“I seriously thought I was going to spoil myself for one year and try something that I always wanted to do,” said Matthews referring to joining the Columbus Blue Jackets as the radio play-by-play announcer for the team’s inaugural 2000-01 season. “I never thought that I would get to this level.
“My game plan was always be here for a year to try it out, and say I had a chance to do it and enjoy the experience of working in the NHL. As I still do today, I work it year by year.”
Now in his 12th season of describing Blue Jackets’ action, Matthews will broadcast his 1,000th National Hockey League game on Saturday as Columbus visits Phoenix.
“I really believe that George is one of the most recognizable and admired personalities within the Blue Jackets’ organization,” said Ross Mollohan, the team’s director of broadcasting. “Since his arrival to Columbus in 2000, George has represented the Blue Jackets in a first-class manner, both on the broadcast and in the community with the way he connects with our fans.
“George brings the same level of passion to the radio broadcast as he does with his relationship with our fans, and that’s what makes him so admired and so unique.”
The Blue Jackets will honour Matthews’ achievement before their next home game on Feb. 26 against Dallas.
“For a guy like George, who came up the way he did teaching school and calling games on the weekend or at night and didn’t know if he’d ever get his chance to go to the National Hockey League. . . when you hit that number, it’s a pretty nice number to hit and you’ve accomplished something that was always a dream,” said Blue Jackets radio analyst Bob McElligott, who has worked alongside Matthews for the last three-plus seasons.
An O’Leary native, who resides during the off-season in West Royalty with his wife, Deborah, Matthews called games locally for 25 years on 1240 CJRW and C102FM while teaching school at Summerside Intermediate.
Then one day Matthews received a call from his longtime friend Doug MacLean, who was president and general manager of the Blue Jackets at the time. MacLean offered Matthews the radio job.
“Really appreciate the opportunity Doug MacLean gave me to realize a life-long goal and dream of mine,” said Matthews. “Working here in Columbus, the fans, the organization, the ownership have been terrific, and have made it a really enjoyable experience.”
Along with McElligott and Mollohan, another individual who has worked closely with Matthews over the years is current television analyst Bill Davidge, who spent eight years alongside Matthews in the radio booth.
“Bill is a positive guy, much like working with a Roger Ahern back in Summerside,” said Matthews. “He’s very well prepared, very informative about the game being played and him and I both approached broadcasts with energy and being prepared.
“We believed it was our job to entertain the listenership each and every night, and being knowledgeable about what is going on, not only with your team but the opposition as well.
“I have never worked with anybody more prepared than Bill Davidge.”
Davidge, who will call his 1,000th Blue Jacket game later this season, said he and Matthews hit it off right from Day 1.
“Both of us were teachers,” explained Davidge. “He taught 23, 24 years in middle school, and while I coached at Miami (Ohio University) I also had to teach at the university level for 23 years.
“Both of us have the same type of backgrounds. Our dads were both war heroes in World War 2, our mothers were stay-at-home mothers that took care of the family. He’s got a sister Judy, I have a sister Judy.
“We have so many similarities as far as who we are, what we are and what we stand for that we’re brother-brother.
“We hit it off in Year 1, and Doug and (former assistant general manager) Jimmy (Clark) both knew that. They never told me that, they never told George that, but as soon as the organization started here they felt putting us together was something that would be special, and it was.”
McElligott replaced Davidge in the radio booth.
“I seriously thought I was going to spoil myself for one year and try something that I always wanted to do. I never thought that I would get to this level. My game plan was always be here for a year to try it out, and say I had a chance to do it and enjoy the experience of working in the NHL. As I still do today, I work it year by year.” - George Matthews
“Bob is a career broadcaster, and does a great job in the sports he covers, hockey and baseball,” said Matthews. “He’s a guy who is knowledgeable about the league and the game. We’ve created a bond with ourselves as well. . .
“He’s a guy who likes to give the odd jabs now and then, so I have to be prepared for those each and every night, but he’s a fun guy to work with.”
McElligott said “every day is a fun adventure” working alongside Matthews.
“He’s one of the nicest people on the planet,” said McElligott. “He makes my job very easy. He never gets mad, he always keeps everything upbeat and he keeps everything fun.
“I thoroughly enjoy every game that we do together. We really have a good chemistry – he does the game and I sit there and think what kind of a comment can I come on and say when there’s a break in the action just to try to catch him off guard, get him riled up or just to have fun with him in addition to doing the game. I really enjoy it every day, I swear I do.”
Matthews’ calls are transmitted over the airwaves of the Blue Jackets Radio Network, which presently consists of 28 stations.
“In a state like Ohio and market like Columbus, to build a network that large, you have to have a couple of things going for you,” said Mollohan. “One is you have to have a very good product. We have a very good on-air product, and a lot of that has to do with the work of George and now Bob.
“The second thing is you have to really go out and sell the network. Over the years, George and I have logged hundreds of miles in the company vehicle crisscrossing the state, and going even out of state sometimes down to West Virginia, to recruit stations to be part of the affiliate network.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in the car, and we talked radio, hockey, life and when you do that for as long as we have, you really get to know a person.”
Davidge recalled a few years ago when the Blue Jackets brought in current Rogers Sportsnet analyst John Shannon as a broadcast consultant. Shannon was working as a broadcast executive at the time.
“The one thing he (Shannon) didn’t want us to lose was our passion for the game because that’s what we brought each and every night,” said Davidge. “We are both so happy to be in the game. . . We understand it’s an event, it’s entertainment.
“That’s what we made it each and every night. We might not have been a very good hockey team, but each night it sounded like it was Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals.”
Matthews added: “I’ve enjoyed each and every game, and have tried to bring energy and excitement each and every night. You try to put forth the best effort to entertain the fans.”
A look at George Matthews’
NHL broadcasting career:
First broadcast was a Columbus Blue Jackets’ pre-season game against the Pittsburgh Penguins from Mellon Arena on Sept. 15, 2000.
Has worked alongside two analysts – Bill Davidge and Bob McElligott.
Was featured on the NHL Network’s inaugural series “Voices” during the 2008-09 season.
Has only missed 10 games in 11-plus seasons of calling Blue Jackets’ games.
Quote: “Working alongside George has been one of the most enjoyable aspects of not only working with the Blue Jackets, but all the years I’ve spent in broadcasting,” said Russ Mollohan, director of broadcasting for the Blue Jackets. “He’s not only just a terrific play-by-play announcer in this sport and in this league, he is one of the kindest, generous, funny and one of the best individuals you could be around. . . Not only do I consider George to be the voice of the Blue Jackets, I also consider him to be a very good friend.”