There’s a lot of reasons we call the Federal Prospects Hockey League, “the best league” over on our Twitter account. And anybody who knows us or the Fed knows that it’s not the play. It’s the mayhem that happens off (and sometimes on) the ice.
Saturday night’s game between the Port Huron Prowlers and Columbus River Dragons was the perfect example of that, and became one of the weirdest, funnest nights of minor league hockey in a long time. To sum it up in one sentence: The Prowlers’ broadcaster did play-by-play from the bench while serving as the team’s emergency backup goalie.
But before we get into the game and its broadcast, let’s take a step back and explain how we got to the point where a broadcaster had to suit up as the team’s emergency backup goalie and still called the game.
The Port Huron Prowlers arrived in Columbus with three goalies on the roster after Michael Santaguida returned to the team after a year and a half in the SPHL, he joined goalies Chris Paulin and Ville Kaukkila for the series. You would think three goalies in town would be enough for any team, but Santaguida joining the team was the last good news the Prowlers would get in regards to goalies on the weekend.
In Thursday’s game, both Paulin and Santaguida suffered head injuries, Paulin sometime in the 2nd period, and Santaguida during the third when he came on in relief of Paulin in a 6-5 Prowlers win.
Then on Friday night, Kaukkila suffered a lower body injury, and with both the other goalies out due to their injuries, was left in to finish the game despite not being able to move well on the way to a 9-0 loss.
So when all three of your goalies are hurt, you’re really screwed. In stepped FPHL veteran Kelly Curl, who had played parts of the last two seasons with the Carolina Thunderbirds and one game with the Mentor Ice Breakers. And who just happens to normally be the Thunderbirds color commentator on their YouTube feeds. Curl hopped in his car and made the trip to Columbus, so that solved the Prowlers’ problem for a starter Saturday, but in the Fed, you need a backup goalie or are fined by the league. The River Dragons tried to help them find a guy, but that guy ended up having to work at 6pm. And so Port Huron broadcaster Jeremy Skiba suddenly became the team’s EBUG, because there were no other options.
Well, once we found that out, we had a great idea! He should broadcast the game from the bench!
Petition to have the @PHProwlers broadcaster call the game from the bench as the EBUG. Make it happen folks.
— Bus League Hockey (@BusLeagueHockey) January 11, 2020
The next thing we knew, we were on a Facetime call showing us Jeremy sitting on the bench hooking up the equipment to call the game from the bench maybe 90 minutes before puck drop. Holy crap, they were actually going to do this.
And it only got crazier from there.
Right away, you knew this was not going to be like any broadcast you’d ever listened to. The sounds from the game, the horns, pucks hitting sticks, bench door slamming, players trash talking, and players taking over the microphone out of nowhere.
At one point in the first period, Prowlers’ player-coach/GM Joe Pace Jr grabbed the microphone after a Prowlers goal gave them a 3-2 lead and said, “This is how we’re playing every game the rest of the year, Jeremy on the bench!” And then as the second period got underway, Port Huron forward Dalton Jay beat Skiba to the mic at the bench and welcomed us back for the second period. It was impromptu, hilarious, and just absolute chaos, because you had no idea what was coming next or what might be said next.
And the swearing. My goodness the swearing. If you ever wondered what hockey players say during the game, this was literally as close as you’ll ever get to finding out. It was not a child-friendly broadcast, to say the least.
It seemed like after every Port Huron goal, all you could hear was the entire bench saying some combination of, “Fuck yeah boys!” “Fucking right!” “Let’s fucking go!” Needless to say, this was a broadcast that would have had the plug pulled after three minutes if it were on actual radio and not the Prowlers’ Mixlr account. We spent the whole first period laughing like crazy at just how insane it all was.
Now, that’s not to say that this was a perfect idea, because there were a number of logistical problems that calling the game from the bench resulted in that we didn’t consider: The big one being that any time Columbus scored, it was like you were sitting next to the goal horn, and Skiba couldn’t say a word because of how loud it was. And then there were certain plays along the side of the ice where the benches were where Skiba couldn’t quite see everything that was happening. Still, that’s a small price to pay for what might have been a first in pro hockey (Editor’s Note: Former Carolina and current Columbus broadcaster Zak DeBeaussaert called a period from the Carolina bench on Fan Appreciation Night last season. Skiba is the first we know of to do the whole game from the bench, or as an EBUG.) It was like NBC putting Pierre between the glass, but you actually wanted to listen.
And dammit, it was an insanely enjoyable experience. Even without having the video of the game, it felt like you were right there with the team and part of the Port Huron Prowlers. Is it something we would do every game or listen to every game? Probably not, but for one night to get a different broadcast experience and way of listening to the game, it was awesome.
So congratulations to Jeremy and the rest of the Prowlers organization for actually wanting to do this, and then figuring out a way to make it work and happen. It was absolutely crazy in the best way, and one of the most fun nights of listening to hockey we’ve had in a long time.
Oh, and as if that wasn’t wild enough, the actual game was bonkers from start to finish, with the River Dragons rallying and taking down the Prowlers in a yawner of a game by a final score of 11-9, where the two teams combined for 105 shots on goal.