Tim Woodburn has done play by play for more than 700 minor-league hockey games but never got a chance to call a game in the NHL…
… until tonight.
Woodburn, a St. Louis native, will step into the 101 ESPN broadcast booth with Joey Vitale to call Friday's game between the St. Louis Blues and Washington Capitals while Chris Kerber is sidelined following a positive COVID test.
"I haven't called a hockey game since May 2001, which would have been the end of the regular season when I worked for the American Hockey League's Kentucky Thoroughblades," Woodburn told stlouisblues.com. "We'll see if calling a hockey game is a lot like riding a bike where you never forget, but I can tell you I don't have a nervous bone in my body (right now). To actually call an NHL game, I guess I'm in shock. Hopefully those nerves will continue to stay away because I'm really looking forward to this."
Woodburn graduated from St. Mary's High School in St. Louis in 1987 and went to the University of Missouri-Columbia, where he earned a degree in broadcast journalism in 1991. After graduation, he interned with the Blues for one season before getting his first play-by-play job for the ECHL's Birmingham Bulls in their inaugural season. Kerber would later take Woodburn's job with the Bulls after Woodburn moved to call games for the ECHL's Roanoke Express.
After nine years of minor-league hockey, Woodburn moved to Lexington, Kentucky, where he worked pre- and postgame shows coving Kentucky football and basketball in the SEC for six years. He then moved back to St. Louis, where he worked in news radio before becoming a licensed private investigator in both Missouri and Illinois.
On Thursday, Woodburn got a phone call from Steve Chapman, the Blues' Executive Vice President and Chief Revenue Officer, with the offer to call Friday's game. Chapman and Woodburn worked together in Birmingham.
"(Chapman and Kerber) asked if I had ever worked an NHL game before and I said no, it was one of my deepest regrets," Woodburn said. "I got three interviews for NHL jobs but finished as a finalist all three times. I've known Chapman for over 30 years and I've known Kerber for almost 25. They had a feeling that I was in town and could do this, so they were gracious enough to give me this opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream."
Since the call, Woodburn has been studying up on the Washington Capitals. He knows their star players, he says, but getting the "meat and potatoes" of who they are has required a lot more work. Woodburn said he knows the Blues like the back of his hand - he follows the team daily and did a hockey podcast with Kerber last season.
Woodburn said he didn't know what his emotions would be on Friday when he stepped into the broadcast booth, but he's looking forward to putting on the headset once again.
"I'm one of those weirdos who knew what he wanted to do when he was seven years old. I knew I was going to be a hockey announcer," he said. "To end up doing that for nine years was a thrill, but the world of broadcast is complex and it has changed (quite a bit).
"Blues radio is something I've cherished since I was a kid with a transistor radio under my pillow listening to Dan Kelly. I was fascinated by that whole world and wanted to become part of it. It's an honor and a thrill to do this tonight."