Marist's Austin King [left] and captain Trevor Larkin [right]. Photo courtesy of Marist Hockey.

Marist Hockey’s Randy Moller Charity Goal Calls

This school year, I co-founded a charity. It had a pretty stupid premise. What followed were surprisingly effective results.

A little bit about me personally: I am a junior at Marist College. Marist does not have an NCAA-sanctioned hockey team. Instead, they have a club team that plays in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA, D2). They are far from spectacular; they usually pull in at about .500 every year. But they are actually very fun to watch for a variety of reasons. They are scrappy, have solid goaltending and have enough individual talent to hang with better teams. This season in particular, they had an exciting freshman class come in to revamp the team, finishing at 13-11-2 with one tie mixed in.

The team plays their games off-campus at the local rink about a minute’s drive away. Because of this, the school’s radio signal does not have the capacity to broadcast hockey games live as we do with on-campus sports. The system plugs into campus phone lines, which means that they cannot connect once outside the gates. There was no one calling the games.

Enter me. A few of my friends and I wanted to start broadcasting games to practice for what we hope to make our career. Starting last spring, we would huddle around my phone and start calling games with a microphone app with me on play-by-play. I would email the files to my computer and edit the game together. We did not have a time slot on the radio that semester, so it was entirely for our own practice.

I prep for puck drop from "press row." Color man Rob [left] looks enthralled.
I prep for puck drop from “press row.” Color man Rob [left] looks enthralled.
No one had thought to do a delayed broadcast of the games before, probably because no one wanted to be that guy sitting in the back barking into his phone balancing stat sheets on his knees looking insane. No one wants to sit next to that guy. But that’s what we started to do this fall.

By broadcasting the games on delay, the parents and players themselves were able to listen in. Considering we don’t really have “fans,” the players were our target audience. Besides, the UCLA basketball team of the early ’70s that won 88 games in a row used to broadcast their games on delay. So we had precedent on our side. Marist hockey is basically UCLA basketball.

With a couple of games and a weekend time-slot on WMAR Marist Radio under our collective belt heading into this year, my color man Matt McNamara and I wanted to spice things up a bit. We both happen to love Randy Moller, the former radio play-by-play man for the Florida Panthers (he has since moved on to be their television analyst). Moller would take suggestions on the Dan LeBatard Show for pop culture references to shout after the Panthers scored a goal. People flooded the show with suggestions, and a tradition was born.

The results were hilarious. A professional hockey broadcaster began bellowing non-sequiturs like “WILSON!” and “RUN FORREST RUN” after goals. For a small market team looking to attract fans, it was a fun gimmick.

Matt and I realized this would be a fun way to get people to listen to our broadcasts, too. A collegiate club hockey team needs a little extra something to attract listeners, after all. Although, I had my doubts as to whether people would actually be inclined to participate. It’s a pretty silly tradition when you really think about it.

It hit me when I should have been paying attention in English Drama class.

Feb. 2, 2015-- Marist Hockey's Hodkin's Awareness Game jerseys.
Feb. 2, 2015– Marist Hockey’s Hodgkin’s Awareness Game jerseys.

I was familiar with one of the forwards on the team, Austin King. We had mutual friends since he went to a local high school and we played in the same intramural floor hockey league freshman year. Our sophomore year, King was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He had to take the season off. The final home game of the season last year, the team wore purple uniforms for Hodgkin’s research. Reflecting on this, I pulled out my phone and texted Matt:

Why not turn suggestions into a way to raise money for Hodgkin’s research?

Thus, a makeshift charity was born: The Marist Hockey Randy Moller Goal Call Initiative. For every suggestion of a pop culture reference to shout after a Red Fox goal, Matt and I would put one dollar towards Hodgkin’s lymphoma research.

The results were pretty astounding. A lot of our friends got behind the idea and pitched some pretty funny ideas. The players would keep a running tally of which player would get what call. Apparently they found it amusing that I used “I’M UGLY AND I’M PROUD!” from Spongebob Squarepants after a goal from one of the freshmen.

So, for six regular season games, I toted my computer, my microphone and my stat sheets up to the top row of the Mid-Hudson Civic Center with my color man and we did what we loved- called a hockey game. By the end, our voices would be hoarse and we couldn’t feel our feet from how freezing the rink was. But we had a blast. While it would have been fun with our without it, the charity gave the broadcast purpose. It added meaning, a bigger picture.

I’ll be honest. The number one fear I had heading into the execution phase of this plan was, “What if they don’t score?” If we received suggestions and the team got shutout or only put up one goal, people would lose interest and we would lose out on a great opportunity.

That fear never came to fruition. From the time we started the charity on, Marist averaged 5 goals scored per game at home in the regular season, including one game where they tallied nine. They even clinched a berth in the regional playoffs, where they tacked on three more goals. We made the trek out to Danbury to call the game. It was somehow even colder in their rink than it was at the Civic Center.

Perhaps the best part of it all was the look on the faces of surrounding parents, especially those from other schools. At “The Civ” where the Red Foxes play, there are stands on only one side of the rink. I would claim the back row right on the red line, to have the best view of the action. Marist parents and families would sit to my left, opposing fans to my right. I would continually mention throughout the broadcast that if Marist scores we would be using the suggestions we got. Nevertheless, the sideways glances of parents who just heard a man screaming “NOT THE BEES” after a goal never cease to amaze.

We condensed the goal calls into a series of YouTube videos for the team’s viewing pleasure. I think our fourth installment is the one I’m proudest of, with references ranging from “The Office” to Nikki Minaj’s “Anaconda.” Quite the dichotomy.

By the end of the year, we received 150 suggestions flat. That’s $150 raised for Hodgkin’s lymphoma research. I kept all of our suggestions in a master list on my phone, and they got to be so plentiful that I would have to keep an index card on me throughout the game so I would not forget which call came next. Our YouTube videos have gotten hundreds of views.

I’m immensely proud of what we started, but most of all, I’m incredibly thankful for all of the support we’ve received.

So, a few thank yous:

-Thank you to Matt McNamara and Rob DeLuca, who were my broadcast partners throughout the year. Could not have done it without you.
-Thank you to team manager Janie Pierson, captain Trevor Larkin, Jimmy Maxson and the rest of the Marist Hockey team for listening and for actually scoring. You guys made our job fun.
-Thank you to the 25 different people who made suggestions over the course of the season. You are the reason this got off the ground.

Even though the season is over, the initiative is still very much so up and running for next season. For suggestions, anyone can tweet @RantSessionsMAR (the name of the show Matt and I ran on WMAR Marist Radio), at my own personal Twitter @CaseyBryant51 or comment on one of the YouTube videos.

Donations can be made to Lymphoma.org.

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About Casey Bryant

Casey has written for numerous sporting news sites including TRLHockey and Hudson Valley Sports Report. He also co-hosted Sports Palooza Radio's podcast "Drop the Damn Puck" with EJ "The Rainmaker" Garr. Steve Valiquette once held a bathroom door for him.

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