Catching Up With The Aeros' Play-By-Play Guy
There are some strange ways to spend a honeymoon. Houston Aeros play-by-play voice Joe O'Donnell spent a part of his in Houston, interviewing for the Aeros job.
Then he got out of the city just before Hurricane Ike hit, returning with a brand new job with the Aeros as Houston recovered from the damage of the hurricane, though in some ways, it might have felt to O'Donnell like his life was caught up inside a huge storm.
"Well, Jason Shaver [the previous Aeros play-by-play voice] called me about mid-August, I think it was August 16th -- I don't know how or why I would remember that -- and said that he was leaving the Aeros...and he wanted to know if I would be interested in coming here," O'Donnell said. Then "I got a phone call about two or three hours before I got married on September 5th that said we'd like to fly you down on Tuesday...I interviewed about two days before Ike hit, then came back on September 25th to start with the Aeros."
Once here, O'Donnell had to learn not only the names of all of the Aeros players, but because he'd never worked in the American Hockey League, he had to learn about the league and all of its players with only weeks to go before the season started.
"It was difficult. It felt for me like the first ten games I was trying to find my game. And I kind of knew that the start of the year took a handful of games to get back into it, it's like everything else," he says. "But when I hit the tenth game, when that tenth game ended, I kind of proclaimed to myself that I was ready. That I was finally caught up to the speed of the game, that I knew the Aeros well enough to talk about them confidently, and now all I had to do was focus on the other team."
The Aeros are not O'Donnell's first job during play-by-play. The 2002 University of Delaware graduate called baseball, lacrosse, and some women's basketball when he was college, but his love has always been hockey, and this led to his work doing play-by-play for the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL.
And O'Donnell came to Houston from that Steelheads job, and while he likes Houston, he wants to move up at some point.
He can be excitable when calling a game, but he is not a homer.
"I'm passionate about the team I work for," he says. "Sure I want them to win. Sure, somewhere deep down inside I'm pulling for them. But to me, there's nothing worse than a guy who doesn't tell you what's going on and just tells you one side of the story. With my style...you're also going to know when the Aeros aren't playing well, or when it's time to give credit to the other team."
And anybody who has been paying attention to the Aeros this off season knows that the Aeros have undergone a rather massive change to the roster which comes about from being a minor league club. But O'Donnell thinks this team is going to surprise the fans, especially those fans who have been boisterous with their anger over the changes.
"If I may, I would like to give a disclaimer to the fan base," O'Donnell says. "Everything will be fine in Houston this season in my opinion. Now if it's December and the team's not playing well, email me and remind me about this. But in my estimation, this team will be fine."
O'Donnell likes hearing from the fans, especially during the games. "You're in a broadcast booth by yourself sometimes for five hours between preparing and breaking down the post-game show and the broadcast.
"If it's not going to be fun, then why are you doing it," he says. "Shoot me an email during the game, I'll respond to it."
Which he often does during breaks in the action, during timeouts, and during the intermissions. Whenever time will allow. He thinks this helps make the radio experience more interactive and gets the fans more involved.
The team is currently without a radio broadcast partner for the upcoming season, but O'Donnell says they're currently negotiating with last year's radio partner, KNTH, and some of the all-sports stations in the city.
But he doesn't foresee too many changes to the broadcast itself, though he wants do more stuff for the team's website. So while the Aeros have been undergoing some rather massive changes in the front office and with the roster, there will be one constant between last year's playoff surprise and this year. And Joe O'Donnell, that constant, is ready for the season to begin.
"It's a blast," he says. "I love what I do."
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