National Radio Day: the Tips play-by-play Legacy


National Radio Day generated a thought pattern with me over the course of today: what do broadcasters mean to you? How to they add value to your listening experience?

The beauty of this medium: it’s relationship driven, from the lips of play callers to your ears. If you can’t “be there” at the game, or want to add to your in seat experience, the radio airwaves to your earbuds enhance the human desire for a timeless added texture to sport. The sound of skates slashing into the ice, the “clack!” of a stick, and the roar of the crowd – supplemented by dulcet tones of who represents you on the radio – leaves you feeling complete from the experience.

Hey, it’s what 2.5 hour appointment listening is all about.

In other words, your favorite play-by-play announcer is like a best buddy, hanging out with you at a barbecue or in the living room, enjoying the game on the couch. All that separates you: your listening device.

Human beings have emotional attachments to different announcers. They come with different voices, pitch, and team colors. My purpose here is to celebrate the predecessors (I’m lucky to have a relationship with all of them) of Everett Silvertips hockey on the airwaves.

What are they up to?

345342359KEITH GERHART (2003-07): The OG play-by-play announcer, his brand delivered highlight after highlight with energy. I didn’t arrive in Everett until eight years after his departure. Still, you’ll always be captivated by his warmth, relatability, and passion.

He resigned from his post after the 2006-07 season to return to Indiana and focus energy on a consistent lifestyle with family (his wife accepted a teaching post, and both are originally from the midwest). Now: his boys are active in sports – baseball, basketball, and tennis are in the cycle. They’re enrolled in school again, with no health concerns to report.

And about Gerhart, the broadcaster that just can’t get away?

“It’s funny you mention the bug (to get back into it),” said Gerhart. “I definitely am (looking) and seeing if I can call football or basketball for our local high school. We have some contacts there and it will be internet only, but need to see if we can pull it off.”

“I definitely miss game days in Everett: getting to the rink early in the morning, preparing media notes, watching the morning skate, talking to the fans really quick right when the doors open at the arena, the goal horn, fans rising to their feet and screaming loud when the Silvertips score. It’s always special.”

As his catchphrase borrowed from Hawaii Five-O went, “Book ’em, Dan’O.”

Rosen_Jon smJON ROSEN (2007-11): If there was ever a fitting young voice looking for his break, surroundings to understand and become comfortable with the work environment, and acumen to accelerate the Silvertips exposure, Jon was a fit to a “T.”

After leaving his play-by-play chair of two seasons in minor league baseball with the Class-A High Desert Mavericks (author’s note: I preceded him there in 2004; the hockey sports world is a small world!), Jon succeeded Keith with arguably, a challenge ahead: take the torch from an original voice who bonded with this fan base for four seasons.

Not easy.

Jon accomplished it with professionalism off air, a deep-thinking approach to creatively elevate the Silvertips profile in the Puget Sound, and a razor sharp, energetic command in his play-by-play delivery. He was the soundtrack to Murray, Harper, Froese, Gudas, Dailey, and the Kid Line. He stepped down from his post – like Gerhart – after four seasons to pursue work in his native Los Angeles hometown and struck gold.

Rosen’s work has deeply documented two Stanley Cup titles for the Los Angeles Kings – breakthrough milestones for one of the most recognizable franchises in the NHL after 45 years of waiting – and was seen frequently on the Kings TV flagship Fox Sports West as a rinkside reporter, served readers as Insider at http://www.lakingsinsider.com, worked the play-by-play chair for several key matchups for Big Ten Network and Winter Olympics hockey coverage, and added “NHL play-by-play” to his resume over the course of two seasons with the Kings, particularly when legendary TV voice Bob Miller was sidelined due to illness.

Jon’s time with the Kings reached the finish line this summer due to the pandemic, but he still misses Snohomish County and the first place he visits when returning (last seen at the 2018 WHL Championship Series): El Paraiso Mexican Grill.

“Just the ethos of Snohomish County and area – not just Everett, the satellite communities too – it’s a good, cohesive place to raise a family,” Rosen said on air, in the season finale of the Silvertips Hockey Show. “When we went and visited schools, hospitals and libraries, you got to know people and – despite any kind of differences, there’s an easy way to create a bond because of how friendly, down to earth people are around here.

“I love the city of Everett deeply; I had a wonderful time there – it’s a resilient place, hard working place, and has character.”

Huntington_TravisTRAVIS HUNTINGTON (2011-15): Hey, there are several qualities that come to mind when required to make a connection with somebody. Warmth, transparency, and energy are a few of them.

All fit the bill for Travis Huntington, who took the torch from Rosen with a smile on his face that almost never seemed to leave. Ask anybody in the Silvertips front office, or who crossed paths on the hockey side: with Travis, it’s like Christmas Day was every day.

Travis’ departure (much like Gerhart – pursuing work closer to family in his home state – Colorado) left several days for him to work with me, easing into the role because my first day on the job was on one of the busiest of the year – training camp. Not exactly the recipe for slow and methodical.

His last day: Travis was given a curtain call for many players and coaches he worked shoulder to shoulder with in his four seasons – in the dressing room after a preseason game in downtown Everett. Austin Lotz and Carson Stadnyk lept out of their stalls to bear hug him.

That told me a lot of his ability to connect with anybody, and the impact he made. Those qualities are worth their weight in gold. Before arriving and watching highlights on the Tips website, I was mesermized by his brand of play calling for every Scherbak snipe. After I arrived, he never considered any question as a stupid question, and made you feel welcomed. We both love listening to The Black Keys and the office was filled with music in the first several days.

He’s good people, and could be back on a mic soon.

“I definitely miss painting that picture for the fans and would love to get back on the call at some point, in some capacity,” said Huntington. “Until then I’ll call games in my own head as I watch them on TV!”

The pandemic has raised challenges, but as always, his glass half full approach is the perfect help.

“My family is fortunate to be doing well through all this craziness,” said Huntington. “A little stir crazy at home, but no real complaints compared to what many are dealing with. I miss the camaraderie in the organization and the excitement of game days. That feeling of anticipation when the music comes on in the arena and the game is about to start (is incredible) – and all the great people I met in Silvertip Country!”

They are the voices you know, helping build a legacy, with familiar sound, energy, and warmth.

As a guy who’s tried his hardest to maintain their legacy, I am grateful for them. I know many friends here feel the same way.

Award winning broadcaster Mike Benton has served five years as radio play-by-play voice of the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League, and 15 years in the game.  Tweet at him here.

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