A memorable experience ends after eight years

By on April 27, 2005

Many people have a defining experience in their lives that leaves a lasting impact on who the person is and hopes to become. For me, that experience was work I did for the Worcester IceCats, an American Hockey League team in Worcester, Mass. The IceCats were the top affiliate of the St. Louis Blues.

I use the past tense because the team will be moving to Peoria, Ill., for the 2005-2006 season, ending an 11-year run in Worcester. The move also ends my eight seasons of preparing notes and statistics for the team’s radio broadcaster/public relations director, the last six with a man by the name of Mike Thornton. Although my work has been more limited in the past two years that I have been at Quinnipiac, the experience is something that I will never forget.

Prior to each game, I would gather together interesting statistics and trends for both the IceCats and their opponent heading into the game. At appropriate times during the game, I passed these various notes off to the broadcaster, who read them on the air.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to write post-game press releases and also go on the air several times. Sometimes I would host the intermission report and read out-of-town scores. At the end of each season, Mike and I would read on the air franchise records broken by the IceCats that year. All of this allowed me to become more comfortable talking live on the radio.

I began working with the IceCats in 1997, when I was only 12 years old, and my experience steadily grew from that point on. In the 2000-’01 season, I began taking some trips to area road games on the team bus. As someone who likes to travel, this was fun and allowed me to feel more a part of the team.

There were definitely some memorable experiences through the years. I saw a game against Philadelphia where two separate one-on-one fights broke out on the ice, and everyone else piled on each other in a huge brawl. Just as order seemed to be restored, Philadelphia players charged into the penalty box and continued the fight there.

During a game in Springfield in March 2002, Springfield coach Marc Potvin became so enraged over officiating that he took every stick and water bottle on the bench and threw them on the ice. When he ran out of sticks and bottles, he took off his suit coat and tie and threw them, too. Potvin was escorted to his office as he started unbuttoning his shirt.

My most memorable game was in March 2003. The host IceCats were down, 5-1, to Manchester after two periods. In miraculous fashion, they exploded for four goals in the 3rd period to tie the game and then won it in overtime, 6-5. These are things that I’ll always remember.

I have also had the opportunity to meet and work with a number of people over the last eight years. Tom Caron of the New England Sports Network, St. Louis general manager Larry Pleau and Coach Mike Kitchen, current Toronto general manager John Ferguson, and Worcester coaches Don Granato and Steve Pleau are just some of the people I have met and established relationships with through the years.

Then, of course, there are the people I worked with. Broadcasters Mike Thornton and Rich Bocchini have taught me invaluable lessons about sports broadcasting and public relations work. My experiences with them are too numerous to begin listing here.

All of my work has been done on a volunteer basis, leading to several people along the way asking me why I do it. I did it because I enjoyed it, and it gave me great experience for the future, as I would like to get into sports communications. While it did get a little tiring continuing to work the past couple years that I have mostly been at school, I have few regrets.

The team’s emotional final game on April 17 included a reunion of former employees and a video tribute to 11 years of hockey in Worcester. After working 317 games, my run with the IceCats is over. But I can move on with the knowledge that I have the opportunity in the future to use everything I have learned and experienced over the past eight years. It has truly been a great ride.


About A. J. Atchue