Thursday, September 06, 2007

Kurt Haider: Q & A With A Radio Stud

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 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.

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!
You log more miles than any other broadcaster in the WCHA. What is the travel like? What is your favorite road trip? Why?
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.

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.
Your between the period player profiles are awesome and give listeners insight into the players as individuals.
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 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!

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!
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?
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.

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.
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'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 were the players. That's just the way it was.

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!
What are some of your personal favorite moments in your more than a decade broadcasting Seawolf games?
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.


Suze said...

Wow, great interview and kudos to you Donald for getting it! My husband and I both absolutely LOVE Kurt on the radio. We met him last summer at an SEHL game and we visited for an hour or so. Very classy guy. He indeed is the most unbiased announcer and that's what I love about him!

Kurt, you do the play by play so well that we feel like we're right there on the road with you. Just want you to know how much you are appreciated!!

Thanks for getting this posted Donald! See ya at the picnic.

Donald said...

I'm always jazzed to have something here other than my own incessant bellowing.

Anonymous said...

hey donald, who's is the chick btw?

Donald said...

I've got no idea ... just some random hussy I guess.

I found the pic a while back (searching flickr, photobucket, google et al) at the same time I found most of the other pics I've been using this summer.

444 said...

I can't believe Kurt turned down legendary coach Dick Siebert!!! Nobody ever did that look who you would have been friends with Kurt some future hall of famers. Sheezz...

Tyler said...

has anyone looked at the Heisenbergs recruiting list lately? especially the UAF's list?

Anonymous said...

Great interview!

I LOVE our PBP guy too! He is the absolute best!!!

I would've been tempted to ask him this:

Where does Rob plan to attend college and play hockey after graduation??? ;-) (He's a senior this year)


Anonymous said...

Oops. Correction on the spelling!!

That should have been "Robb"

Dunno how to make the links live either?


Donald said...

Here's an example with bogus "tags" ...

#a href=""^this ADN link #/a^

Replace the bogus tags ... instead of # use < then instead of ^ use > and in the case of the link you provided doing the above will result this ADN link

I didn't want to ask about any potential recruit for fear of crossing some NCAA line.

Robb would likely be a fine addition to the team. I'm fairly certain he's going to be playing for the Avalanche this year which ought to give everyone a firmer idea of what skills etc he can bring to UAA. But as big a Seawolf fan as his dad is ... how could he let him go anywhere else?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for creating that link Donald! (((HUGS)))

I spose you're right that if Kurt were asked about his son's future intentions, that could put him in an awkward position.

I like what you said in your last sentence "as big of a Seawolf fan his dad is ... how could he let him go anywhere else"?

But that's what I'm worried about. What if whoever recruited Robb got the best PBP guy in the league in the same deal, at the same time? :-O

Yeah, I know. I worry too much!!! ;o) ~~LOL.


444 said...

I wish Donald would give me a hug. lol

More like a kick in the ass. lol

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