Lou Nolan has one of the best seats in the house for Flyers games: rinkside, center ice, and he doesn’t pay for it. In fact, the Flyers pay Nolan. Does Ed Snider know about this? Relax; Nolan has Snider’s full approval for his premium vantage point.
Nolan through the years
Nolan is the Flyers’ longtime public-address announcer. He’s been on the job for 35 years, through Stanley Cup conquests, the renowned Flyers-Russia game and Broad Street Bullies brawls.
Nolan also is the master of ceremonies for such on-ice presentations like Dave Schultz’s recent induction into the Flyers Hall of Fame. At the conclusion of the ceremony, which was framed with frequent rousing ovations for the former Flyers enforcer, the “Hammer” was supposed to make one more visit to the penalty box. Nolan added the perfect touch by repeating an announcement he had made countless times during Schultz’s fight-filled Flyers career: “Flyers penalty, No. 8, Dave Schultz: two minutes for roughing, five minutes for fighting and a 10-minute misconduct.”
Over the decades, Nolan has overheard countless classic comments. Nolan took in every word of Dan Carcillo’s recent tirade against the on-ice game officials and Buffalo’s Craig Rivet following his second fight with Rivet. Carcillo was angry that the linesmen let Rivet pull his hair at the end of their fight.
A few years ago, Daymond Langkow, then with the Flyers, was whistled for high sticking after an opposing player slashed his stick out of his hands. The stick sailed through the air and clipped an opponent. After Langkow settled into the penalty box, Nolan asked him how the stick went airborne. “Langkow looked at me,” Nolan recalled, “and said, `Jedi mind trick.’”
|Lou Nolan has been the public address announcer for Flyers games since the 1970s. (Flyers Archives) |
On Halloween, Nolan wears a Groucho Marx nose and glasses. One year, he brought enough Marx disguises for all the off-ice officials and they wore them for a while. During the game, the Flyers Craig Berube reported to the penalty box following a fight. “Midway through the five minutes,” Nolan said, “I hear someone call `Louie! Louie!’ I look over and Berube is wearing the nose and glasses.”
Back in the Broad Street Bullies days, when a physical game was expected, more than once the Flyers’ Bob Kelly skated past Nolan and said, “Louie, I’m going to put somebody in your lap today.”
Dennis Polonich, a diminutive, annoying Detroit Red Wings player in the 1970s, used to torment Flyers defenseman Andre “Moose” DuPont. “Dennis would never stop. He kept saying `Dupie, Dupie’ ” Nolan said. “Moose would get mad and tell him to shut up. One time my (penalty box) phone rang and before I could answer it, Polonich said, `There it is, Dupie, they traded you for me. They’re going to tell us switch boxes.’”
Referring to Flyers great Bob Clarke, Nolan said, “Clarkie never thought he deserved a penalty. He was always yapping at the referees.”
On several occasions, Nolan has heard younger players thank a proven NHL fighter for the opportunity. “They’ll say, `Thanks for the chance to go with you,’” Nolan said. “How else are they going to show what they can do? When Riley Cote thanked Georges Laraque once, Laraque said, `I like the way you’re going at it, but you’ve got to work on your balance.’”
Another funny tale from the penalty box: after Buffalo’s Rob Ray lost a fight to Todd Fedoruk, Nolan heard Ray say, “I’ve got to make some phone calls and tell guys that he’s left-handed, because he just beat the hell out of me.”
* * *
The 1976 Flyers-Central Red Army game is one of Nolan’s career highlights. For Flyers fans who weren’t around then, this was the final game of a series pairing NHL teams vs. the Russians. Since the Russians had beaten the New York Rangers and Boston and tied Montreal, it was up to the Flyers to win and uphold the NHL’s reputation. Canada, the United States and the world were watching.
“I studied the names (for correct pronunciation),” Nolan said. “In the pregame production meeting, Ralph Mellanby (the “Hockey Night in Canada” executive producer whose son Scott later played for the Flyers) told me, `Lou, I don’t want to get you nervous, but 250 million people will be watching.’’’
During the game, a Canadian who spoke Russian was stationed near Nolan. Linesman Matt Pavelich, who understood Russian, assessed a misconduct penalty to a Russian player for calling him a derogatory name. Said Nolan: “(The translator) talked to the Russian player (in Russian) and said `You’d better watch out who you call a bleep: the guy understands the language.’”
Other career highlights for Nolan include serving as the PA announcer for the 1976 NCAA Final Four event at the Spectrum (“first basketball games I ever worked”, he said.) and being the rink announcer for men’s hockey at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
Nolan is a traditional PA announcer in the style of the late, great John McAdams, longtime voice of the Palestra and countless other Philadelphia area sporting venues. Nolan doesn’t scream his announcements or offer catch phrases aimed at attracting attention to the announcer.
“The players are the show,” he said. “I just try to be consistent and keep the fans in the game.”
These days, Nolan is probably best known for saying “The Flyers are going on the PECO power play!”
“I’ve never tried to be a cheerleader. I’ve tried to be professional,” Nolan said. “I had to warm up to (saying PECO power play). Now, people wait for it and tell me about it, so I try to deliver a good one. The visiting teams don’t like it. I remember the Pittsburgh trainers telling me `The bleeping PECO power play: would you stop it?’”
Before he was hired as the Flyers public-address announcer at the Spectrum for the 1972-73 season, Nolan had never done PA work. Through his friendship with Joe Kadlec, the Flyers original public relations director, Nolan worked in the press box handling statistics and other chores. Occasionally he would announce the goals and penalties in the press box.
When Kevin Johnson, the Flyers PA announcer in the early years, left, Nolan auditioned for the job and was hired by Lou Scheinfeld, then a Flyers vice president.
Nolan’s introduction to hockey began in the late 1950s, before the Flyers arrived in Philadelphia. A classmate of Nolan’s at St. Barnabas School in southwest Philadelphia had an uncle, George Lennon, who was a goal judge for the Ramblers, the minor league team that played at the Arena, at 46th and Market streets. Lennon became the original timekeeper for Flyers home games.
“He used to take myself, his nephew George and a couple other guys from St. Barnabas to Ramblers games on Friday nights,” Nolan recalled. “We’d bring home broken sticks, glue them together and play street hockey. I became interested in hockey. I’d take the trolley downtown to the only place that sold hockey magazines, at 13th and Market.”
After graduating from West Catholic High in 1963, Nolan met Kadlec during the summer in Margate, New Jersey. Kadlec was working for the Philadelphia Daily News sports department. One of his duties was selecting winners of races at area horse tracks. The column was called “The Kadlec Kid.”
When Kadlec was named the Flyers PR director, a job he held for decades, Nolan asked him to keep him in mind if he needed help. Nolan started in the press box and worked his way down to rinkside as PA announcer.
|Nolan and Bill Fleischman chat in the halls of the Spectrum. (Flyers Archives) |
During Nolan’s first game as an announcer, he was showered with ice when a player in the penalty box picked up a bucket of ice and tossed it at a rival player. With no glass protecting him at the Spectrum, Nolan was hit by pucks and sticks a few times.
Nolan has shuffled across the ice thousands of times, but only slipped once. On another occasion, he could’ve been seriously injured. Following the presentation of end-of-season team awards on the ice, Nolan began his shuffle toward his rinkside “office.”
“The teams weren’t on the ice for the awards,” Nolan said. “I’m in contact with the ArenaVision producer and I hear `Oh, no, hear come the teams.’ I’m in the middle of the ice. I wasn’t smart enough to walk along the boards.
“I figure it’s easy for the guys to get around me. All of a sudden I see a number. That means the guy is skating backwards. It’s No. 3, Dan McGillis. He turns around, by luck. Maybe I yelled. I’m about three feet from him. He grabbed me and I grabbed him. He gave me a little waltz-around a couple times and let me go. I floated right to the boards as my life flashed before me. I could see a headline: `Announcer killed by hockey player skating backwards.’ The guys upstairs in ArenaVision laughed for 15 minutes.”
Nolan has worked for PSFS bank for more than 20 years. He’s now a vice president for Shay Financial Services, selling securities to banks. He and his wife Ellen have two sons, Matt, 25, and Jeff, 22. Naturally, they are hockey fans.
Lou Nolan’s hockey journey hasn’t taken him far in distance, from southwest Philly to South Philly. But over the years his voice has become a comfortable and reliable Philly sports staple.Please note that the views expressed in this column are not necessarily the views expressed by the Philadelphia Flyers Hockey Club.
Bill Fleischman is a veteran Philadelphia Daily News sportswriter. He was the Flyers' beat reporter for the Daily News in the 1970s, and continued to cover games in later years. A former president of the Professional Hockey Writers and the Philadelphia Sports Writers Associations, Fleischman is co-author of "Bernie, Bernie," the autobiography of Bernie Parent. Fleischman also is co-author of "The Unauthorized NASCAR Fan Guide." Since 1982, he has been an adjunct professor in the University of Delaware journalism program.
He is a graduate of Germantown High School and Gettysburg College.