Jason Shaver has been the play-by-play voice of the Iowa Stars since the club's inception in 2005, but has dreamed of calling Stars games his entire life.Shaver, 34, grew up in Minnesota's Twin Cities, where his grandfather, Al Shaver, was the legendary radio voice of the Minnesota North Stars for 26 years. Wally Shaver, Jason's father, is currently the radio play-by-play announcer for the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey program, and now Iowa Stars fans enjoy the radio call from this third-generation broadcaster.
"People joked when I was younger that they just assumed I'd be a hockey announcer since my grandfather and my dad were so successful in the business," said Shaver. "My grandpa used to tell me all the time how much he loved what he did, and how he never regretted a day in his life going to work. So once I got into high school, it started to become natural that I was drawn to this business. The North Stars allowed me to get a press pass during weekday games and I'd sit in the Met Center press box, recording games onto a tape recorder and just practicing the craft."
Shaver was a good goaltender -- his childhood hero was Andy Moog, who played for a Wichita club in the Central Hockey League where his dad worked -- and competed at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he studied communications. Upon graduation, Shaver got a job as the play-by-play announcer for the Waterloo Blackhawks in the USHL, and subsequently, the Texas Wildcatters, an ECHL expansion club in Beaumont.
After two seasons in Beaumont, an old family friend played a key role in helping Shaver make the jump to Iowa. Jason's grandfather, Al, was the radio broadcast partner for a handful of years with a familiar face to Stars fans, Ralph Strangis. "I met Ralph when I was in high school and he was working with my grandfather back in Minnesota," said Shaver. "Ralph was the first phone call I made when I heard the Dallas Stars were putting a team here in Iowa. He was extremely helpful, and he gave me some great advice that my grandpa had passed onto him. It's been very rewarding to be associated with Ralph and to follow in his footsteps, as well."
Strangis considers Al Shaver a mentor and an instrumental factor in the success he's had in the broadcasting business, and he was thrilled to help the high school kid he remembers from the Met Center.
"Al was an old-school radio pro and he really took me under his wing my first few years in the business," said Strangis. "I grew up listening to Al on the radio, and when I started working with him, he really showed me the ropes. He introduced me to every other broadcaster in the league and he was really good to me. I learned how to do games from him, and it means a lot to me that I can pass some of that onto Jason, who obviously has a great legacy in his background. I was thrilled that I was able to help Jason get into the Stars organization and I think it's fantastic that the great Shaver legacy is continuing. I know he's doing a great job up there and I'm proud of him."
Al Shaver currently lives on Vancouver Island and visits with Strangis when the Stars go to play the Canucks. Al recently returned to the Twin Cities, where the Minnesota Wild named the press box at XCel Energy Center in his honor.
"As a kid, he was just my grandpa and I didn't realize how much of an institution he was," said Jason. "But the longer I was there and the more games I went to, I started to realize how big a deal he was. Even today, people hear my last name and immediately ask if I'm related to Al Shaver. I say, 'yes, he's my grandfather,' and I'm very proud of that." Shaver is also very proud to working within the organization that he has followed his whole life.
"As a kid, I absolutely lived and died with the North Stars," said Shaver. "I remember the first North Stars game I ever went to was at the Met Center in the mid-70's against the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo had 'The Flying Frenchmen' at that time and they were a really good team. They ended up beating the North Stars, I was just devastated and the Sabres became my most-hated NHL team from that night on.
"I must admit, it hurt when the Stars moved away to Dallas, but I always had this emotional attachment to the team. Then, when they beat Buffalo in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999, I really celebrated. Now, working in the organization that I have followed my whole life, it's just a real treat. Just like my grandpa always told me, I love going to work every day."