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Bill Spaulding Took Unconventional Trip To The Top

“When the call actually came through and I heard that I had gotten the job, there was excitement and that flood of emotion.”

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Growing up in Horseheads, a town on the Southern Tier in Upstate New York, Bill Spaulding fell in love with hockey at a young age. He was four or five years old when that love affair began as his father would take him to see Elmira College’s Men’s and Women’s teams play.

“My house was about five minutes away from the Murray Athletic Center,” said Spaulding.  “They have a great D3 program. My dad and I were in the booster club and would go to basically every game there from the time I was like five until seventeen.”

And now that love of hockey has taken Spaulding to the pinnacle of the sport as he is the new television play-by-play voice of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils on MSG Networks. The Devils’ season opener on October 13th against the Philadelphia Flyers will be carried on ESPN+, so Spaulding will make his regular-season debut on October 15th when the Devils play their home opener against the Detroit Red Wings.

He’s the new voice of one of the up-and-coming teams in the National Hockey League.

“I’m so excited,” said Spaulding. “With this Devils group, I feel so lucky that I’m getting on the ride at the right time. They’ve been building this young group. I think there’s a lot of optimism around the team and I think we are in for a really good run of hockey in New Jersey over the next few years.” 

Spaulding will also be surrounded by one of the premier local broadcast teams in the NHL as he’ll be working with game analyst Ken Daneyko, studio host Erica Wachter, studio analyst Bryce Salvador, and game producer Roland Dratch who has been producing hockey telecasts for the better part of three decades.

“I feel lucky to work with this group and work with the MSG group as a whole with all of the talented hockey announcers and hockey production crews that they have,” said Spaulding.

Spaulding is a proud graduate of Syracuse University where he majored in Broadcast Journalism. His hockey play-by-play experience at Syracuse was limited because the university has a women’s team but not a men’s team. After his graduation in 2013, Spaulding took a job as the radio play-by-play voice of the Dayton Dragons, a Cincinnati Reds minor league team before becoming the voice of Providence College women’s hockey.

From there, Spaulding called games for Northeastern University, Harvard University and Boston College before landing national opportunities with USA Track & Field, NBC and ESPN.  At NBC, Spaulding was a play-by-play announcer for four Olympics while also calling college hockey for NBC Sports Network.

“I’ve always tried to be someone who is versatile as possible and could do whatever people need,” said Spaulding. “That’s kind of the role I fell into with NBC as I became someone they knew they could call if they needed someone to call ski jumping one week and snowboarding the next week and figure skating the week after that.”

But it was the hockey play-by-play that hit home with Spaulding and it was the college hockey experience that was essential in him landing the Devils job. Not every announcer takes the same path to the big leagues. From a hockey standpoint, many announcers cut their teeth in the minor leagues before getting the call to the NHL.

In Spaulding’s case, his road to the NHL took him through the college hockey route and he is as prepared as anyone could be for a broadcasting job at the highest level of the sport.

“I think it absolutely helped prepare me,” said Spaulding. “While the players here are the most skilled and the best in the world, at the end of the day the X’s and O’s of play-by-play as a hockey broadcaster is still the same whether you’re calling a pee-wee hockey tournament or an NHL game.” 

“I think doing those games on NBC and working with analysts like Anson Carter really gave me some good experience working with great hockey minds. I think that was a really good part of why the folks at MSG gave me an opportunity to audition for this job and I think that experience has also put me in a position where I feel confident coming into these broadcasts.”

The Devils’ job on MSG opened up following last season when Steve Cangelosi stepped down after eleven seasons on the job. Spaulding applied for the job and reached the final stage of the interview process where he was brought in to do an audition with game analyst Ken Daneyko.

“We sat in a studio and called the Oilers/Devils game from New Year’s Eve last year,” said Spaulding. “Having that experience calling a game with Dano has been huge because we have an idea of what it’s like to work with each other. They picked an awesome game. That Edmonton/New Jersey game from last year was 7-6 in overtime and there were four or five goals in the first five minutes of that game. Any nerves you have kind of slide right out of the way when you’re calling goal after goal.”

And then, to quote the late great Tom Petty, “the waiting is the hardest part”. 

Following the audition, it took a few weeks to get an answer, but Spaulding ultimately received the call he had dreamed about. He got the job. He would be the new television voice of the New Jersey Devils

“It was a little bit surreal,” said Spaulding. “When the call actually came through and I heard that I had gotten the job, there was excitement and that flood of emotion. You think back to all of the folks who have helped you and supported you along the way and the stops you made along the way.”

Not long after he was named the new Devils announcer, Spaulding received a congratulatory call from Cangelosi who offered up any assistance that he may need.

“Steve reached out right away,” said Spaulding. “He was very welcoming and very warm. That was really great and I really appreciated that. I feel very lucky.  It’s like moving into a house that is 100% move-in ready.  I just kind of get to turn the key and come on in.”

And then it was time to get to work.

With less than two months before the first preseason game, Spaulding quickly turned his attention to building his Devils spot boards and then starting the massive preparation that one needs for a job of this magnitude.

What Devils fans will realize about Spaulding is that he has his own style which is essential for a good broadcaster. While he lists the likes of Mike Emrick, Ian Eagle, and Mike Tirico as broadcasters who he is inspired by, he knows he just has to be himself.

“It’s very important to be your own person and really embrace your own personality because if you try to be somebody that you’re not, then I just don’t think you sound very genuine and I think fans can understand that,” said Spaulding. “But there are certainly some broadcasters that I’ve loved to listen to and who I’ve taken things from and have looked to as role models.”

With his first Devils game on MSG less than a week away, Spaulding was able to call a couple of pre-season telecasts to get more familiar with the team, further the chemistry he established with Daneyko at the audition, and to get used to working with the rest of the crew.

This Saturday night can’t come soon enough.

“I am so excited for that game,” said Spaulding. “I’m sure there will be additional butterflies and tons of excitement before that game. Once the puck drops and I have a few shifts like the players say, I’ll start to settle in and realize that you’re just doing another broadcast.”

A young Bill Spaulding fell in love with hockey watching college games with his father. Today, he is the new television voice of the New Jersey Devils.  Dreams can and do come true.

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