In this essay exclusive to Blackhawks Magazine, Radio Play-by-Play Announcer John Wiedeman reflects on the magical experience of calling the 2015 Stanley Cup-clinching victory from the comfortable confines of the United Center. Wiedeman and fellow radio broadcasters Troy Murray and Judd Sirott all contributed pieces for “One Goal III.”
For Chicago Blackhawks fans who have witnessed the unique run of success the team has been on since 2008, finding the words to describe the team’s third Stanley Cup championship in six seasons must have been daunting. Thousands used cell phones to record those priceless moments as they savored the final seconds of the Game 6 victory on June 15. Many then proudly shared that footage with the world as the celebration began; others happily watched as the realization of another title washed over them.
But for those of us whose occupation it is to describe the action for listeners on the radio, the challenge is much greater—and also more gratifying. Troy Murray, Judd Sirott and I had what I’ve always felt to be an obligation and an honor: telling the hockey world exactly how the Blackhawks won hockey’s Holy Grail, again.
Just as road games are often tougher for the players, away broadcasts in the playoffs present some obstacles. Two headsets for three broadcasters in some cities; having to switch headsets and dodge one another in a small booth as we hand off the live broadcast; working out on a press ledge for Stanley Cup Final games with no booths available and people walking behind us, then having to call play-by-play while looking through a railing. Regardless of the circumstances, we adapt and overcome.
Whenever we finish a broadcast on the road, we always look forward to coming home to Chicago, and why not? The United Center is truly a wonderful building. We always feel a little spoiled, as we know we’ve got the best accommodations in the business and an engineer, Paul Zerang, who handles our every need. Whether it’s meticulously setting up equipment in our spacious booth directly above Section 318 or down in the hallway behind the Blackhawks dressing room for intermission interviews and postgame activities, “Z” does it all.
After the Cup win in 2010 in Philadelphia, we experienced technical difficulties during the on-ice postgame segment. Emotionally, that broadcast was an intense, action-packed, filibuster type of call that described the end of 49 years of franchise futility.
In Boston in 2013, Judd dutifully moved into key position at ice level for the start of the on-ice celebration, while Troy had to bolt from our broadcast position upstairs just after the win, run down a fire escape that took him outside TD Garden, then dart back into the building and finally through the kitchen and out to the ice surface. Though both the 2010 and 2013 wins were equally exhilarating, Boston was the culmination of an unpredictable convergence of events that seemed to define and validate the Blackhawks’ exceptional season.
The 2015 Cup win, from a broadcaster’s standpoint, was like clockwork. Our position inside the UC is incomparable, and calling Game 6 and a Stanley Cup championship from that position was the best it’s ever going to get.
Paul set us up with remote microphones—ones that actually worked—for the on-ice broadcast, where Judd and Troy delivered the feeling of euphoria over the airwaves, grabbing interviews with Blackhawks players and staff. When it came time to describe the Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup presentations, along with the Cup raises by victorious Blackhawks players, it went back upstairs to yours truly.
It felt like I was describing the entire scene from the comfort of my living room as captain Jonathan Toews hoisted the Cup over his head and the United Center crowd roared. He then handed it to Kimmo Timonen, who finally raised it for the first time after playing his last NHL game. The celebration, relief and sheer joy felt by the players and the Blackhawks faithful who were witness to those rare moments was something so special that it was almost inexpressible.
Having the honor, privilege and good fortune to be able to narrate these three Stanley Cups for the Blackhawks organization is easily the pinnacle of this broadcaster’s career. I’ve also been able to enjoy the ride with two exceptionally dedicated and professional men in Troy and Judd, who share my passion for Blackhawks radio broadcasts.
Judd, who got to cover every second of the 2015 playoff run after splitting duties between the Blackhawks and Cubs in 2010 and 2013, said he tried to slow the moment down in order to enjoy some unforgettable scenes.
“How much this meant to Brad Richards after the bitter season before with the Rangers,” Judd recalled. “How Niklas Hjalmarsson seemed physically and emotionally spent by the grueling run. How an overjoyed Jonathan Toews passed out accolade after accolade to his teammates. How Scotty Bowman felt about winning his 14th ring and what makes his son Stan so good as a general manager. And how Andrew Shaw didn’t want to do interviews because he wanted to take in the moment—something he said he didn’t do in 2013.
“I couldn’t tell you exactly when we wrapped up the radio broadcast (1 a.m.?). But afterward, having a frosty beverage in the booth with John, Troy, our engineers, Paul and his little brother, Steve, and our WGN on-site producers, Sam Panayotovich and Brett Jackson, topped off an unforgettable night.”
The 2015 championship run was unquestionably the fulfillment of dreams and expectations. All of us—the organization and the best fans in hockey—now share one common thread. We have been witness to the greatest era of prosperity in Blackhawks history.
Dedicated to the memory of my father, John A. Wiedeman (1926-2015).