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Kings Radio Voice Nickson Entering Hall of Fame

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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

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Parker Hillis Named Brand Manager of Sports Radio 610

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Goodbye snow and hello heat! Parker Hillis is headed to Houston. Audacy has announced that he will be the new brand manager for Sports Radio 610.

“Parker is a rising star,” Sarah Frazier, Senior Vice President and Market Manager of Audacy in Houston, said in a press release. “He has impressed us since day one with his innovative ideas, focus on talent coaching and work ethic. We’re thrilled to have him join our Audacy team.”

Hillis comes to the market from Denver. He has spent the last three years with Bonneville’s 104.3 The Fan. He started as the station’s executive producer before rising to APD earlier this year.

In announcing his exit from The Fan on his Facebook page, Hillis thanked Fan PD Raj Sharan for preparing him for this opportunity.

“His leadership and guidance set the stage for me to continue to grow and develop in this industry, one that I absolutely love,” Hillis wrote. “This is a special place, one that I am honored to have been a part of and so sad to leave.”

Sports Radio 610 began the process to find a new brand manager in February when Armen Williams announced he was leaving the role. Williams also came to Houston from Denver. He started his own business outside the radio industry.

“I’m excited to join the Sports Radio 610 team in Houston,” said Hillis. “The opportunity to direct and grow an already incredible Audacy brand is truly an honor.”

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Schopp & Bulldog: NFL Has To Figure Out Pro Bowl Alternative That Draws Same Audience

“The game just could not be less interesting.”

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After years of criticism and declining television ratings, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell publicly stated this week that the Pro Bowl, as it is currently contested, is no longer a viable option for the league and that there would be discussions at the league meetings to find another way to showcase the league’s best players.

Yesterday afternoon, Schopp and Bulldog on WGR in Buffalo discussed the growing possibility of the game being discontinued, and how the NFL could improve on the ratings it generates with new programming.

“The same number of people [who] watched some recent… game 7 between Milwaukee and Boston… had the same audience as the Pro Bowl had last year,” said co-host Chris “The Bulldog” Parker. “….Enough people watch it to make it worth their while; it’s good business. They’ll put something in that place even though the game is a joke.”

One of the potential outcomes of abolishing the Pro Bowl would be replacing it with a skills showdown akin to what the league held last year prior to the game in Las Vegas. Some of the competitions held within this event centered around pass precision, highlight catches and a non-traditional football competition: Dodgeball. Alternatively, the league could revisit the events it held in 2021 due to the cancellation of the Pro Bowl because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which included a virtual Madden showdown and highlight battle, appealing to football fans in the digital age.

Stefon Diggs and Dion Dawkins of the Buffalo Bills were selected to the AFC Pro Bowl roster this past season, and while it is a distinct honor, some fans would rather see the game transformed or ceased entirely – largely because of the risks associated with exhibition games.

In 1999, the NFL held a rookie flag football game on a beach in Waikiki, Hawaii before the Pro Bowl in which New England Patriots running back Robert Edwards severely dislocated his knee while trying to catch a pass. He nearly had to have his leg amputated in the hospital, being told that there was a possibility he may never walk again. Upon returning to the league four seasons later with the Miami Dolphins, Edwards was able to play in 12 games, but then lost his roster spot at the end of the season, marking the end of his NFL career.

“You might not want to get too crazy with this stuff, but there’d have to be some actual contests to have it be worth doing at all,” expressed show co-host Mike Schopp. “Do you not have a game? I don’t know.”

The future of the Sunday before the Super Bowl is very much in the air, yet Goodell has hardly been reticent in expressing that there needs to be a change made in the league to better feature and promote the game’s top players. In fact, he’s been saying it since his first days as league commissioner in 2006, evincing a type of sympathy for the players participating in the contest, despite it generating reasonable television ratings and advertising revenue.

“Maybe the time has come for them to really figure out a better idea, and maybe that’s what’s notable [about] Goodell restating that he’s got a problem with it,” said Parker. “If there’s some sort of momentum about a conversation [on] creating a very different event that could still draw your 6.7 million eyeballs, maybe they’ll figure out a way to do something other than the game, because the game just could not be less interesting.”

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Iowa Adds WCKG As Chicago Radio Affiliate

“The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State.”

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Iowa City, home of the University of Iowa, sits just over three and a half hours from Chicago. It makes sense to assume plenty of alumni move to the Windy City after school and that other Iowa fans live in the metro area as well. That is why the Hawkeyes have struck a deal with WCKG to become their radio affiliate in Chicago.

The station, which is heard on 1530 AM, will air the entire season of Iowa football.

“Iowa Football’s storied history, continued success, and loyal fan base and alumni network throughout Chicagoland made this move a no-brainer for WCKG,” WCKG Sports Director Jon Zaghloul said in a press release. “I’m excited to bring the Hawkeyes to Chicago, and can’t wait to start airing games this Fall. It’s a huge acquisition for our brand, and, more importantly, our devoted listeners.” 

The Hawkeyes open their season at home on September 3 against FCS power South Dakota State. Gary Dolphin has called all of the school’s sports on radio since 1996. Ed Podolak is his partner in the booth during football season.

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