This is the second-installment of an on-going series at Bus League Hockey,“Major Calls, Minor Leagues”, getting first-hand stories from current-and-former Minor League or Junior hockey broadcasters.
At Bus League Hockey, our whole focus is on the leagues that don’t get attention or coverage. The underdogs and overcomers.
Today’s story is a special one that truly showcases just those values. We travel up to Kingston, Ontario.
Allan Etmanski, the voice of the Kingston Voyageurs (OJHL) and Royal Military College hockey, has had no shortage of battles in his nearly ten-year broadcasting career.
Etmanski had a ravenous fight against Testicular Cancer that started a few years ago, that only came to an end this past year.
A true Canadian born-and-bred, Etmanski tried his damndest to stay as close to the ice during his battle, and even while undergoing chemotherapy, was found rink-side.
He explained to BLH one of the most memorable moments as a broadcaster, which took place right in the middle of his fight, returning to his position with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs.
“Two seasons ago…I was in the middle of chemotherapy. I was so fed up with the whole process of fighting cancer that I hosted our OHL broadcast that night just to escape it all,” said Etmanski “It was game 7 of the first round versus their rivals. If that wasn’t enough, the team wasn’t supposed to do anything that season and the game went to OT. They wound up winning and advancing.”
His journey to be a high-level junior broadcaster was an untraditional one, but when it comes to this industry, things are rarely standard.
He started out around 15-years-old as an occasional fill-in for a friend who called Jr. A/Jr. C in his hometown, and upon heading to college continued his broadcasting career, but more on production rather than live-sports.
With the OJHL’s Voyageurs, he started off as the Assistant Trainer in 2010, before fate would present the chance to be on the radio waves. In his second year with the team, their broadcaster had left for a new job, and due to his background in broadcasting and journalism, Etmanski was approached for the opportunity.
He’s been their voice since then. That same year, he started calling for the RMC Paladins.
It was the latter location that lead to his hosting of “Frontenacs Live” for Kingston OHL.
“At RMC there is an annual event called the Carr-Harris Cup. It gets broadcasted on TV and it’s typically one of the bigger games of the year. I was doing it in 2011, before I had joined them, as a fill in guy and met the producer,” said Etmanski “A year later at my day job the producer happened to be working days for an A/V company we did contract work with. I kept asking and asking if he ever had any openings, and sure enough one winter their regular guy couldn’t make it because of weather. His first call was to me. I guess I did well because that was 2012 and they’ve had me back since.”
Networking, he repeats. To Etmanski, and many in this field, networking is everything.
Since 2012, he’s been one of the busiest men in Ontario, splitting time between his three teams.
In 2015, it all became real for him as he would be part of an event that secured his career-decision was the right one.
“The…moment that really reinforced it for me… was when I got chosen to call the action at the Women’s U18 National tournament in Huntsville in 2015. It was a Hockey Canada event, so like a player, when you get chosen for that stage it’s a big deal,” said Etmanski “That lead to another call in December when I got asked to call the games in Whitby for the World Junior A Challenge. All of a sudden I started thinking, ‘maybe I can make a living from this’.”
His battle with cancer, though, forced him to take a leave of absence in the midst of the 2016-17 season, which would lead to another one of his most emotional moments.
“I returned to the booth this past year after the cancer battle. Just to be back to a place and sport that I knew and to be back to normal was amazing, especially after missing the second half of the 2016-17 season because of treatments and two major surgeries,” said Etmanski “Everybody being excited to see me back was a great feeling.”
“The connections I’ve made at all the levels is definently the best part…And it was just reinforced when I went through my battle with cancer. I received messages from former players, staff and fans I’ve dealt with over the years,” said Etmanski “Everybody always says that the hockey world is small and the best, and it certainly is true.”
For Etmanski, this six-year span has been something unforgettable and truly has shown that this career-path is the one he’s meant to be on.
After the experience gained from the OHL down, what’s the next step for him?
“I think it would be landing a full time job in the sport. When I’m at the rink, on the mic or in front of the camera it feels natural. It feels like where I’m supposed to be,” said Etmanski “Whether that’s Junior A, OHL, AHL or another league – not that I forgot about all of the other bus leagues out there – it doesn’t matter to me. Being able to work in hockey and not have to find a 9-5 would be the logical next step.”
Teams out there looking for a Front Office member who fights like hell and lives by the word ‘persistence’, look no further than Allan Etmanski. This is a guy you want on your team.
Of course, we couldn’t let Allan go without asking him the most-important question.
BLH: You personally call games for a team that represents the Canadian Forces. The United States Military has many service academy schools with hockey programs. How would a team consisting entirely of the troops do on the ice in the OJHL or OHL?
“I think they would be competitive. They would certainly make the opposition earn every inch they got. I know that at RMC, they may not be the most talented team in the league; but when it comes to work ethic, there aren’t many teams that will put work them,” said Etmanski “The only team I can think of that matches it is the Army team from West Point in the annual Challenge Cup. It would be a lot closer than some people think. In one game, anything could happen.”
Your move, GMs.