April 2009: When we Said Goodbye to “Rinkside!”

While I never grew up with any aspirations of working in radio by any means, I must say that co-hosting two online radio shows from July 2008- April 2009 made me give it some serious thought. The first, with which I worked on with Alan Bass, who has since gone on to write a book about the 1967 NHL Expansion and work with The Hockey News, introduced me to the field, and although it was a little stressful, proved to be a rewarding experience. He was a freshman in college at the time, and I was a high school senior. With absolutely nothing on our resumes, we were still able to get some pretty neat guests on what we quickly dubbed NHL 2Day, which made the show more interesting, and allowed us to be a little more daring with our interview requests in the future. While broadcasting on the free sports service YouCastr, we landed analysts Jim Jackson (TV; Flyers), Dave Mishkin (Radio; Lightning), and Kenny Albert (Radio; Rangers), as well as my favorite guest, then-current New York Rangers goaltender Steve Valiquette, and a prospect who is currently playing for the Nashville Predators, Colin Wilson. After I left the show in November because of scheduling conflicts, Alan was able to get the legendary Mike “Doc” Emrick, and later, the General Manager of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Scott Howson. Within weeks after leaving, though, I started up another show, called Rinkside!, with a fellow senior at my high school, Brett Bodner, who is now a journalism major and my assistant editor over at The Proprietary Times in Perth Amboy.

Both of us going to school together (and knowing each other since kindergarten) made broadcasting much easier, as we could be in the same room to do it, as opposed to talking through Skype, which sometimes made for choppy dialogue, especially if the internet connection was slow. He was a Devils fan, and of course, me for the Rangers, and that did nothing but make our conversations and rants all the more intense. When we first started, I did not know if we would go for the same types of guests that we had on the other show, but after a few episodes, we sent out some requests and were very pleased with the results. Our first guest would be Keith Jones (TV; Flyers) who does nationally televised games on NBC now, and later, Dave Strader (TV; Coyotes), Joe Beninati (TV: Capitals), Jamie Baker (Radio; Sharks), Dan Terhaar (TV; Wild), and Joe Bowen (TV; Maple Leafs). But our biggest guests came a little bit later, with then-New York Rangers assistant coach Mike Pelino, who actually spoke with us on the afternoon of a game-day, and the “Hockey Maven”, Stan Fischler, where admittedly, not everything went according to plan. Brett recounts, “l’ll never forget our interview with Fischler when he called Greg out for saying the wrong name of the Ottawa newspaper we were quoting, and for being extremely grumpy the entire time, but it was one of the great memories we had from the show and I’ll never forget it.” While the experience with Fischler was a tad intimidating, we were both very surprised by Pelino’s cordiality; the same could be said for most of our guests, who took time out of their busy schedules to talk to a couple of high schoolers, and did it happily.

The overall experience was very exciting for the both of us, as many of our friends would listen in to the weekly show. It was always fun going to school the next day and hear people talking and asking about the show, especially when we were playing hockey in gym class, and the school’s big-shot football coach was even listening in to a few episodes. We had many different segments, which we mixed up every week, including a hockey themed version of “Carnac the Magnificent”, “Strange News” where we would find something really weird that happened in the NHL that week and talk about it, “Bod Burns” where Brett ranted angrily for five minutes on a certain topic, and the best segment as voted on by our listeners, “Remember Him?”, where we would rant about or make fun of some obscure hockey player that was no longer in the league, who might have been touted to be something special before he bombed out. One time, we even got off on a tangent about McDonalds’ filet-o-fish sandwiches and how nasty they were; sure enough, the next week, we ate two live on the air.

You can then understand why it was such a saddening shock when we were informed by the network that they would be ceasing broadcasts of radio shows to focus only on online television broadcasts of high school sports. We were given two weeks notice, if I remember correctly, and while we searched for other options, none were to be found at the time. Our last episode broadcasted on March 28, 2009, and we said our goodbyes before officially making an announcement on our website a few days later in April.

Though our radio show days lasted less than a year, it left all of us with an experience of a lifetime. I remember the day over the summer of 2008 when Alan called me out of the blue and asked, “Hey, you want to do a radio show with me?” and I said yes, not knowing what would become of it. While we had no problems with just talking for an hour or so by ourselves, it was very hard for us to sit still and not want to improve it by bringing in guests who were respected in their field and actually had some credibility. This article was not written to gloat or to brag, but to show that anything is possible if you want to give it a try to set your mind to it. A couple of high school kids talking to NHL players and legendary analysts is proof of that. So, if you are sitting there and have an idea about something you want to do, why not go ahead and do it? There are too many bright people sitting around doing nothing with their lives. You just never know; something small and fun may blow up to be something incredible.

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