Radio play-by-play voice closing in on milestone
Assuming the National Hockey League owners and players can reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA), George Matthews will reach a career milestone during the 2012-13 season.
© Photo courtesy of Columbus Blue Jackets
George Matthews, right, and analyst Bob McElligott in the radio play-by-play booth at Nationwide Arena.
The only regular radio play-by-play voice in the history of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Matthews is 16 games shy of calling his 1,000th NHL game, including pre-season and playoffs.
“I’m looking forward to that as a personal landmark,” said Matthews, who will be entering his 12th season calling Blue Jackets’ games and his 13th year in Columbus (the 2004-05 season was wiped out due to a labour dispute).
Ironically, the owners have said they will lock out the players for the beginning of training camp on Sept. 15 if a new CBA is not reached by then.
“I’m not sure what is going to happen because it seems both sides are setting in for a battle, which is surprising considering the league was in this position in the 2004-05 season,” said Matthews, who will return to Columbus on Sept. 5.
Tenure in Columbus
Matthews, who “never” thought his tenure in Columbus would last as long as it has, will be entering his fourth season working alongside analyst Bob McElligott after teaming with the colourful Bill Davidge for the first eight seasons. Davidge is now the Jackets’ television analyst.
“Probably it was conceivable to think I was never going to go down and work just one year after having spent 25 years (broadcasting games) in the Maritimes, but I didn’t envision being in Columbus as along as I have been,” said Matthews, an O’Leary native who now has a home in Charlottetown. “The years have gone by.
“A great opportunity was given to me by (Summerside native and former Blue Jackets president and general manager) Doug MacLean. I still enjoy game night, and I still enjoy the broadcast.”
Despite only finishing above .500 once in 11 years and earning just one playoff appearance, Matthews has nothing but praise for the loyalty of the Blue Jackets’ fans. He pointed out the team is averaging over 14,000 fans a game and the Blue Jackets’ radio network, consisting of 25 stations in Ohio and Virginia, is the fourth largest in the NHL.
When play resumes, Matthews will have a different-looking team to describe, especially after the Blue Jackets made headlines with the off-season deal of captain Rick Nash to the New York Rangers. Matthews said the Nash trade will help the Blue Jackets build depth up front and on the blue-line. He also pointed out the Jackets will have three first-round picks in this year’s draft – their own, Rangers as part of the Nash deal and the Los Angeles Kings as part of the Jeff Carter trade.
“Probably it was conceivable to think I was never going to go down and work just one year after having spent 25 years (broadcasting games) in the Maritimes, but I didn’t envision being in Columbus as along as I have been. The years have gone by. A great opportunity was given to me by (Summerside native and former Blue Jackets president and general manager) Doug MacLean. I still enjoy game night, and I still enjoy the broadcast.”
Matthews was featured a couple of years ago on the NHL Network program “Voices” that profile play-by-play announcers of different NHL teams. While he received a lot of feedback on his appearance, one comment that was passed along directly to him that stands out came from Detroit Red Wings head coach Mike Babcock, who is regarded as one of the top coaches in the game today with 421 regular-season and 71 post-season wins.
Like Matthews, who taught at Summerside Intermediate School for 23 years while developing his skills travelling the Maritimes calling the majority of games for CJRW 1240 AM and C102FM in Summerside, Babcock also came from a teaching background.
A security guard told Matthews before a game at Nationwide Arena that Babcock wanted to see him. Matthews had no idea why, and admittedly was very nervous approaching the Red Wings’ dressing room. He had never met, or even did a one-on-one interview with Babcock before.
“I was thinking, I have never said anything bad about Mike Babcock during a broadcast,” said Matthews. “The worst I may have said was something about a tie he was wearing.”
As Babcock approached Matthews, the nervousness increased. But what Babcock said was that he watched Matthews’ profile on “Voices” – and as soon as he realized Matthews’ background he summoned his two sons to watch it with him.
He then told Matthews he pointed out a couple of things to his sons: “Goals are never realized easily, and the dream never comes to an end unless you allow it to end!”
Jason Simmonds is the sports editor of the Journal Pioneer. The “Islanders Away” feature appears every Thursday. To suggest an “Islander Away” please do so by emailing email@example.com.