GLENDALE — I had a chance to speak with Matt McConnell today moments after he was announced as the new Play-By-Play Announcer for the Coyotes. Below is an edited transcript of our conversation.
Q: Matt, congratulations on being named the successor to Dave Strader as the TV voice of the Phoenix Coyotes. Your thoughts on your new job?
A: “Well Dave, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it. I’m excited to get out to the Valley. It’s an exciting team. I think the front office is just made up of a lot of great people, and when the opportunity was presented to me it was just too good to pass up.”
Q: Tell us a little bit about your history. I know you began your NHL career in radio in 1993 with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim when they came into the league. Most recently, you were the TV voice for the Atlanta Thrashers for the past few seasons; started there in 1999 and came back after a short stint in Minnesota. Tell us a little bit about your career and how you got to this point.
A: “Yeah, and you could go all the way back to my college days with Michigan State when I actually worked with Bob Heethuis, the radio voice of the Coyotes. Bob and I go way back, but yeah, I’ve been around a little bit. Obviously, the situation in Atlanta was not ideal in the end and I had really good years here in Atlanta. The fans were great, we had a lot of fun, the team was exciting, but you’re right. I started in Anaheim way back in 1993 and kind of moved around and did that just so I could eventually move from the radio broadcast booth to the TV booth, and every step along the way has been great. I’ve had an opportunity to really work with some great people and I’m sure it’s going to be the same once I get out to the Valley.”
Q: Talk about your approach, if you will, to broadcasting games for an NHL team. A lot of people might think, “Oh, it’s a three-hour job every other night.” But it’s really 24-7, is it not?
A: “Yeah, it is… I think all of us know that it’s a genuine privilege to do what we do. And I think that’s first and foremost. That needs to be in the front of all of our minds, that we do have a great opportunity and it is a privilege to do what we do, but I try to provide as much information as I possibly can. I try to put myself in the position of the fans who are watching the games, who might be listening to the games. What do they want to know about the team? … Get them updated from practice, get them really in tune with why they should watch and what is of interest for them. Try to look at it from their standpoint. And you’re right; it is a 24-hour job. It really is because I’m a guy who really loves to go to practices, to interact with players. I love to formulate ideas and work with the crew and try to put together the best possible product that not only is going to be entertaining to the fans, but is also going to be very, very informative.”
Q: You’ll be working alongside Tyson Nash. Tyson Nash used to play for the Coyotes, he was a fan favorite; he’s a fan favorite as a color analyst. Have you met Tyson at this point?
A: “Well, I’m really excited Dave. I’ve met Tyson through the NHL circles. We’ve had some nice conversations whenever our teams would get together. You know, that’s not all that often considering Atlanta was in the East and Phoenix plays out West. But I think he is truly one of the up-and-coming analysts in the National Hockey League. I think he is insightful. What I love about Tyson is, just watching him on TV with Dave Strader, it’s his passion for the game. And you can tell that he kind of wears the Coyotes colors on his sleeve and I think that that’s important. He’s great, and he really is a rising star. So, it really should be a lot of fun to be in the broadcast booth. I kind of like to joke around a little bit, I like to have fun, and I think Tyson and I are going to mesh very, very well together.”
Q: What are your thoughts on this Coyotes team as it heads into the 2011-12 season? There have been a lot of changes… Ilya Bryzgalov is gone. The Coyotes brought in Mike Smith to be his replacement. Other players like Ed Jovanovski and Vernon Fiddler also left. But there’s newcomers in guys like Raffi Torres and Boyd Gordon. What are you expecting from the Coyotes, in a nutshell, this season?
A: “Well, I like the roster. I think every organization has a turning point. Maybe now that Ilya Bryzgalov is gone, it’s another turning point and another chance to maybe turn the page in the franchise’s history, but much like we had here in Atlanta, I really, really like the support cast and the young core that’s been assembled by General Manager Don Maloney. And in terms of coaching, I list Dave Tippett as one of the best in the league. It’s amazing what he has done with that roster over the last couple of years… It probably all comes back to goaltending. There’s no Bryzgalov, but what a great opportunity for a guy like Mike Smith. I saw him a decent amount in Tampa – they were in the Southeast Division with Atlanta. And I really think this is a guy that now will have an opportunity to be a bona fide number one netminder, and I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people this year. I think he’s going to be very, very good for the Coyotes.”
Q: Matt, my last question is basically where are you? When do you plan to get to Phoenix? And when will we see you out at the rink?
A: “Well, right now I’m in my car and I’m driving to get a couple of supplies so I can get to Phoenix as soon as possible. But, I’ll be in Phoenix for the start of training camp. I plan on getting out there on Sept. 15th. I’m going to be out there for a week, get a place to live, meet everybody, try to get as entrenched into the training camp as possible as we get ready for the start of the season. And a week later I’ll be loading up my car and heading out for good, so it’s just a great opportunity and I can’t tell you how excited I am. I can’t wait to get there. There’s something about training camp, and grabbing that first coffee and watching that first scrimmage. It’s almost the right of fall, and I’m very, very much looking forward to that.”