When the NHL called last summer to ask Al Murdoch if he’d like to add duties for league-organized big games like the Winter Classic to his already very-busy schedule, the veteran announced says he didn’t flinch.
“It didn’t take me a second to say ‘yes,’” he said Thursday, hours after returning from Dallas and hours before sitting down at his usual position in the production booth at Rogers Arena.
He said yes to the NHL’s production team, but only if there was a caveat.
“I didn’t want to be stepping on anyone’s toes.”
The NHL’s 31 public address announcers are a tight-knit group, you see. They talk all the time, swapping notes on all sorts of things. They even have a shared private website where they share recordings of pronunciations of minor leaguers’ names, for the day when an opposing team dresses a player the home announcer has never heard of.
For outdoor games like the Winter Classic, the NHL runs the show. They buy out the game revenue from the home team. But in the past, the league didn’t have its own on-going production staff, everyone was hired game-by-game.
Following the lead of many global sports, the NHL has decided to organize its own production team — including Murdoch as PA announcer — who will work at NHL-produced events.
The first edition of Murdoch’s new job was New Year’s Day at the Winter Classic. The next will be the All-Star Game Jan. 25 in St. Louis. The he will be at the Stadium Series game between the Colorado Avalanche and the Los Angeles Kings Feb. 15 at the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Falcon Stadium.
He’ll also be involved with the NHL Awards, doing the voiceovers for pre-produced videos — something he’s done in recent editions of the glitzy Las Vegas show — and possibly other duties as well.
The NHL and Murdoch, who started working Canucks games alongside the late John Ashbridge in 2011, agreed that his role at league-run games would be about complementing the duties held by the local PA announcer.
In this case, that would be the Stars’ Jeff Kovarsky.
“Jeff K. and I are good buddies,” Murdoch said. “And we were both so glad there were two of us to do the readings. That would have been too much for one guy.”
Kovarsky, he explained, did all the usual in-game goal and penalty announcements, while it was up to Murdoch to announce things like the added sponsors and performers booked by the NHL.
He flew to Dallas on Dec. 30. The production team ran through a rehearsal on New Year’s Eve and then it was showtime.
He flew home Thursday morning and was behind the mic at Rogers Arena Thursday evening.
“I have even more respect than ever for guys like John Shorthouse and Brendan Batchelor,” he said of the schedule. “I’m so impressed those guys can keep their voice fresh while having to do back-to-back games on the road, with travel and everything.”