|Gord Wilson (left) and Dean Brown have covered more than 1,000 Senators games from the broadcast booth in the team's 16-year history (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
More than 1,000 games later, they’re still going strong as the voices of Ottawa Senators hockey. And loving every minute of it.
If you’re a Senators fan, you surely know the distinctive tones of Dean Brown and Gord Wilson, who have been a part of every one of the team’s games – either on radio or television – over the last 16 years.
They’ve seen all the highs and lows, from the hapless 10-win inaugural season of 1992-93 to the Stanley Cup final run of 2007, and know full well how lucky they’ve been to be a part of it all.
“There’s not many of these jobs in the world and if you get to do one of these jobs, it’s an honour more than anything else,” said Brown. “The biggest thing is to never take it for granted. Let’s face it, if I get fired tomorrow – I’ll never quit – there would be a thousand guys who would want my job. And I’m well aware of that and how fortunate I am.”
Adds Wilson: “It’s been an absolute blast. From Day 1 until now, it’s been a challenge every day and one that I don’t take for granted. On the fun meter, nothing has changed. If anything, it’s gotten better.”
Their senses of humour were surely tested in the Senators' inaugural season of 1992-93, when the team posted a lowly 10-70-4 record. It was one of a string of basement finishes the Sens and their fans had to endure in the early years.
Still, Brown and Wilson knew they'd hit the big time, even if the Senators hadn't quite yet.
"The hockey was horrible and the experience was wonderful," said Brown. "For Gord and I in Year No. 1 and for everybody who was around at that time, you looked for one second at that roster and you knew the hockey was going to be bad.
"But to be honest, Gord and I had a great time broadcasting the games because we were in the NHL ... It was like the first day of stepping into a dream."
That dream never got bigger than in the spring of 2007, when the Senators took Ottawa and its hockey fans on an unforgettable ride to the Stanley Cup final. Without a doubt, it's a top memory for the two broadcasters who lived through it all. Wilson called it "the pinnacle" of his time in the booth and many in Ottawa would likely describe that time the same way.
"When I think of the things that energized the city more than anything else ... There was coming home after (Daniel) Alfredsson scored in Buffalo to clinch the (Eastern Conference final) and go to the final," added Brown. "The fans that were lined up, lining the road at the airport to greet the team when they came back. Driving your car through that line of people was just an unbelievable thing.
"There's not many of these jobs in the world and if you get to do one of these jobs, it's an honour more than anything else. The biggest thing is to never take it for granted. Let's face it, if I get fired tomorrow – I'll never quit – there would be a thousand guys who would want my job. And I'm well aware of that and how fortunate I am." - Dean Brown
"Going to the final was an experience I never had before. I was very, very proud of my city and how we performed as a city in showing the rest of the NHL what kind of hockey city we are. Those are the things that are most important to me."
Another of those milestone moments came at the beginning of this season, when Brown and Wilson were on hand to call the Senators' first games in Europe, when they opened the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins in Stockholm.
"It was a thrill for me as a broadcaster to say 'live from the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden,' " said Wilson. "I thought that was just chilling. It gave me a tingle to be able to do that."
Ask either of them why their on-air partnership continues to endure and the answers come easily and quickly. Wilson calls Brown “one of the best entertainers in this business, along with being one of the best broadcasters in the National Hockey League.”
Brown believes they’re just two people who are perfectly suited for their roles.
“Gord’s emotions are first on his list but I’m more analytical – that’s just the way I am,” he said. “Who we are on the air is who we are off the air. We’re a little bit goofy and sometimes we joke around too much. But nobody can ever say we’re phonies.
“Love us or hate us, we are what we are.”