Good news for Kamloops Blazers fans. Not so good for those who follow the Swift Current Broncos.
On Friday, the Broncos announced that play-by-play caller Jon Keen is leaving Swift Current, Sask., and moving west to become the voice of the Blazers. As a reporter for a daily newspaper who sits in front of the visiting radio booth at Kelowna Rockets home games, I can attest that Keen calls very good games.
He also happens to be quite personable, which, when put together with his voice and skills, adds up to a good move by Radio NL in Kamloops to hire Keen.
Now, on the flip side, the Broncos lose another good caller, the third time this decade, with Regan Bartel having moved on in 2000 to join the Kelowna Rockets and Joey Kenward, Bartel’s replacement, leaving to join the Vancouver Giants in 2003. Keen, from Lanigan Sask., was Kenward’s replacement and was the Broncos’ play by play voice for the past seven seasons. He also did colour commentary on the three seasons prior to handling play-by-play duties for the Eagle 94.1.
Finding a good caller isn't easy, and it's a tougher job than most people expect. For example, try talking into a microphone for two hours, without making any verbal slips. That's tough. Then, there's this: On top of being verbally correct, fans generally fall into one of two camps when it comes to a caller's play-by-play style: Love 'em or hate 'em. There's no middle ground, though Bartel did a good job of slowly weaning fans in the hate 'em camp to his side.
Notably, Bartel is up for a job with the NHL’s Edmonton Oilers, according to sources. What if Bartel winds up with the Oil? Would Keen have thrown his hat into the Kelowna ring? I would hope so, because he’s a good caller.
“I'd like to thank the Broncos organization and staff, both past and present, for being so accommodating and fantastic to work with these last ten years,” Keen said in a press release. “It takes the passion of an entire community to make junior hockey flourish in the smallest market in the CHL, and it has been exciting to see that happen here. The city of Swift Current and the Broncos will always be very special to me, and have contributed greatly to the development of my professional broadcasting career."
On Wednesday, the Giants hired former Everett Silvertips head coach John Becanic while also giving bench boss Don Hay a new five-year contract. For more on that, click here for Steve Ewen’s story.
Retaining Hay was a no-brainer. His resume speaks for itself. Hiring Becanic, though, was, in this scribe’s opinion, a brilliant move. Not only does he have head-coaching experience, but in case Hay receives an NHL offer he can't refuse in the near future, the Giants can make a smooth transition by building from within and handing the reins to Becanic instead of having to search elsewhere.
As we all know, North America is in tight financial times right now. On Wednesday, the Lethbridge Hurricanes, a community-owned team, presented a deficit budget, which was met with questions.
More on this interesting story by Dale Woodard of The Lethbridge Herald can be found here.