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Monday, May 5, 2014

Somewhere Back In Time: Booth Goons

This is an older piece I wrote, but any hockey fan who was frustrated by the recent lockout may relate to this. Wrote this piece for my Intro to News Writing and Reporting class during the NHL Lockout. It may seem strange to see me writing about myself in the third person but it worked better in context. 
With the NHL Playoffs underway, I thought this would be a good article to resurrect. 

Booth Goons

In an era of NHL animosity and greed, two college radio broadcasters find solace in calling club hockey for their university

“There goes Terhar down the boards, left to right, he’s got O’Reilly open, a two on one, shoots, SCOOOOORES! HE SCORES! Max Terhar puts the Colonials up five to four late in the third period!”

There aren’t many butts in the seats. There’s no horn emitting the familiar, deafening BWAAAAAAAAAA when the home team finds the back of the net. The press box? An ominously sticky folding table sitting at the top of the bleachers. But for Kyle Menyhert and Rob Bartnichak, broadcasting George Washington Colonials club hockey is a fun, exciting, and even relieving way to enjoy the sport they love when the professionals are plagued with ownership greed and cancelled games.
“I knew I wanted to work in some type of media outlet during my time at GW.”
Kyle Menyhert joined WRGW radio this past September, with ambitions of working in both the news and sports departments. During the general body meetings, he approached the director of the sports department, expressing interest in talking about pro sports, including hockey.
“I pulled Nkwa [Asonye, WRGW Sports Director] aside and asked him about some type of work pertaining to pro sports. Nats, Redskins, Caps, the three sports I knew the most about.” he explained. “At the time, I was just trying to pitch ideas and get a better idea of what I might be doing as a job. But I noticed an expression on his face that said ‘Hey, this might work!’ ”
It did. Asonye spoke to the hockey team and worked out a deal to get hockey integrated onto GW Radio. Menyhert was given the position of play-by-play. “I was extremely excited when I found out”, Menyhert said.
Now, hockey is not a very big sport at GW. Unlike most of the GW spectator sports, it is not played at the Division I level. The club team does not get much publicity. Despite the success of the Capitals, Washington has always been known as a football town, devoted to its beloved Redskins. But that doesn’t matter to Menyhert or his color commentator Rob Bartnichak.
“We get to watch and follow a sport we both love, get to cite experience farther down the line in our lives, and all for free. I can’t complain.” Bartnichak contentedly exclaimed.
A native of New Jersey, Bartnichak provides analysis for the broadcast, reflecting on details of how plays are set up, strategies for different scenarios, and other bits of analysis and helpful information for the audience.
“This is my first year not playing hockey in the fall and winter. I miss it, of course, but it certainly helps during the broadcast. Playing the game gives you a much more complete perspective on the game you’re watching.” Bartnichak explains.
Menyhert is a kid in a candy store.“It’s a great atmosphere, and one that is still relatively new to me, watching it up close. Though I watch it on TV, I never played hockey as a kid, and I’ve only been to a few games. Everything was new to me when I started, and I took it all in, probably with a stupid-looking grin on my face. The Capitals logo at center ice, the crisp, cold air, the buckling crunch as two players bashed into the boards inches from me, the staccato slaps of sticks against ice-I love it.”
It’s a serious business as well, however, it’s not all fun and games. The two of them enter the arena carting along a large black box of equipment, which inevitably turns into a tangled mess as they rummage around for the right wires and cords. “Our equipment is not the most consistent, and it can be a pain sometimes, whether it’s a misplaced cord, a faulty internet connection, or that stupid Magic-Jack system acting up, there’s really never a dull moment. Luckily, most of the problems are fixable.” Bartnichak attests.
On top of being a fun, relatively painless experience, this job fills a void. Menyhert supports the Boston Bruins and Bartnichak follows the New Jersey Devils. Unfortunately for millions of hockey fans across the US and Canada, the league is in a lockout. Games at the very earliest won’t start until December (Hockey season usually starts in early October). The turmoil and lack of agreements between the players and owners make it look bleaker and bleaker every day. Speculation is mounting every passing day that this lockout may cancel the entire season.
“To be honest, it’s not the same. And I miss seeing my Bruins play. But being able to broadcast games is a new experience all its own. And it’s good, quality hockey we see. It’s almost a relief, a relaxing sensation, when you know, even in the face of a professional sport marred by greed and turmoil, that you can still find great satisfaction in the sport outside the professional level.”
The games can be heard online and admission is free to the Kettler Iceplex. If you’re a hockey fan in the DC area disillusioned with the lockout, this is the place where you can find your hockey fix. Look for the two guys sitting at the top of the bleachers calling the game while you’re there.

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