Prior to spewing on the Internet about the Seawolves, I never considered myself anything other than an average fan. There are lots of great UAA fans at every level from the occasional attendee to the season ticket holder to Blueliners who back up their support with fundage and tons of volunteering. I started spewing a number of years ago and jumped on the College Hockey Blog bandwagon shortly after it began. There have been more than a few memorable results of all my bloviating; great emails, handshakes and compliments from readers, parents and other fans. Those moments make me feel both pride and humility. Pride because I said something that connected with a reader and humility because my natural tendency is toward yapping and we all know if you put a hundred monkeys on a hundred typewriters eventually you'll get some Shakespearian breakthrough. Today is one of those moments for me. I get to post an email question and answer exchange with Kurt Haider. It's a big deal for me. As a casual fan I might have met Kurt once and spent 2 minutes yapping with him. But since I do this blog now, I get the honor of posting this exchange. I met Kurt not too long (a coupla three years) ago and every time I've spoken with him since then, I've come away impressed and delighted. So enough of how cool I think this is and on with what the best radio man in the WCHA has to say:
Can you give my readers a brief history of Kurt? When did you first come to Alaska?
I came to Alaska in 1983...my work choices at the time were to work at the canneries sliming fish, or try to catch on at the radio station in Soldotna (I had just finished one year at broadcasting school in Minneapolis). Luckily, the radio station hired me... In 1988-89, I worked in Minneapolis/St.Paul at KSTP-AM. Then, back to Alaska...and back to KSRM, back to school and raising a family. I did HS football, basketball, hockey, Peninsula Oilers baseball and much more.You log more miles than any other broadcaster in the WCHA. What is the travel like? What is your favorite road trip? Why?
While driving from Anchorage back home to Kenai in the spring of 1996, I was listening to the UAA hockey game, and heard Tom Miller signing off and saying goodbye. The next day I called KBYR (the UAA station at the time) and inquired about the position. After a summer of pestering management to hire me, they did, and I came to Anchorage and KBYR to do the morning show and UAA basketball and hockey. Needless to say it was a busy, busy year, but lots of fun. About six years ago, KBYR surrendered the rights to UAA hockey, KENI picked them up, and then I moved over to Clear Channel to do news and hockey. I do news because I know how, but it sure isn't the best part of my job (although it is quite humorous to watch the Alaska politicians squirm and dance and hang themselves and such after they get caught doing something naughty! Is this the most politically corrupt state in the union, or what?!) Anyway, I miss basketball (though I do a Shootout game or two when I can) but I love doing UAA hockey as I get set to begin my 11th year!
I really do enjoy the travel that comes with the job. It's nice to get away for three or four days, but it's always great to get back home. The toughest part, for me, is Sunday. That's generally the travel day back home. I'd love to have a machine to zap me home right after the post-game show Saturday night. Having to wait until Sunday (usually a short sleep at the hotel Saturday night followed by a long flight Sunday) is kind of a drag.Your between the period player profiles are awesome and give listeners insight into the players as individuals.
The other tough part is missing my kid's games when I'm on the road. My oldest son plays hockey for South HS, and I've missed the state tournament the past three years. My youngest also plays hockey, and my daughter is also involved in sports. In the first nine years, I never questioned being on the road. This past season was the first time any thoughts of not doing it crept into my mind...but the kids are actually the ones who keep encouraging me to stay as the UAA hockey guy, so here I am, and here I'll stay as long as the university and radio station will have me.
I always enjoy the trip to Minneapolis and the Mariucci Arena. Having grown up in Minnesota, I was like any other kid in believing that the "U" was THE best college in the nation. I loved the Rouser and the marching band and the big M on the sweater. I had a chance to play baseball there for legendary coach Dick Siebert, but stupidly passed it up. I still love Minnesota, but now I'm a UAA guy. Other good roadies include Madison, Wisconsin (the band there is awesome and the fan interaction with it is unbelievable! What a great college atmosphere!) Mankato is a good trip (driving southern Minnesota highways at night is an unbelievable experience in AM radio...stations from all over the nation come in...very cool) Colorado Springs is also a great roadie... beautiful area, and the weather is usually pretty good.
I've done many, many player interviews over the years. One of the interesting ones happened in the lobby of the hotel in the Springs (Doubletree). That's where I really learned the difference between goaltenders Chris King (great athleticism ... style matters!) and Kevin Reiter (a thinking man's goalie...play the angles!). Did you know Kinger became a goaltender because he thought the equipment was cool-looking? Both were very good goalies, with very different views from between the pipes!Is St. Cloud a great place to be FROM? (Here's your chance to bust my chops about busting St. Clouds chops all the time). Is there really as many snowmachines there as I think? Have any familiarity with Stearns County Syndrome? Would you say it's more like the Appalachia of Minnesota or it is the armpit to Minneapolis/St. Paul's navel?
No real favorites, though I always looked forward to interviews with the captains... most all were very well spoken. Lee Green was a family friend from back in my Soldotna days, so it was awesome to watch his four years as a Seawolf... and so very cool to have the truth come out after the Arcand-Kootenay incident and Lee's captain "C" returned to his sweater by Coach Hill. Oh, and the interview progress of Vladimir Novak was cool...year one, unableto answer many questions in English... year four, a real conversationalist!
Growing up in St. Cloud in the late 60's, 70's and early 80's was a wonderful experience. Lots of baseball, football basketball and hockey...we played whatever was in season. Kids today by and large miss out on that all-around stuff because they specialize in one sport very early. Anyway, I love St. Cloud, but can't really picture myself ever moving back there (unless I was offered a million dollars a year to do Huskies hockey...with St. John's football thrown in!)
(My daughter supplied this one...) On the air you're the least biased announcer in the WCHA. How do you (is it hard to) maintain being unbiased considering you are a Seawolf fan?
Thank you for saying so. Blatant homerism drives me crazy, so I promised myself never to be that type of broadcaster. I think it sounds bad. I'll root for the Seawolves, I'll get excited about a Seawolf goal or great save, but I also appreciate a great play by the opposition. Even when UAA gets blown out (it's happened a time or two, yes?) I appreciate how good the other team's offense is playing or a great individual effort by an opposing player. Remember that goal Thomas Vanek of the Gophers scored at the Sullivan a few years back?...yeah, me too.You've interacted with your fair share of UAA coaching staffs. What do you like about interviewing and interacting with Dave Shyiak, Campbell Blair and Damon Whitten?
I'm not employed by UAA... I'm a fan... I love the Seawolves, but I won't be a blatant homer. (and I won't rip referees either) I won't say "there's a goal by YOUR Seawolves" because they might not be a listeners favorite team...and I don't want to alienate them. The other guy in town is an employee of that pro team... paid to be their broadcaster... he CAN skirt that "homer line"... he doesn't, but it would be understandable if he did. What I'm saying is, I hope the UAA fans enjoy the broadcasts and feel they're getting a fair and balanced account of the game.
I've enjoyed a good working relationship with all the UAA coaches over the years. The Talafous years were interesting... Dean and I actually became pretty good friends, though you could tell by listening to the interviews that he was guarded a lot of the time with his responses to questions. His assistants Chris and Karl, I believe, were coached by Dean on how to answer to the press...so were the players. That's just the way it was.What are some of your personal favorite moments in your more than a decade broadcasting Seawolf games?
The Hill years breathed fresh air into media responses. I felt John was as honest with me as he could be; Martin, Jack and Keith rarely, if ever, pulled punches. You could certainly tell that by listening to the post-game interviews...they were fun to work with.
Coach Shyiak has been open and forthcoming since day one. He's a joy to work with, as are Campbell and Damon. All three give me the time and responses I need to do my job well. Good guys and great hockey people with a drive to improve the program here. Most every player has been very cooperative and gracious with interview time...very much appreciated!
Many... game-winning goals... unbelievable saves... lots more. But I'll tell you, beating Wisconsin for the trip to the Final Five that year was such a cool experience... so out of the blue... so unexpected by the casual fan (but in talking to the coaching staff the week before that series, they conveyed a belief that this was the best possible match-up, and that UAA COULD win!). Kinger was in control of his end of the ice, and Glencross and the gang scored the timely goals. Crowds at the Excel Center "adopting" the Seawolves... beating CC in the play-in game, assuring two more games...the feeling of really belonging there! It was awesome. (Let's do it again soon, OK?)Which road arena is your personal or professional favorite to broadcast from? Get along with opposition radio guys?
Well, in terms of comfort during the game, Michigan Tech has some of the best chairs and working space (and they supply the press with candy bowls!) Denver and Wisconsin have the best pre-game food service... catered buffet. Best sight lines and closest to the action: Denver You might expect the multi-million dollar Englestad Arena to have a plush media area. Actually, the visiting radio spot is adequate, but what sucks is that their ventilation system has cold air blowing on you all game long, so it becomes miserable very quickly, and you pay the price if you didn't bring a sport coat AND jacket. I get along well with my fellow radio guys around the league. I think we all realize how lucky we are to broadcasting in the best college hockey league in the nation. They all do a good job for their teams, and are a pleasure to be around (at least for a couple games!)Kurt also provided me with some additional parting thoughts.
Thanks for listening! I appreciate the kind words from folks who have heard our broadcasts and liked them, and I appreciate those who have been critical of my broadcasting. One thing you learn early on in this business, is that you can't please everyone... you're not everyone's cup of tea. I try to give a fair and balanced account of the game...calling it as I see it, as positive as I can be. These players aren't pros... they are college kids playing because they love the game and are good enough at it to earn a scholarship. They're having fun... I'm having fun, and as long as the latter continues, so will I.As a fan of both the Seawolves and Kurt's broadcasts I'll just end by saying I hope he continues to have fun as well and that the relationship continues for a very long time. Thank you Kurt, you're definitely a class guy. Your agreement to do this has added something substantial and meaningful to this blog and I'm in your debt.
Lastly, since I didn't find a picture of Kurt anywhere on the Internet to post along with this interview; I'll take the opportunity to use a picture I'd been saving for the right moment. So in honor (an homage of sorts) of Chris King becoming a goalie because he thought the gear looked cool.