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 Part I of JC interview with Penguins' Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Lange

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PostSubject: Part I of JC interview with Penguins' Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Lange   Thu Dec 24, 2015 9:13 pm

Hello, all. THANK YOU to Misconducts for the Mike Lange-ism "Scratch my back with a hacksaw." It prodded my memory that I owe FHL GMs the four-part series I wrote several years back, largely in question-and-answer format, with Mike Lange, the Penguins' Hall of Fame broadcaster who currently is doing play-by-play on radio.

Below is a photo of Mario Lemieux looking on as Lange gives his speech upon unveiling of Lemieux statue at the CONSOL Energy Center in 2012.

http://www.zimbio.com/pictures/HHGmBwWLz4O/Pittsburgh+Penguins+Unveil+Mario+Lemieux+Statue/X52U27Ni8JM/Mike+Lange

Below is Part I. I'll release the other parts one a week.

I think each is a good read. Chock full of information.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL FHL GMS AND A PROSPEROUS NEW YEAR (except when you are playing Badger Bob head-to-head in FHL, of course)!!!

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Part I of Interview with Mike Lange, Hall-of-Fame Play-by-Play Announcer of the Pittsburgh Penguins
 
Lange’s Boyhood Dream Becomes a Career
 
Introduction: For Mike Lange, the 2008-09 National Hockey League (NHL) season was his 33rd overall on Pittsburgh Penguins’ broadcasts and his third in a row handling play-by-play on radio.
 
Lange first joined the Penguins for the 1974-75 season. After a one-season absence due to the fact that the Penguins had gone into bankruptcy and he had no guarantee of a job, Lange returned in 1976-77 and has been a member of the broadcast team ever since.
 
For many years, Lange was the play-by-play announcer for the Penguins on television and radio as the games were simulcast.
 
Lange ranks third in seniority among NHL play-by-play announcers. He trails only Rick Jeanneret, who has been with the Buffalo Sabres since the 1971-72 season, and Bob Miller, who has been with the Los Angeles Kings since 1973-74.
 
Lange is beloved by Penguins’ fans in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area and around the world. In addition, he has earned the respect of his peers.
 
In 2001, Lange earned the highest honor possible for a NHL broadcaster – the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award and with it induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Named after the great Canadian hockey announcer Foster Hewitt, the award is presented by the Hockey Hall of Fame to members of the radio and television industry who make outstanding contributions to their profession and the game of hockey during their broadcasting career.
     
This writer offers sincere thanks to Lange for granting the interview that led to this four-part series of articles on Associated Content and to Erik Heasley, Communications Coordinator, Pittsburgh Penguins, for helping to arrange the interview.
 
The sub-headline of Part II is "The Start of Lange’s Long-Running Hockey Broadcasting Success Story in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania .” The sub-headline of Part III is “Lange: A National Hockey League Broadcasting Icon.” The sub-headline of Part IV is “Lange Looks Back on His Experience Behind the Microphone as the Penguins Prevailed in Game 7 in Detroit to Win the Stanley Cup.”

JC: What first attracted you to sports broadcasting?
 
ML: My first inclination that I was interested in sports broadcasting was when I was nine years old. The Giants (of Major League Baseball) moved from New York to San Francisco. And I actively followed the Giants.
 
My father had nothing to do with this business (sports broadcasting). But he was a big sports fan. He followed the (Boston) Celtics (of the National Basketball Association) and boxing. I grew up (in Sacramento, California in the 1950s and 1960s) in a household with that (broadcasts of sporting events).
 
In the Giants’ early years in San Francisco, only a limited number of games were on television. But all of the games were on radio.
 
It (sports broadcasting) grew on me and captured my interest. I knew what I wanted to do (for a career).
 
In addition to the Giants, I listened to games of other pro teams in the Bay Area – the San Francisco Warriors (of the National Basketball Association), the San Francisco 49ers (of the National Football League) and the Oakland Raiders. (The Raiders were an original team in the old American Football League, which began play in 1960.)
 
JC: Of the sports announcers you listened to while you were growing up, did one make a bigger impression on you than all of the others?
 
ML: Bill King was the dominating influence. He was part of the Giants’ original broadcasting crew in San Francisco along with Lon Simmons and Russ Hodges, who came west with the team from New York. King also was the announcer for the Warriors and the Raiders. He finished up with the Oakland A’s. (King announced Athletics’ games from 1981 to 2005.)
 
King’s forte was basketball and the Raiders. He made me realize that I could do things a little differently in this business. I never had a chance to meet him in person due to conflicting schedules. I had hoped to go back to California to meet him. But he died before I could do that. The fact that I didn’t meet him is something that I’ll always miss. (King died in October 2005, shortly after the completion of the 2005 Major League Baseball season.)
 
King had a quick, staccato style. He was very detailed and very enthusiastic. And he really had a feel for the game (regardless of what sport he was announcing). I think that’s what I pulled from him more than anything else. Have a feel for the game. Understand where the game is and where it’s going.
 
If you (as an announcer) have a feel for the game, you can portray it accurately and do what I call “build a book” with it, particularly on radio. King was a master at that. He would bring you (as a listener) right into the game and keep a grip on you leading up to the knockout punch being thrown by one team or the other.
 
JC: As a youngster, did you sit in front of the television or in the stands at games and announce into a tape recorder to develop your skill?
 
ML: No, I didn’t do anything formal like that.
 
Due to limitations, money actually, I went to junior college (Sacramento City College ). I still knew what I wanted to do.
 
With my time (two years) in junior college drawing to a close, I applied to San Jose State. I kid you not. San Jose State lost my application. And it was the best thing that ever happened to me.
 
I stayed at home and continued my education at Sacramento State. I worked on the college radio station. In addition, I was fortunate to get valuable experience by working for a radio station and a television station in town.
 
If I had gone to San Jose State, I would never have gotten that experience in the Bay Area because that market is too large. God said to me, “Listen, San Jose State is going to lose your application. Go to Sacramento State and do games. That is what you need to do” (to make sports broadcasting your profession.)
 
At Sacramento State, I was the announcer for the football, basketball and baseball games that were broadcast on the school’s radio station.
 
JC: Since you grew up in an area that at the time was not a hotbed of ice hockey and did not play ice hockey as a youngster, how were you introduced to the sport?
 
ML: In my senior year, another fellow with whom I had become friends at Sacramento State introduced me to ice hockey – the industrial (men’s) league in Sacramento. The actual name of the league was the Sacramento Ice Hockey Association.
 
His name is Len Shapiro. He also was also broadcast major. At that time, he also was doing some work for the California Golden Seals (of the National Hockey League. The Seals’ home as Oakland, California.)
 
Len is living in California. He and I are still close friends.
 
I began in the industrial league by serving as a minor official working in a penalty box.    
 
The public address announcer actually did play-by-play on the public address microphone in the rink during the game. Because there were no penalty clocks on the scoreboard and the PA announcer and I were stationed far apart, we communicated via a big squawk box. Each of us had one.
 
The PA announcer’s booth was at center ice. I was in the corner of the rink to his right where the Zamboni was housed, at a 45-degree angle from his position. A player stood on a side of the Zamboni when serving a penalty. They would jump the boards or I would open the door.
 
To use the squawk box, you just pushed a button. The PA announcer and I would be in constant contact as far as how much time was left on a player’s penalty.
 
When the public address announcer wanted a raise to $10 a game, I was hired to do that job for $5 a game.
 
I got additional play-by-play experience when I was allowed by Sacramento State to broadcast some industrial league playoff games on the school’s radio station.
 
It’s interesting to note that because of the size of the rink, each team had only five players on the ice when at full strength, one goaltender and four skaters. The name of the rink is Iceland. It is still operating.
 
JC: What was next for you after Sacramento State?
 
ML: I got out of college in June of 1970. It was time to fulfill my childhood dream and make sports broadcasting my career. I sent tapes to everybody in the world. Baseball was my first inclination. But I sent out a lot of hockey tapes, too.
 
The usual response was that there was no opening or they didn’t want to talk with me. I got a touch of feedback from only one team – the Phoenix Roadrunners of the old Western Hockey League. The response was that they didn’t have an opening, but they didn’t mind my tape.
 
To me, that was great news. So in I packed my bags and moved to Phoenix. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I decided that I had to take the chance.
 
I knew what I wanted to do with my life. But I had no inkling of what else I would do (if I did not succeed in having a career in sports broadcasting).
 
Every day, I walked to the arena (the old Veterans Memorial Coliseum) where the Roadrunners practiced and played home games. I kept reminding the Roadrunners that I was ready to work if they wanted me to work.
 
I befriended Al McCoy, who was the Roadrunners’ play-by-play announcer. And now, I was practicing by announcing Roadrunners’ games into a tape recorder.  
 
My break came in January 1971. A guy who had been handling two jobs for the Roadrunners -- color commentary on game broadcasts and public relations -- decided to take a job as a public relations director for a college. I took over what he had been doing.
 
Now as color commentator, I worked with Al McCoy. He is still broadcasting games today for the Phoenix Suns (of the National Basketball Association). Next season (2009-10) will be Al’s 38th with the Suns.
 
McCoy took me under his wing and made me the broadcaster I am today. He’s the person in broadcasting who had the greatest influence on my career. I owe a lot to McCoy. He taught me well. To me, the man is a genuine superstar, one of the best of all time. There isn’t enough I can say about Al McCoy.
 
When McCoy decided to leave the Roadrunners and join the Suns, I took over as play-by-play announcer at the start of the 1972 season.
 
I did play-by-play for the Roadrunners for one season – 1972-73. I had a color commentator for home games and announced solo on road games.
 
The transition from color commentator to play-by-play announcer for the Roadrunners wasn’t difficult for me. I had done a lot of play-by-play for the Sacramento State station prior to joining the Roadrunners.
 
I think the time I spent doing color commentary helped my development as an ice hockey broadcaster. I had to develop a greater depth of understanding of the game in order to do well in that job. And I remain grateful to the Roadrunners’ coaches and players who took time to share with me the finer points of the game. I learned so much about hockey from them.
 
JC: What was your next announcing job after leaving the Roadrunners?
 
As I mentioned, 1972-73 was my only season as the Roadrunners’ play-by-play announcer. I was hoping to return to California to announce hockey and baseball.
 
I became the voice of another team in the Western Hockey League -- the San Diego Gulls. I was hoping I could parlay the job with the Gulls into joining the broadcast team of the San Diego Padres (of Major League Baseball). But that did not work out.
 
(Lange later achieved his goal of announcing Major League Baseball. He was a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates' broadcast crew in 1986 and 1987.)
 
Max McNabb was the general manager of the Gulls. He was the man who hired me. (McNabb went on to be the general manager of the Washington Capitals and then the New Jersey Devils in the National Hockey League.) But my time with the Gulls lasted only one season – 1973-74.
 
The World Hockey Association was expanding to San Diego and Phoenix for the 1974-75 season. So that was the end of the Western Hockey League. The league dissolved. At that point, I really had to scramble to find another broadcasting job.

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PostSubject: Lange Interview   Fri Jan 01, 2016 6:54 pm

Good read...thanks! Looking forward to additional releases
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Part I of JC interview with Penguins' Hall of Fame broadcaster Mike Lange
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