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Five Questions With...

Five Questions with Mike Lange

Longtime Penguins radio broadcaster talks about returning to Northern California to call Cup Final, origin of catchphrases

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features Pittsburgh Penguins longtime broadcaster Mike Lange:

PITTSBURGH -- There was Mike Lange in the Pittsburgh Penguins' radio booth high atop Consol Energy Center on Monday, wearing his old school 1970s style headset and calling a hockey game going on down below him. 

Lange, 68, has been doing this in Pittsburgh for 41 years. This is his fifth Stanley Cup Final. He did two with Mario Lemieux and he's on his third with Sidney Crosby. He has three Stanley Cup championship calls on his resume and he's hoping for a fourth.

And none of this is getting old or tired or dated. Lange is still as on point in his call, and as eclectic and entertaining with his wild phrases like "Scratch my back with a hacksaw" or "He beat him like a rented mule" or "Slap me silly, Sidney." 

Fans still love him. He's omnipresent around the Penguins and all the players have more time for him than just about anyone else in their dressing room. His radio partner, former Penguins defenseman Phil Bourque, loves being with him, chatting with him and laughing with him.

There's a good reason. Lange is filled with stories from his more than four decades in hockey.

So Lange, a native of Sacramento, Calif., took some to chat with NHL.com before Game 1 on Monday. We talked about going back to Northern California to call a Stanley Cup Final, his youthful energy, his catch phrases and so much more.

Here are Five Questions with…Mike Lange:

What does it mean to you, being from Northern California, to go back to Northern California to call a Stanley Cup Final considering you probably thought you'd never have a chance to do that when you started in this business?

"No, actually, the ironic part is I didn't see a hockey game live until I was 20 years old. I was invited by a guy from the San Jose area when I was in college. He said, 'Do you want to go to the hockey game tonight?' He had worked as an intern for the Oakland Seals. I said, 'What do I know? Blue line, red line, I have no idea.' He said to me, Len Shapiro, and these were his exact words, 'You never know.' So, I went and I worked the penalty box, which was either side of the Zamboni since it was 4-on-4 hockey in Sacramento. So a long story short, it grew upon me. I was able to broadcast some games on our college radio station at Sacramento State and I kept those tapes. That kind of got me into the world of hockey. I ended up in Phoenix, Arizona. It means a lot to me because the area itself, how it's growing hockey-wise, is terrific. It's just unbelievable that we've come this far now and you've seen all three California teams really involved, into the Final, a chance to win the Cup. It really warms me because I'm from there and I made my living doing hockey games. So it's very special to me to be able to see that and see the response to hockey and how people love it there."

What is it about the game now that keeps you going, keeps you into it and keeps you as excited as you still seem to be about the game and coming to the rink?

"You know, I honestly think for all of us, youth has a way of infusing energy into your body when you're around young people and people who have passion for what they do. Hockey affords you that opportunity every single night, every single day. These kids all want to be good, all want to be the best. You can remember back to when you were younger and you wanted to do the same thing, so it just feeds you. It feeds your soul and it keeps you going. That's the intriguing part of what it is for me personally. But I also see it in hockey clubs, in the makeup. I really think that's one of the great ingredients for why the Penguins have been successful this year; they started to put the young guys in there. Even with Sid [Crosby], he's in his 11th year now and it means a lot to him to see a young kid looking up to the stars and wondering what to do. He can relate to that. Everybody can relate to when they started. That's what keeps me going and want to have some fun with it. Time after time after time that strange kid walks into an NHL locker room with just a blank look on his face and you know you've got him. You've got him right there. And they gravitate and have some fun with it."

What is the favorite call that you ever made?

"Wow, that's a great story. Probably the greatest goal ever scored was Mario's in Game 1 of the 1992 Final against the Chicago Blackhawks. The Penguins were behind in Game 1 and they battled back and came back, and Mario won the game with just a few seconds to go and it really kind of spring boarded the Penguins into winning that series. At the old Civic Arena it used to be a retractable roof. I stood up, and I don't do that when I make a call, but it brought me right out of my seat into a stand-up position. My headset almost fell off and I was waiting for the roof to blow. That sound was so loud that you almost felt like the building was going to open up. That's probably the greatest moment where it just sent chills right down your spine. I don't remember what I said, but it's on tape. I may have said, 'You've got to be here to believe it.' I think that's what I did say."

You get asked so much about your phrases, do they come organically to you, right on the spot, or do you think of them in advance, write them down and have them handy?

"There's a combination. A lot of them are from people. It's kind of been a growing thing over the years where people will send me phrases and/or stop me on the street. I always tell them that I'm fair so write it down and I'll take it under consideration. I've had a number of those that I've used on the air that have been terrific. Some of the other ones just sometimes come into my head, making them up, but they're all designed in a way to hopefully make people think or get a smile on their face. That's what I want to do. When you play as many games as a hockey team does, 82 games a year plus the exhibition plus playoffs, it's a grind so if you can escape that a little bit and have some fun with it, to me that's what keeps it going. If you can relate that to an audience and have them come back to you and feed you with a response in most cases a positive way, it's worth the while. When I was a young kid I heard Bill King, who did San Francisco Warriors and also the Oakland Raiders, he would use just one phrase, 'Holy Toledo!' I knew what it did to me just hearing that, and if I said, 'If I ever get the chance I'm going to do some of those.' When I came to Pittsburgh, you've gotta know the history of broadcasting here -- Rosey Rowswell, Bob Prince, Myron Cope. You look at those guys, they're so out of it that I think the guy upstairs said to me, 'You know, I got a place for you and nobody is going to make fun of you. They're going to think your normal.' They're all my favorites really. I really put a lot of labor and effort into deciding if I'm going to use one or not. When I pick one out and use it, that's one that means a whole lot to me. There are no specific favorites. Fans have favorites, but for me, they're all pretty special."

I think of people in this sport and how fortunate some of us are. I think of you and I think about how you got to call games, Stanley Cup Final games too, with Mario Lemieux, and now you get to do it with Sidney Crosby and for the third time in the Cup Final. So, really Mike, how lucky are you?

"Oh, I'm blessed. I mean, really. Seriously when you look at the number of people who have come through here, the Hall of Famers that have given me really the opportunity to become something. I owe it all to the players and the team because of their success. It's great for me to be able to be a part of it. Fortunately for me, and I don't say this in a bad way, we were an offensive team. We were a team that carried the mail, brought it to the table for years and years and years, and I think still have that same M.O., to where it excites people. We had some of the greatest offensive players that ever played the game come through Pittsburgh. It's made my job a little tougher because of the shoebox, I've had to go to it a few times to add phrases, but it's been great."

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