Rochester Americans broadcaster Don Stevens is currently in his 27th year as the voice of the team, and is considered by many to be the “Dean of AHL Broadcasters.” A native of Wainwright, Alberta, Stevens joined the Amerks in 1986, and was inducted into the team’s Hall of Fame in 2011. He has received numerous national awards for his outstanding work, and in 2003 was inducted into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame, recognizing his rich contribution to Rochester’s sports history. We recently sat down with Stevens to discuss everything from how he got his start in broadcasting, to some of his favorite all-time Amerks moments.
You were born in Alberta. How did you end up in Rochester?
I’ve lived in the US since I was 14; my folks moved to Denver to work for my uncle at that time. I eventually went to broadcasting school, and started into the business in 1969 at small station in Nebraska. From there, I’ve worked all over the west: Denver, Phoenix, San Diego, San Antonio, Portland, and then Salt Lake City. It was there when I got a call to see if I’d be interested in coming out here. I contacted Pete Weber because I knew he’d done some games here, and he said that Rochester was certainly the place to go if I wanted to call hockey. I had actually contacted Neil Smith for a job in Adirondack, and when that didn’t work out, he passed my name along to Rochester.
Did you always set out in broadcasting with the intention of becoming a hockey announcer?
When I started in the business, I wanted to be a big rock jock! But I went to small station in Nebraska, and I found that being a newsman and DJ was actually kind of boring. I’d always been involved in sports when I was growing up because it was a big part of my family, so that’s where I gravitated to. Eventually I did nothing but sports and play-by-play.
Once you landed in Rochester, did you have a long term plan for your career?
When I gravitated into doing hockey, my plan was always to make it to the National Hockey League. I had an offer when I was 29 years old to move to the NHL, but unfortunately for personal reasons I had to turn it down. That was the last offer I got. It’s always been my goal to get to the NHL. I’ve come in close a few times, but have never been given that opportunity at this point.
What makes Rochester so special to you?
This is where I ended up, trying to make that next step. I remember telling my wife when we moved out here that I’d be here two years max, figuring that I’d make that next step. But it didn’t happen and I didn’t move on. Then we became part of the community, and my kids became part of the community while they were going to school here. We just sort of melded into the community. Even though I still feel like a westerner at times, the city of Rochester has been so supportive of me. I’ve been very well received here and I’m still so very appreciative to everyone for that.
Does any specific player or Amerks team stand out to you as a favorite during your time here?
My very first year here in 1986-87 was just an incredible year. The team went through and eventually won the league championship on the last night of the season in Binghamton. Then we ended up in the finals against Sherbrooke, and were down 3-2 in the series with the next game at Blue Cross Arena. We’re losing in Game Six, and Don Lever goes end-to-end to score a huge shorthanded goal that put us back in a game that we eventually won. We won the championship in Sherbrooke in Game Seven, and we flew back to Rochester around three in the morning. When we landed there was a huge crowd at the airport to greet us. That was followed by a gigantic parade through downtown Rochester, and championship party at Blue Cross Arena where there must’ve been at least 10,000 people there. It was just a dream year, and one that I’ll always remember as being my best.