Behind The Microphone With Paul Romanuk
NHL Digest has recently had the extreme pleasure of interviewing the most prolific voice in International hockey, Mr. Paul Romanuk.
Paul Romanuk has been the broadcasting voice of 11 World Junior Championships, 8 World Hockey Championships and 6 Spengler Cups.
Paul is also the author of the very successful line of children’s hockey books – Hockey Superstars.
Enjoy the interview!
You have been broadcasting hockey now for 20+ years. What is your most favorite memory?
Most of my really fond memories are of the events surrounding the games – the people I traveled with, the places I’ve visited and so on. Along those lines, my most cherished memories are of the various international tournaments I’ve done – 11 World Juniors, 8 World Championships and 6 Spengler Cups. Those were all unique because you get to spend some time in a place where the normal day to day NHL circuit doesn’t take you.
In terms of individual games, probably the 1994 World Championship in Milan when Canada won the gold for the first time in 33 years. In the NHL, without question, the final televised game at the Forum in Montreal, which we carried on TSN. I grew up as a Habs fan, and to have the chance to sit in the broadcast booth in the Forum and call that final game was living a dream.
Like most broadcasters, you have probably had an embarrassing on-air moment or two. Is there one that you would care to share?
Most of them don’t seem as funny taken out of the context of it actually happening to you, live, on national television. Like any broadcaster, I’ve gotten the odd name or fact wrong – mostly back when I was calling a lot of junior hockey. Sometimes it could be life and death just to get names, numbers and birthplaces… never mind anything else.
I do remember losing it one time, working with Bob McKenzie on TSN, when this guy in London (Ontario) had bugged us relentlessly to show him singing the anthem before this game. The guy went out there and completely slaughtered it. When it came time for Bob and I to start, we couldn’t stop laughing. We couldn’t look at one another we couldn’t talk, we were laughing so hard.
After covering both the World Junior Championships and the Spengler Cup on several occasions, which of the two competitions is the most fun to broadcast and why?
The Spengler is more enjoyable and the hockey is better. That shouldn’t come as a surprise – you’re talking about men who are professionals as opposed to young men who are still developing. The Spengler is a very relaxed and family vibe in a beautiful Swiss ski village. The exception is when the WJC is in Canada, when the atmosphere is just so consuming that the excitement just sweeps you along and it is fun to be a part of.
Throughout your career, several Canadians have played in both the World Junior Hockey Championships and the Spengler Cup. Which of players (who have played in both tournaments) have impressed you the most?
In terms of guys who’ve played in both – I think of Hnat Dominichelli, Marty Murray, Alexandre Daigle, Jeff Shantz – they’ve all been part of championship teams at the WJC and the Spengler. One of the reasons I’ve enjoyed my time at the Spengler so much is that I get a chance to catch up with these guys and talk about old times. I’ve known many of these guys since they were 17, 18 years old – and their perspectives on their respective careers is interesting and cool to listen to. I guess we’ve all followed a path full of the odd, unexpected twist or turn – that’s life, I guess.
Being based in England for the past few years, what are the major differences that you see between European and North American hockey?
The hockey in Switzerland and Germany is pretty wide open and entertaining, in general. There are a lot of Canadians – particularly in Germany…. coaches, managers, players… and they have a great influence on the style of hockey in that league. There are import restrictions in Switzerland; so the Canadian influence isn’t as pronounced as it is in Germany, I would say.
The hockey here in the UK is, in general, pretty grim. I would peg it as the equivalent of the East Coast Hockey League. The problem here in the UK is that hockey just isn’t a popular sport, therefore there isn’t a lot of money invested in it. Without the money, it’s tougher to get top level players, coaches or general managers. Let me put it this way – the UK is a place where the sport is referred to as “ice” hockey. Enough said.
There has been speculation that the NHL may expand into Europe, what are your thoughts on this proposal?
It’s a great idea – but one that, I think, is too full of logistical problems. As an international hockey lover I think the most likely thing we’ll see is some kind of interaction between the new European Champions League and an NHL team or maybe the Stanley Cup champion.
The thing you have to remember is that, outside of Canada and a few areas in the United States, hockey isn’t a huge sport. People in Zurich, for example, aren’t going to pay the kinds of ticket prices NHL fans pay for 40 or 50 home dates a year. A team would also not receive the kind of corporate support that an NHL team in a good market receives.
After watching his performance at the Spengler cup, do you think we’ll see Curtis Joseph back the the National Hockey League this season? If so, what team would benefit most from signing him?
He should get another chance with someone. Curtis showed that he can still win a big game. Your guess is as good as mine in terms of where he may end up. From a fan’s point of view, I just hope he gets a chance to go out on his terms and not the way that he’s been left to twist in the hockey winds….
If you were a General Manager in the National Hockey League and could pick one player who is currently playing in Europe to be on your team, who would it be?
That’s a tough one. Most of the top guys over here have had a shot at the NHL and, for a variety of reasons, decided to come and play in Europe. There are definitely guys who go back – Jamie Heward is one name that pops to mind of a guy who was over here and then went back to the NHL.
Jeff Toms and Hnat Dominichelli are both having big years over here, but are in a position where they’d likely go back on some type of a two-way deal and end up as a fourth-line guy or in the minors making crap money. So they decide, wisely in my mind, to come over here, play on the top line, make way more money and live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. Seems like a no-brainer to me.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career as a broadcaster?
My long time broadcast partner, and friend, Gary Green. Gary is one of the best and one of the most loyal people you’ll ever meet. In terms of play by play heroes, in no particular order, Danny Gallivan, Dan Kelly and Bob Cole – great announcers all.
Other than hockey, what is your favorite sporting event to cover?
Living here, I really love football (soccer). It truly is the biggest sport in the world and the passion for it here dwarfs even our love of hockey in Canada. In North America you fall in love with your team, here you marry your team. I also love calling basketball
and baseball play by play. Basketball may be the best sport from a play by play perspective. You’re right beside the court, you can see and hear the players – you’re really part of the action.
Many hockey fans may not know that you also write children’s books. How did you get started as a children’s author?
I have to give full credit for that to the prolific hockey author and former broadcaster Brian McFarland. I used to be a runner for Hockey Night In Canada (it was one of my first jobs) and Brian asked me if I would do some research for him on one of his hockey annuals. During the course of doing some research for him, the publisher – Scholastic
- asked him if he’d like to work on this idea for a series of books called Hockey Superstars. He didn’t have time, but recommended that they ask me. They did. It’s been a wonderful and enjoyable thing for me. I’ve been doing the books for over 20 years and my editor, Nicole Woodrow, is always coming up with ideas for other projects.
They’re good people and they’ve created a situation where I now have guys in their 30s coming up to me and talking about how they used to read the books back when they were 12 years old and now they buy them for their kid. Makes me feel about a thousand years old, but also makes me smile.
Please take a moment and let our readers know where they can find your work.
You can get my hockey books at most of the book fairs that run at your kid’s school during the year. I also keep a blog at www.paulromanuk.com.
Most of the stuff I’m doing now is here in Europe – play by play for Eurosport and a lot of magazine editing and writing with Sport Business International.
(Image Credit: Paul Romanuk.com)