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 JBarrett@sportsradiopd.com.
Steak Shapiro Apologizes, Says He Didn’t Think Stetson Bennett Criticism Was ‘That Inflamatory’
“You were just trying to play music and not ignore the fans. Still don’t think it was a great speech, but again, you’re the biggest football hero in Georgia football history.”
Wednesday’s edition of The Steakhouse was one Atlanta sports fans were waiting for. Late Tuesday night, Steak Shapiro took to Twitter to promise that he would address Stetson Bennett IV’s reaction to his criticism of the way the quarterback behaved at Georgia’s National Championship parade on Saturday.
“The notion is that Steak was basically roasted,” he said of the coverage the social media spat received. “He was put on the grill and taken to task.”
Shapiro had tweeted that he did not think it was a good look for Bennett to be on his phone during the championship parade and that his speech seemed more about settling old grudges than it was about celebrating the team or the fans. In a message on Twitter, which began by addressing Shapiro as “Mr. Med Rare”, Bennett explained that he was using his phone to play music in the car he was riding in. He was not ignoring the moment or the fans.
After giving Bennett credit for coming up with a funny nickname, Steak Shapiro said that he was surprised that the quarterback took the criticism so personally.
“My job is to give an opinion. I didn’t think it was that inflammatory. I didn’t think it was that dramatic.”
He added that has no problem with Stetson’s disdain for the media. He just thought the parade should have been about the fans and the accomplishment rather than Stetson Bennett IV trying to settle old grudges. Still, Shapiro wanted to make it clear that he does not hate the Georgia quarterback. He remains one of Bennett’s most vocal fans.
“On three or four occasions, I was lambasted because I said I thought he was the greatest player in Georgia history, and I said that before he won the national title,” Shapiro said. “I said that when they had the undefeated regular season, and then people started saying ‘stop saying that about Stetson’ or ‘Stetson’s overrated’. I just kinda had his back the entire year and probably had his back the last two years. I just didn’t think Saturday was a great day. That is what I have been saying, and I stand by it. I just didn’t think it was a great-looking day.”
Steak Shapiro did offer an apology to Bennett. He said that if the quarterback was just trying to play music on his phone, that isn’t that big of a deal, and if he had known that is what was happening, his reaction may have been different.
“My bad,” he concluded. “You were just trying to play music and not ignore the fans. Still don’t think it was a great speech, but again, you’re the biggest football hero in Georgia football history. You’re one of the iconic sports figures — maybe number one — in a town of Hank Aaron, and Chipper Jones, and Domonique Wilkins, and Matt Ryan, and Deion Sanders. You’re probably number one all time.”
Brian Gebhardt to Serve as Program Director of Sactown Sports 1140
“Learning under skilled leaders such as Terry Foxx, Sean Thompson, Reggie Rouse, and Mike Conti helped prepare Gebhardt for the next step.”
Sactown Sports 1140 has found their next program director. After an extensive search, GM Steve Cottingim and Bonneville Sacramento’s Group Director of Programming Chad Rufer have found their next leader in Atlanta, GA, tabbing Brian Gebhardt to guide the brand’s programming department.
Gebhardt heads west to join Bonneville Sacramento after enjoying over seven years of success at 92.9 The Game. He has served recently as the Executive Producer of the ‘Andy & Randy’ show featuring Randy McMichael and Andy Bunker. During his time with the Atlanta sports station, Gebhardt has learned under skilled leaders such as Terry Foxx, Sean Thompson, Reggie Rouse, and Mike Conti. Those experiences prepared Gebhardt for the next step, as did working with numerous on-air talents who have helped The Game become a model of consistency in Georgia.
“Brian’s experience working with both premiere talent and professional sports franchises will help us help the Sactown Sports brand grow both on-air and on-line ,” said Cottingim.
“Brian demonstrated to us a real passion for leading extraordinary talent,” shared Rufer. “We are very confident that he will help us grow Sactown Sports into Sacramento’s premiere sports brand.”
“I can’t wait to get started and I am beyond excited to be working with Bonneville,” added Gebhardt.
The hiring of the Georgia native as new PD allows Nick Cattles to focus exclusively on hosting the station’s afternoon show, a role he’s wanted to invest more time. Cattles joined Sactown Sports in November 2021 and has pulled double duty since arriving in Northern California. He hired Ramie Makhlouf as his afternoon drive co-host and the duo have built a solid foundation in afternoons. Having the ability now to focus solely on the show should allow Cattles and Ramie to elevate their program even more.
The first day on the job for Gebhardt will be Monday February 3rd. Depending on what develops with the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC playoffs, there’s a possibility he could be walking into two straight weeks of Super Bowl planning. Regardless, Gebhardt has a new market to learn, a new team to meet, a new company to deliver results for, and an opportunity to take a big step in his radio career.
DNVR Sports Files Injunction Against Bonneville Over Denver Sports Brand
“We can’t allow someone that represents the exact opposite of us to damage the goodwill of our brand or create confusion in the community.”
After Bonneville International unveiled new branding for its Denver Sports properties, digital outlet DNVR Sports has filed an injunction to stop the radio company from utilizing the brand and logos.
In a Twitter thread, ALLCITY Network CEO Brandon Spano claimed DNVR Sports has already seen listeners, viewers, and readers confuse the two brands. “We can’t allow someone that represents the exact opposite of us to damage the goodwill of our brand or create confusion in the community,” Spano tweeted.
“Our branding was created purposefully, to be different from the way sports networks traditionally looked,” he said in another tweet. “To represent the city of Denver in a simple way while removing us from the gloss and pretentiousness of sports media. To create something that brings people together.”
Spano added that ALLCITY sent Bonneville a cease-and-desist letter last week, but claims the company failed to respond, so an injunction has been filed.
The Denver Sports branding utilized by Bonneville — which encompasses 104.3 The Fan and ESPN Denver — features a black and white city skyline as well as the Rocky Mountains inside a hexagon with block lettering. The DNVR Sports logo is a rectangle, similar to the city of Denver flag, with the sun centered between the mountain peaks and a block “DNVR” below the rectangle.
The complaint filed by StudioIP LLC — the law firm representing ALLCITY — claims the branding used by Bonneville constitutes “trademark infringement, unfair competition, trade dress infringement, dilution by tarnishment, and tortious interference arising out of Bonneville’s trademark infringement of Plaintiff’s trademarks,” according to Westword.
Bonneville has denied any wrongdoing, saying the accusations “have absolutely no merit, and our legal counsel is preparing a formal response. Denver Sports remains committed to delivering the most in-depth and inclusive local sports content for all Denver sports fans.”