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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Sports

Taste of life on other side of microphone

Donna Tommelleo Associated Press

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. – With microphone in hand and the camera rolling, Dave Maley bantered easily with left-hander Josh Kalinowski, a pitcher with the minor league Bridgeport Bluefish, during pregame warmups.

Maley asked about family and life in professional sports, something he knows intimately after spending nearly a decade in the NHL. When the brief interview ended, the former left-winger immediately turned to the cameraman.

“Was that long enough? Should I look at the camera when I interview?” he asked.

Maley got answers to those questions and a lot more during a play-by-play announcer seminar for retired NHL players. Maley was one of seven former and active hockey players participating in a weeklong workshop offered by Quinnipiac University’s Life After Hockey program.

The program, which began in September 2002, is run through the school’s Professional Athlete Transition Institute. A career counseling and continuing education program, it’s a joint effort of the NHL, the NHL Alumni Association, the NHL Players’ Association and Quinnipiac.

It’s free to anyone who has played at least one game in the NHL, director Duncan Fletcher said. That means about 3,500 players are eligible.

Fletcher said 102 have used the program since its start. Some have become coaches, lawyers, salesmen and business owners.

“The number of alumni who have heard about the program and decided to participate has gone up,” Fletcher said.

The sportscasting seminar is the first of its kind for the hockey transition program and gives the players a glimpse of life on the other side of the microphone.

“It’s opened my eyes,” said Glenn Anderson, a Stanley Cup winner with the Edmonton Oilers and New York Rangers. “As soon as you get the microphone thrown in front of you they go live and you’ve got one take to do it in. All of a sudden you can’t have marbles in your mouth anymore. If you’re not used to having a microphone in your face, it’s very difficult.”

Anderson, Maley and their classmates, Jason York, Paul Harrison, Bob McGill, Bill Ranford and Garry Valk, conducted several on-field interviews Wednesday with members of the Bluefish, an independent minor league team.

Later that night they did a mock radio broadcast of the game against the Atlantic City Surf.

The class arrived with pregame notes, statistics and plenty of questions. They met briefly with pitching coach Jim Dedrick to learn about that night’s starter and the team’s middle relief.

“It’s been pretty amazing coming down here to do a baseball game, the preparation they’ve done,” said instructor Bill Schweizer, a former longtime broadcaster for WCBS radio in New York who is a sports broadcasting professor at Quinnipiac. “They go online. They get statistics. They’re gung-ho. They’ve been on the other side of being interviewed, so it’s kind of an interesting take.”

Maley, who played for five NHL teams including the San Jose Sharks, has settled his family in San Jose, Calif., and has owned an inline hockey rink for the past 10 years. He’s done a few games as the radio color man for the Sharks and anticipates doing more after the lockout. Maley was at Quinnipiac hoping to polish his skills.

“I’ve done it a few times and have done TV stuff, but with no training,” he said. “It’s just been, ‘Here you go, jump in and here’s the mike.’ “

York, a veteran defenseman with Nashville, was the only active player in the group. The past several months for York haven’t been so much about life after hockey, but life without hockey because of the lockout that forced last season to be canceled. He hopes to be back on the ice in September, but until then wants to take advantage of the free time.

“I’ve always been interested in color commentating, and when I’m done playing, it’s something I’d like to get into,” York said.

One of the biggest challenges for York was finding his broadcasting voice. A self-described “low-talker,” York took the advice of one of the seminar’s guest ESPN lecturers to work himself up before going on camera.

“It’s kind of like a hockey game,” York said. “You’ve got to hype yourself up to get your voice out there.”

He said he also realizes the value of research.

“You don’t want to go up there and ask a stupid question. You know from experience they’re not going to take you seriously,” he said.

Speaking on the air was easier than writing a script for many. An assignment to write a 2-3 minute sports recap drew a few groans.

“That had to be one of the hardest things,” Harrison said. “To research and come up with things that I would think would be interesting to the public, that was a real challenge.”

A former goalie, Harrison has been retired from hockey for more than 20 years after stops in Minnesota, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Buffalo. Now a police officer in Ontario, he travels the world training officers in drug prevention education.

Eight years from getting his police pension, he has begun thinking about life after that. Harrison and his wife are empty-nesters – their two grown children live several hours away – and he believes a broadcasting career could help him relocate closer to them.

The weeklong workshop may be the first step in getting him there.

“It’s been a great opportunity to try on this broadcasting role,” Harrison said. “For the most part, we’ve had a lot of fun with it.”

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