’ll say when you win the Cup?’”
When fans tell Nickson they still have his call on their ringtones, that hits home. Few know how he was guided, almost involuntarily, toward that moment.
His dad, also Nick, was a radio personality in Rochester, N.Y. and worked 60 years in the business. He was the late afternoon DJ. The kids called to request their favorite songs.
The son worked on the Ithaca College station. His dad told him Lanny Fratarre was leaving the Rochester Americans to do Pittsburgh Pirates games. Nick listened to a reel-to-reel tape of a college game he had done. It was painful. So he took a razor and Scotch tape, and spliced together the good parts. He got the job.
Then the New Haven Nighthawks called and wanted him to broadcast. And run group sales. And keep season ticket-holders happy. And sell ads.
“I was the fifth full-time employee there,” Nickson said. The Kings eventually used New Haven as an affiliate, and coach Parker MacDonald became an assistant in L.A. When Pete Weber left the Kings, MacDonald recommended Nickson.
That was 1982, the Miracle on Manchester. Daryl Evans beat Edmonton in overtime, 6-5, after the Oilers had led 5-0. “I just yelled,” Nickson said. “I said, pass, shot and then just started yelling at Bob.”
Now Evans is Nickson’s spectacularly-dressed analyst. Unlike today’s easily fascinated young voices, Nickson and Evans sound as if they’ve seen it all, which they have.
Nickson’s wife Carolyn was a school librarian. Older son Nick played hockey at USC and works at Disney, and younger son Tim is studying for a medical billing certificate.
A sports career has multiple families. Nickson, Evans, Miller and TV analyst Jim Fox have spent a lifetime together. They know that broadcasting a hockey game is like trying to herd sound waves.
“We’ll get on the bus and somebody will ask how it went,” Nickson said, smiling, looking down on amateurs shooting pucks at the big rink in El Segundo.
“Somebody will say, ‘Well, it wasn’t perfect. But it was close.’”
Only pros like Nickson can know how close.
Credit to the Los Angeles Daily News who originally published this article
Jason Barrett is the owner and operator of Barrett Sports Media. Prior to launching BSM he served as a sports radio programmer, launching brands such as 95.7 The Game in San Francisco and 101 ESPN in St. Louis. He has also produced national shows for ESPN Radio including GameNight and the Dan Patrick Show. You can find him on Twitter @SportsRadioPD or reach him by email at [email protected].
Dan Bernstein: Media Reaction to MLB Winter Meetings Outrageous
“It doesn’t make any sense to me.“
The MLB Winter Meetings have come and gone, without the sport’s biggest fish — Shohei Ohtani — being caught by any one team. Several MLB writers shared their displeasure with the lack of movement by players at the meetings, which dumbfounded 670 The Score host Dan Bernstein.
During Bernstein & Holmes Thursday, Dan Bernstein shared his sentiment that the expectations from MLB national media members bordered on ridiculous.
”So many people had a problem with (the Winter Meetings). ‘Do something! Entertain us! Do something!’ and this whole group of seemingly unionized national reporters are echoing this ‘How dare that not do something!’ (sentiment),” Bernstein said. “Other sports have a salary cap. That’s the difference. And if you’re advocating for MLB to have a salary cap, you’re doing Rob Manfred’s work for him, and that doesn’t make any sense.”
After co-host Laurence Holmes mentioned that a player making a decision on their future home required due diligence and time, Dan Bernstein continued by claiming that the idea that Ohtani needed to pick a destination during the Winter Meetings to appease the national media showed a lack of empathy from reporters.
“It doesn’t make any sense to me. How dare Shohei Ohtani be careful and deliberate and exercise power when he’s the most powerful person in baseball right now,” said Bernstein. “He’s deciding his professional future. How dare he! What does he owe you?”
Boomer Esiason: Joe Benigno Was Just Doing His Job
“Good for Joe B. for letting everyone know who he is. That was his job. And I guess still is his job to some point.”
Former WFAN host Joe Benigno continues to make headlines after he revealed sensitive text messages he had with New York Jets head coach Robert Saleh. Despite the controversy, Boomer Esiason believes Benigno was simply doing what was necessary.
After Boomer & Gio played a clip of Saleh saying he “still likes Joe B.”, Esiason argued that Benigno was doing his job by revealing that Saleh “didn’t like” Jets quarterback Zach Wilson.
When fill-in update anchor Chris Lo Presti pointed out that Saleh wouldn’t call Benigno by name — referring to him as “Joe B.” — Esiason said “That’s cause everyone knows who he is”.
“Good for Joe B. for letting everyone know who he is,” Esiason said. “That was his job. And I guess still is his job to some point. But man, I would think that Rob Saleh was pretty floored by all of that, I’d imagine.”
Co-host Gregg Giannotti agreed, questioning if Jets owner Woody Johnson spoke to Saleh about ceasing texting with the former WFAN host.
After originally revealing the text messages, Benigno has shared he wishes he hadn’t mentioned the comments made by Saleh in private. He later clarified that he took the coach’s statements out of context and misinterpreted them.
Anthony Lima: People Will Watch NFL Games No Matter Who the Quarterbacks Are
“The ratings show that people are going to watch no matter who the quarterbacks are; no matter how bad the teams are.”
As the NFL begins week 14 with a Thursday Night Football matchup that pits a pair of backup quarterbacks against one another, 92.3 The Fan morning hosts Ken Carman and Anthony Lima agree it doesn’t matter who’s under center, fans will still be tuning in.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are slated to face the New England Patriots as Mitch Trubisky and Baily Zappe will start at quarterback for each team. During The Ken Carman Show with Anthony Lima Thursday, the hosts agreed they’ll still watch the broadcast.
“Do you think fans are bored by the league with this or are they more interested?,” Carman asked, referencing the Steelers-Patriots matchup.
“Well the ratings don’t show that,” Lima said. “The ratings show that people are going to watch no matter who the quarterbacks are; no matter how bad the teams are.”
Indeed for its Week 13 Thursday night game, Amazon Prime Video recorded an all-time high average of 15.26 million viewers, according to data from Nielsen Media Research. The matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Dallas Cowboys marked the 11th consecutive week of year-over-year, double-digit viewership growth for the property, and helped engender a 29% increase from last year’s 11-week average viewership.
Carman offered an analogy pertaining to wrestling, conveying how many people are interested in the sport when they are younger. He enjoyed the sport in his youth but it then began to phase out until he went to middle school and became interested again. These phases, however, do not seem to apply when it comes to the game of football.
“We line up for years,” Carman said of football. “There’s people who haven’t missed Monday Night Football no matter what incarnation [it is] for 30+ years. Is it an enjoyable thing to sell all the quarterbacks down?”
Lima is cognizant of what has happened at the quarterback position this year and feels that it makes him want to watch a game less, affirming that the starters on Thursday night will need to earn his attention.
“I think I’ll give it a quarter,” Lima said. “I might even be a little late… [but] I’ll put it on and see where the game’s at.”
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