By Kyle Shohara
Perched high above the rink each and every time the Anaheim Ducks skate onto the ice sits a man who is living out his dream. Ever heard the phrase paying your dues? Imagine ponying up over a span of three decades.
It took Steve Carroll 30-plus years to get to where he is today – serving as the radio play-by-play announcer of the Anaheim Ducks – a post he’s holding for his 17th straight season. He’s called some of the franchise’s biggest games, including Game 7 of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final and the Cup-clinching Game 5 victory against the Ottawa Senators in 2007.
“It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for 17 years,” said the 60-year-old Carroll after a recent Ducks practice at Honda Center. “I spent so many different years with five minor league baseball teams and stints at every level of hockey, including junior, college and both levels of minor league hockey – the East Coast Hockey League and American Hockey League – and even the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers. You tend to forget about all of those teams. You have memories of it, but I’ve never spent 17 years in one spot. That, to me, is a positive.”
The term journeyman doesn’t apply solely to athletes, Carroll proves. Originally from St. Louis, Carroll found humble beginnings in the small Missouri town known as Farmington where he landed his first play-by-play job as the voice of the Mineral Area Junior College Men’s Basketball Team in 1976.
Carroll went on to broadcast in several sports at both the college and professional levels with baseball teams like the Nashville Sounds (Triple-A), Huntsville Stars (Double-A) and Iowa Cubs (Triple-A). He also found work with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Carroll has been employed in nine states and remarkably has called action in every state but Alaska and Idaho.
At one point during his time in Nashville (in the mid-1990s), Carroll was broadcasting for five teams in three sports while freelancing for a newspaper. His job with the ECHL’s Nashville Knights was supplemented by work with Vanderbilt University basketball and football (radio and television), as well as play-by-play for the Music City Jammers of the Global Basketball Association.
* * * * * *
There was a time in Carroll’s broadcast career when he wanted to give up. Not because he didn’t enjoy what he was doing, but in his mind, getting to the next level [for a second time] seemed impossible. Carroll was calling games for the Knights when he was hired to do radio play-by-play for the Flyers, his first taste of the NHL.
“I got that job a week before the start of the season,” Carroll recalls. “I wasn’t even going to send a tape because I had given up mentally and physically of ever obtaining a big-time job. I wanted to do baseball because I spent most of my time in that but never got the chance.”
|“I had to work to get here, and it was very difficult,” he says. “I’m just glad I had the opportunity. It’s been a great 17 years.” |
A friend in the business told him about the job opening in Philadelphia and recommended sending a tape in, but at this point, he thought, Why bother?
“I’m not going to get that job,” he remembers telling his friend. “It’s a week before the season and I’ve sent thousands of letters.” He ended up sending a tape in for the heck of it, but one that was 12 years old from his days in the American Hockey League.
Carroll was hired three days before preseason play began, but wasn’t there for long.
“Things didn’t work out as I hoped for there,” he says. “They went through a number of different people in a short period of time.”
From there he took a job in New Orleans doing group sales for the New Orleans Zephyrs, a Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros, from 1996-98, and eventually helped out the radio broadcast.
One thing led to another, and soon Carroll found himself calling games for the New Orleans Brass of the ECHL in the team’s inaugural season, which also required him to help the communications, media relations and corporate sales departments. He also handled play-by-play for the New Orleans Storm professional soccer team and was the host of a sports show that dealt with the New Orleans Saints of the National Football League.
It was during his stay in The Big Easy when, again, by chance, he heard of a possible job opening in the NHL. Carroll says he had a “decent situation” in New Orleans at the time because he was gaining experience in his various roles. At this point in his career, he had pretty much given up any hope of making a return to the NHL, so instead, put his focus on minor league baseball and college athletics.
He was doing a game for the Brass in Pensacola, Florida when a broadcaster for the Pensacola Ice Pilots named Paul Chestnutt told him about a possible job opening in Anaheim.
“At the time, I didn’t have any kind of agent, but I worked in the American [Hockey] League 12 or 13 years earlier,” Carroll says. “Through those connections, I made a call or two just to let people find out if they hear anything. I eventually found out through a phone call that there was an opening.”
He was advised to send a tape. Carroll didn’t think twice.
“I got a tape in the proper hands of the people making the decisions [in Anaheim],” he says, “and the difference was this was an NHL tape from working in Philadelphia. They knew I had experience working in the NHL, albeit one year. I had that compared to an East Coast or American Hockey League team.”
Carroll was flown out to Orange County where he met some of the upper management of the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. “It was a very short visit,” he recalls. “No guarantees on the job, but I met a lot of people, including Dan Patin [Manager of Broadcast Operations for Anaheim Sports, INC.], who was the broadcasting guy at the time.”
Carroll thought it was unusual to be shown around the area on the first visit, but he knew the organization liked his tape.
“This is it for me,” he remembers saying to himself. “If I get it, this is probably my dream job. If it’s not, I might not ever get a chance because I’ve been there once and it didn’t work out.”
Two days later, he was offered the job.
“It was a tough time when I lost my job in Philadelphia. I believe your life is already set before you’re born. Maybe this was the way it was supposed to happen." - Steve Carroll
“If it hadn’t been for Paul Chestnutt coming up to me and caring … I had never met the guy before in my life,” Carroll recalls. “He just made the comment that he had heard something about a possible job opening in Anaheim. This is a guy who I met for the first time. And if it wasn’t for Pete Weber [now a radio play-by-play announcer with the Nashville Predators], who was in Buffalo at the time, he’s the one who told me about the Philadelphia job. He convinced me to send a tape because I had given up.”
Taking things one step further, Carroll says he heard someone else was actually considered for the Ducks job, but that person turned it down.
“If that guy gets the job, I’m out,” Carroll says. “Things started happening that weren’t your norm. I’ve worked so hard sending out letters and tapes over the years, and this is the way it happens. It’s interesting how it all works out.
“It’s funny. You’ve given up on your long-time aspirations, and something like this happens in the way it does.”
* * * * * *
As Carroll looks back on his journey to the NHL, one word keeps coming to mind: Fortunate.
“It was a tough time when I lost my job in Philadelphia,” he says. “I believe your life is already set before you’re born. Maybe this was the way it was supposed to happen.
“This is the dream job. I live in Southern California working for a great organization doing radio play-by-play. The weather is great. They’ve treated me very well since I’ve been out here. For a guy who worked in nine states, and then to get a job out here, that has to be your dream job because I never thought about it ever working out this way. It’s been a fantastic experience. It’s gone by fast, but there’s no doubt that this is where I was supposed to be.”
|NOTE: Fans can listen to Duck Cast – a weekly podcast hosted by Steve Carroll on AnaheimDucks.com with interviews from players, coaches and staff. |
Those fortunate enough to meet Carroll know he’s one of the most personable and humble individuals around. He was a sports fan just like everyone who tunes in to his broadcast now, and he made an oath from years ago that he still keeps to this day.
“I made a decision back then that if I ever get the dream job, you just want to be nice to people and treat them how you want to be treated,” Carroll says. “I’ve gotten to know a lot people – Ducks fans and people within the community who I’ve become close friends with. The most important thing you find out over the course of time is that this is a people-business, too. I try to make an effort since I’ve been here. I was one of the fans growing up. I would’ve given up anything to go into a broadcast booth to talk to a broadcaster. Now that I’m on the other side, I make sure to take the time to talk to fans whenever the opportunity arises. I can see myself in their shoes because I was a fan before I got into the business.
“I hope people remember that you took the time to talk to them, you were down to earth, and you did a good job with everything else going on in the world. People can get away from things for two to three hours and say, ‘That was an exciting game. I liked your call.’ That means more to me than anything. I don’t need all the other stuff.”
After what it took for Carroll to get to this position, he is constantly reminded how lucky he is to have spent more than a decade and a half in Anaheim.
“I had to work to get here, and it was very difficult,” he says. “I’m just glad I had the opportunity. It’s been a great 17 years.”