Q: When did you first start watching hockey?
|Steve Mears |
A: I first started watching hockey around the early 90’s growing up in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. That was about the time the Penguins had won the Stanley Cup so that was a big event in that region. Kids started playing hockey, and I started playing probably when I was about 11 years old and have been playing ever since and still play to this day. Indoors, or outdoors, it doesn’t make a difference—it’s just the most relaxing and most fun thing I think I could ever have as far as a leisure activity goes.Q: So when did your interest
in broadcasting start?
A: It was probably around the same time I started watching hockey. You watch games on TV and listen to them on the radio, and you just get drawn into certain announcers and I right away thought it would be just the coolest job to talk about hockey and bring the game to fans who might be listening to the radio or watching on television. So I was interested in it even before college, and I picked a school that I knew was a good broadcasting school and had a good hockey program. I think it was pretty evident early on that I was not going to be an NHL player—I don’t ever recall even having that dream. I was pretty realistic and I thought I'd take the safer route at an early age and I thought broadcasting was the better avenue for me.Q: Talk a little about how you started broadcasting at Bowling Green University.
A: Like I said before, I went there with the intention of getting involved with the broadcasting program and it was a perfect fit because I knew it had a rich hockey tradition, and their broadcasting program is second to none. I was very lucky because as a freshman I had the opportunity to do play-by-play, which is unheard of for broadcasting students. Not too many people wanted to do hockey because it’s the hardest sport to do play-by-play of, [but] all I wanted to do was hockey. So it was a perfect fit. From my sophomore year to senior year I did every game. To be able to do that at BG was really the foundation of my career, that’s where it all started.Q: It seems they threw you right into the fire as a freshman. Did you have any practice broadcasting games before that?
A: Well the way I started getting into broadcasting prior to going to BG was I played the hockey video games and I would call the games as I played them. I'd be sitting with my two brothers and I'd have the tape recorder next to me and I would announce the game as I played. That's really what got me started as far as learning how to do hockey play-by-play. I would turn the announcer settings off and I would play and announce the games and at the time it probably sounded stupid, but little did I know that it was me getting used to the flow of a hockey game and that was really the foundation for my career.Q: After spending time announcing in the CHL, what were your feelings when you were named the voice of the Islanders in 2006?
A: Well, it was part elation and part determination. The elation is that you've reached this lifelong goal of being a broadcaster in the NHL, that's what I always wanted even going back to my young days. The determination was because there wasn't a whole lot of time to celebrate or anything like that. I was like ‘OK, its time to get to work.’ To know that you're coming to a team with such an unbelievable history, a team that is on its way up, especially now, and to know the history—it was incredible, but it was time to get to work. I started in October of 2006 and haven't looked back.
Q: Take me through your preparation on game day. What steps do you go through from the time you get up in the morning to the time the puck drops that day?
A: It's definitely an all-day process; it might even be multiple days sometimes. Game day starts with getting here at the arena at 10 am. The Islanders skate at 10:30 am for an hour, and after that we go into the locker room and we talk with the Islanders players, try to get the storylines, maybe get some recorded audio with a player that we might use for an intermission segment. Usually after that we go talk with Scott [Gordon], see what his approach is for the game and try to get some scoops. Then we walk over and watch the opponent, they go on at 11:30 am, so we talk to their players and their coach. Then go over, have some lunch, get back to my apartment, then from 1 pm to about 4 pm, it's just more preparation. At 5pm I'll come to the arena and if there's any last audio that needs to be grabbed we can do that then, but it's more preparation until 6:30 pm when I head over to the booth. Nowadays we're on at 7 pm and we get going right there. It’s just constant preparation. I try to cram as much information as I can for those three hours of the broadcast.Q: How much of that information do you typically use during a broadcast?
A: If you use 10 percent of it that usually means that it was such a good game. You don't want to have to use all your prepared material, you want the game to just kind of take care of itself. But it truly is a long process and that's something some people might not know, they might think you just show up at seven and the game takes care of itself but you need to be as prepared as possible.Q: With the NHL Entry Draft quickly approaching, what are your thoughts?
A: This will be my third Draft with the Islanders and they just seem to get better. To be in Montreal for this one and to have the first overall pick, to have another pick in the first round, to have as many picks overall on the first day as we do, it is just going to be quite an event. For me to be able to meet these Islanders Draft picks the first time they're putting on the Islander jersey and then watch the progression, as I did with Josh Bailey
last year, it's going to be real special.
Q: What are some things you are looking forward to experiencing or accomplishing in your future as a broadcaster?
A: Well with the Islanders, my ultimate dream is to see that Cup raised here on Long Island. If it was up to me that would've happened already but there's only so much a broadcaster can do. So from a personal standpoint, the goal is just to continue to paint that picture on the radio, and to tell that story each and every night and to work on this art form that takes a lifetime to master. I want to be here for a long time. I want to see the Islanders win the Cup and I want to see the Lighthouse come to fruition...I want to be a part of all of that.