During the Blackhawks’ run to another Stanley Cup last spring, Hector Lozano, sports director for Univision Chicago, hit the streets for a live television piece.
“It was during the Final against Tampa Bay,” he recalled. “We went to an establishment at Cicero and Archer. A heavily Hispanic area. I tell you, the place was packed. And 95 percent of the people in there were watching the hockey. Cheering, wearing Blackhawks jerseys.
“Then, when we covered the parade after the Blackhawks won, it was the same thing. I was stationed at Soldier Field. Thousands of Hispanic fans were there, yelling for the team. You see it all over now. Hispanic people are into hockey.”
It is that connection that forged history on Sunday, when Lozano smoothly performed a play-by-play account of the Blackhawks game at the United Center against the Detroit Red Wings on WRTO AM-1200. High atop the building, Lozano was accompanied by Omar Ramos and Mateo Moreno, analysts for the first Spanish broadcast of the Blackhawks, but probably not the last.
A puck was most often described as a “puck,” but occasionally a “disco.” Otherwise, the customary language of the sport required no translation. A penalty is a penalty. A goal is a goal. Or, rather, a “GOOOLLLL! GOOOLLLL!” by Lozano, who went with that early and repeatedly when Patrick Kane scored 21 seconds into the first period.
Final score of the Original Seis revival: Los Blackhawks 4, Los Red Wings de Detroit 1.
Partial disclosure: Your ancient historian took four years of Spanish in college, but inasmuch as that occurred during the Spanish-American War, we cannot critique fully this broadcast. But from the 15-minute pregame show through the wrap-up, it was crisp and energetic.
Lozano had the names and numbers down so cold it was as though he was born in Montreal, not Mexico. Considering the novelty of it all, he could have been excused for making the game sound slower than it is. On the contrary. His delivery was rapid-fire. And eerily, when Duncan Keith beat Petr Mrazek to make it 2-0 at 6:19 on a power play, it was as though the so-proclaimed “Three Amigos” crew knew that Jimmy Howard would be summoned to relieve in goal for the Red Wings.
“I just had a feeling,” Lozano said. Sure enough, Howard emerged from the visitors’ tunnel and put on the mask.
Everybody loves a winner, and few organizations in the industry reach out to the community as intently as the Blackhawks. Over a year ago, Univision Chicago Vice President/General Manager Doug Levy reached out to Jay Blunk, the team’s executive vice president. A significant number of fans, especially Hispanic millennials, were out there, following a sport that they might not have grown up with but were growing with.
“The statistics are right there,” Levy said. “The Hispanic population in the area is 22 percent, and closer to one-third right in the city. Moreover, we found that 12 percent had either watched the Blackhawks on television or gone to a game. It seemed a natural fit, and here we are.
“Our broadcast today was not about ratings or producing revenue. We didn’t have sponsors. The broadcast is about either introducing our listeners to hockey or reinforcing the Blackhawks to our listeners who already follow them.”
Univision America is Chicago’s only Spanish-language, full-service news/talk radio station. Lozano, the play-by-play voice of the Bears, also handles nightly sports segments on the television news. Ramos does play-by-play for the Cubs and Bulls when they are home, and in his spare time—whenever that is—hosts a four-hour daily top 40 music show. WRTO also airs home games of the White Sox.
Sunday’s threesome did a dry run rehearsal a couple weeks ago. The pace of hockey is daunting, even to announcers who have been doing it forever, but Lozano wisely consulted with John Wiedeman, the popular veteran play-by-play man on WGN Radio AM-720. He has to lead the National Hockey League in uttering lucid words per minute.
“John was very helpful,” Lozano said. “Hockey is so fast, you almost have to know what to leave out. And John told me to keep it simple. Very good words of advice. If you happen to miss describing a pass, that’s fine. The action will probably keep right on. We all want to thank the guys on WGN Radio. They have been terrific to us. John and Troy Murray in particular.”