With the hockey season in full swing, I thought it would be a great time to catch up with Bob Crawford, voice of the Hartford Wolf Pack and Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations for Northland/AEG. Bob is currently in his thirteen season with the Wolf Pack, and has over twenty years of experience as a play-by-play broadcaster in the American Hockey League.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Bob in the XL Center and discuss how he broke into the sports industry, his current role with the Wolf Pack, and his view from the broadcasting booth. Many thanks to Bob for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his insight on the inner workings of the New York Rangers’ AHL Affiliate. Here’s Part I of the interview, with Part II to follow on Friday.
Dan Canavan: As the voice of the Wolf Pack, you have been bringing the game to Hartford hockey fans for over a decade. How did you get your start as play-by-play announcer?
Bob Crawford: Growing up, I was always a real sports nut. I was a student of all different sports, but my favorite was always hockey and I was interested in radio broadcasting. My father was in radio, and I was always around it. Knowing that I was never going to be a player, I thought being an announcer was a great way to stay involved in the sport. While attending Harvard, I was able to get a chance to broadcast games on the student radio station, which basically had the exclusive on the hockey team. I did games at Harvard for three years, and after graduation I made a tape and sent it out to every minor league team that I could find.
Detroit’s minor league affiliate in the American League was called the Adirondack Red Wings, and their announcer at the time was John Kelly, who is now the voice of the St. Louis Blues. But Kelly was also doing the Ranger games on MSG Radio that Marv Albert couldn’t cover, which ended up being most of them because Marv was doing so many other things. So Adirondack needed someone to do the games in Kelly’s absence, and they were looking for someone who was trying to break into the industry. They liked my tape, and I’m still in the same league 20 years later.
DC: Prior to the Wolf Pack’s relocation to Hartford in 1997, you had been with the franchise when it was known as the Binghamton Rangers. How has your experience been here in Hartford?
BC: Hartford has been tremendous. The Wolf Pack is a great franchise, the XL Center is a terrific building for the AHL, and Hartford is a tremendous market. My family and I love being here. My wife and I didn’t have any children when we moved here, but now we have one in middle school and one in the fourth grade, and Hartford is our home. It’s been by far the place that I have worked the longest in my professional career. We have been lucky that the Wolf Pack has had some great teams over the years, and I have gotten the chance to work with some really great people in this organization.
BC: When we first moved here in 1997, I was doing the play-by-play and I also had a role in advertisement sales. Since then, my role with the organization has expanded into public relations. I oversee all of the Wolf Pack media needs, including press releases, media notes, as well as processing press credentials and interview requests. I’m also the liaison between the Wolf Pack and the league public relations office, and I also share some public relations responsibilities on behalf of the XL Center.
DC: You have worked in professional hockey for many years. What is it like to work with the Wolf Pack organization?
BC: For a minor league professional team, we have a huge staff, consisting of marketing, sponsorship, ticketing and game day. Northland/AEG handles all he business aspects of the team, while MSG is responsible for the hockey related operations, such as the coaching staff, players, equipment and medical personnel.
The Wolf Pack is a big time operation; the type of operation you would see at the major league level with all the big time expectations. It takes a lot of work to put on these games, and we invest a lot of people hours and creative efforts into everything we do to produce a great game experience. We understand that the market place becomes more competitive every year, and we are always looking for ways to improve our product. Whether it’s reevaluating ticket price points, expanding concession options, or creating new and exciting in-game promotions, our efforts are always evolving. And while we have a core base of hockey fans that make up our season ticket holder list, we are always exploring new ways to get more people to the game.