This week, Joe Shetrom caught up with the former “Voice of the Stingrays,” Mike Kelly. Last August, Kelly accepted the play-by-play position for the American Hockey League’s Springfield Falcons, after spending seven seasons in the ECHL with South Carolina and Mississippi. In this Q&A, Kelly talks about one of his more-memorable games from this season, living in the Northeast, and some of the top young players he’s seen in 2007-08.
How has your first season in the American Hockey League gone so far?
It's been awesome. The hockey is intense and it's been great to see a guy play one night in the AHL and the next night in the National Hockey League. We've had 12 players called up to the Edmonton Oilers, the NHL affiliate for Springfield, so there is lots of incentive. One game that has stood out so far was my AHL debut. The broadcast was an adventure. We were on the road in Portland, Maine and I couldn't hear the commercials or the producer at the radio station, so I had to run a stopwatch between breaks all night. Then just minutes before the contest, we were told that the game jerseys for both teams hadn't arrived -- they were still on route. As a result, for the entire first period both teams played with their practice uniforms -- with no numbers or names on the back! The game jerseys finally showed up to start the second period. To cap off the night -- during the second intermission, the one and only Zamboni ran over a promotional T-shirt and it got stuck in the blade. After a 45-minute delay, and some verbal tap dancing in the broadcast booth -- the game finally resumed. Springfield won 3-2. It was a game that I won't soon forget. The teams have had their game jerseys in every contest since.
After being in the South for the past several years, has it been an adjustment for you and your family living in a colder climate, especially during the winter months?
It hasn't been as cold as we thought it might be -- especially living in the south for seven years. We certainly aren't wearing a T-Shirt in February, but my wife, Suzanne, and I are both originally from Canada, where it is quite a bit colder. Springfield is located an hour-and-a-half from the Atlantic Ocean and nestled in a valley, where there is less wind and snow. It was really neat though in November, when our two-year-old son, Gregory, saw snow and played in it for the first time.
What are some of the best venues you’ve called games from this year?
We're fortunate in that Springfield's home arena, the MassMutual Center is one of the nicest buildings in the league. They recently pumped $70 million worth of renovations into the facility and the site lines are the best in the AHL. Hershey's GIANT Center was a lot of fun to visit with over 9,000 fans in attendance and Philadelphia's Spectrum -- with all of the Flyers and Phantoms winning history in that building -- was also very memorable.
You had the chance to see Stephen Werner last season with the Stingrays, and now again this year with the Falcons? How similar or different is his game from the 2006-07 to 2007-08 campaign?
Stephen Werner is making a positive impact just like he did last season with South Carolina. It's nice to see a guy getting a chance and making the most of it by playing a regular shift in the American Hockey League. Werner is also seeing time on special teams. In his first home game in Springfield, he scored two goals and became an instant fan favorite. It's great to have him here with the Falcons.
Who are some of the other rising stars you’ve had the chance to see this season while doing play-by-play?
Guys that stand-out to this point include former Hartford forward Nigel Dawes before being called up to the New York Rangers. Providence forwards Pascal Pelletier, Petteri Nokelainen and goaltender Tuukka Rask have appeared in games with the Boston Bruins. Brian Boyle and Teddy Purcell have been forces in Manchester and they have both seen action with the Los Angeles Kings.
The Falcons are battling the Manchester Monarchs for fourth place in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. How would you compare the rivalries in that division to the ones you saw in the ECHL’s South Division?
The divisional rivalries are just like the ECHL's South Division. The teams in the AHL's Atlantic Division play one another a lot (five at home, five on the road) and after a few games there aren't any secrets going into the games. Everyone is intense and it has made for some great battles.
Do you still keep tabs on the Stingrays’ progress?
Absolutely, it's great to see the team doing well on and off the ice. My family and I had a lot of fun in the Lowcountry and have great memories from our time there. In addition, I've caught up with former coach Jason Fitzsimmons in Springfield on a couple of his scouting trips for the Washington Capitals so he's also brought me up to date on the latest with the Rays.
Anyone you want to say hello to in the Lowcountry?
I'd like to say hello and send best wishes to all the Stingrays fans, the Booster Association, and front office staff and all the boys on the bus -- Bedsy, Big Willy, Churchy, Captain Cail, Snakebitten Reider, Old man Reider, Parls - aka Schlegel, Romf - the King of Life and Health Insurance, Happy Chappy, Travis the Sniper, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Judy -- the part-timer that plays like a full-timer, and Bussey - keep it on the road, plus all the new guys and oh yeah, Nasty Nate - Pizza anyone? Keep it going boys and save me a sip from the Kelly Cup!
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