This is the first installment of our newest series on Bus League Hockey, “Minor Leagues, Major Calls”, getting first-hand stories from current-and-former minor league hockey broadcasters.
A veteran, a former professional hockey broadcaster, and a college student walk into a bar. They’re all the same person, and that is D.J. Palm, the first-ever broadcaster of the Federal Hockey League’s Port Huron Prowlers.
Palm is an electric, award-winning broadcaster who quickly became notable for his hawk-scream style broadcasting. I mean, just listen to this goal call.
Yeah, that’s exciting.
After his four year tour of duty in the Army was finished, Palm returned home to Michigan. The return to society is hard enough, but coming back during the economic crash of the late 2000s increased Palm’s aggravation.
“It was a struggle transitioning from soldier to citizen, I got out right smack dab in the middle of the great recession, and couldn’t find a job to save my life. Eventually, I found one. It [helped] bridge the gap from unemployment to being a student.”
Palm got his start in hockey broadcasting with the Port Huron Fighting Falcons of the NAHL, calling the second half of their final season.
This opportunity came about thanks to a professor and mentor of his at St. Clair County Community College, who got a call from the team looking for a broadcaster. He never called hockey before, but that didn’t stop him.
“I knew I could do it. My first game I called just felt so natural, that I was like ‘okay, this is what I was meant to do for the rest of my life'”.
He joined the Port Huron Prowlers organization before their 2015 inaugural season while attending Community College.
The Prowlers franchise started in Port Huron after the departure of the Fighting Falcons.
“I was in my last year of junior college, writing for the Erie Square Gazette at the time. I went to the press conference where Owner Barry Soskin announced he was expanding an FHL team to Port Huron,” said Palm “I turned in my resume to head coach Trevor Karasiewicz, and three weeks later, got a phone call from Team Captain Joe Pace [Junior] asking if I wanted to be their play-by-play guy.”
What would unfold in that first year for the Prowlers and Palm was an experience neither could have predicted.
“It was awesome. I got to call a championship game that year. Besides that I really enjoyed the family atmosphere that you were welcomed into once part of the organization. Working for the team was cool, I loved the team.”
Palm was not as complimentary on working for the FHL itself.
“Working for the brass of the league was a bit of a pain in the [expletive]. I had to upload game video after the game, along with a one page game review to upload to their website. All for 30 dollars a game!” said Palm
“Working for the team was worth it because of the relationships I built with players and personnel, but if I had to work directly for the league…I would have quit. The year I started they discontinued the ‘Broadcaster of the Year award [due to] ‘Budget cuts’. So with the team, it was thankful, but the league….thank-less.”
Maybe the reason that so many would know D.J.’s name is due to what he considers one of the best moments of his time with Port Huron – interviewing and meeting legendary hockey broadcaster Mike “Doc” Emrick.
Emrick got his start as a professional hockey broadcaster in 1973 with the International Hockey League’s Port Huron Flags, and eventually worked his way up to becoming considered the best hockey broadcaster of all-time. The press box at McMorran Arena in Port Huron memorizes his start, enshrined as the “Doc Emrick Press Box”.
Palm called the experience humbling.
“Here’s a man who has the coolest job in the world. You want to ask him a whole bunch of questions, but he will have a whole bunch of questions about YOU and your life and how you’re doing.” said Palm
“He was a great person to interview, and even better human being to just conversate with.”
Unfortunately for Palm, this was not his most memorable moment of the season, as he shared a story on an incident on ice that infuriated him, involving close friend and FHL superstar Ahmed Mahfouz.
“[Mahfouz] lead the team in scoring…and penalty minutes. He was blatantly cheap-shot with a head check by a player named Steven Gallo. [It] took Mahfouz out almost the whole season.” said Palm
“I remember in that moment wanting to be the first broadcaster ever to walk down ice level, undo my tie and fight him myself. It was a hit that was deliberately meant to end his career. Mahfouz was and still is a good friend of mine.”
After the championship season, Palm decided it was time to finish his educational career with a Bachelor’s Degree, and transfer up to Central Michigan University.
“I realized my life had maxed-out in Port Huron with an Associates Degree. I was going to be stuck working for a league paying me crap money, and a radio station who was paying me about the same. I enrolled at CMU and got accepted, and that’s why I didn’t come back.”
Palm, now a full-time student at Central Michigan University, is continuing his hockey career alongside his education while calling games as a lead broadcaster for the Chippewa Hockey Network, covering Central Michigan’s American Collegiate Hockey Association teams.
Palm is just as exciting today as he was with the Prowlers a few years ago. He won second-place for Live Sports Play-by-Play by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters this season for his calls with the Chippewa Hockey Network.
Going into his final year, what lies ahead for the former FHL broadcaster?
“I wish I knew. I think what I’ll do is apply for internships in the Ontario Hockey League or American Hockey League, and one day get an opportunity to broadcast if they ever call in sick.” said Palm
“The dream is to have Doc Emrick’s job, once he retires of course.”
We would be remiss here at Bus League Hockey, especially being able to talk to a Veteran, if we didn’t ask the quintessential question.
Shawn: One can’t help but wonder, with all the Military Branch schools seemingly having hockey between the NCAA and the ACHA, how would a team consisting entirely of The Troops do?
Palm: Not well…hockey sticks can’t shoot bullets. You can’t skate on combat boots.
There you have it. Form a veteran himself.
If you’d like to hear more of Palm’s broadcasting, you can follow hear his calls whenever he’s on the air for the Chippewa Hockey Network. With an enthusiastic, exciting broadcast style, it’s always worth tuning in for.