Q&A with new Gophers play-by-play announcer Charlie Beattie
St. Paul native Charlie Beattie, FOX Sports North’s new Minnesota Gophers hockey play-by-play announcer, took some time out to answer a few questions about himself and his hockey broadcasting career and style. Below he discusses his love for hockey, a cool place he played roller hockey, if he has a signature goal call and much more.
You’re from St. Paul, so hockey has to be in your blood, right?
I didn’t grow up in a hockey household or anything like that, but over time, this sport has become such a huge part of my life. If you talked to 10-year-old me or my family when I was a kid, they’d say he’ll never grow up to be a hockey announcer. He plays everything else, but he doesn’t play hockey. But I paid attention, for sure, and always wanted to play.
How did you foster your love of hockey?
It got into my blood as a kid, going to North Stars games, going to Gophers games. My dad took me. We were hockey fans. You just think everyone in Minnesota as a hockey player. But I always loved the sport, there was never a time I didn’t love the sport. When I moved back here in 2007, I said, alright, I want to find ways to start broadcasting hockey, which I did, and I’d like to find ways to get myself on the ice, and I did that, too. From then on there’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about one of those two things.
You play in a men’s hockey league. How has that affected your calling of a game?
Playing it, you get an appreciation for what the sport looks like when it’s working. If you’ve experienced situations, even if they are relatively low-pressure situations, but you know where the puck should be, where the game should flow. That helps with the play-by-play. I always considered myself a student of the game with any game I was watching. And I like to know that I am professing the game in the right way, the way a coach or player would even though I was never a coach or player. I don’t assume to have the knowledge that they do, but I like to know I am looking at the sport with the right kind of eyes, I’m seeing what they might see. And that helps you call a game – because you know what probably should happen next if this player is going to make the play he or she wants to make. Then you can anticipate it, and it helps you call that piece of action, especially in a sport like hockey which moves so quickly and can change so quickly, you have to know all the potential possibilities that might happen.
What’s the preparation like in terms of knowing all the players, especially since they come in and out with line shifts, and then also pronouncing some of the more difficult names?
In terms of memorization, more than any other sport in hockey you have to know every player by heart. In baseball, if you have a momentary lapse, easy to look down on your sheet because the action is slow. In football, you probably have a half second or two to (look) down there. In hockey you really don’t. By the time you get back up again, that player doesn’t have the puck anymore. They might not even be on the ice anymore. So, you can’t be behind the game, ever. More than any other sport you have to know your stuff beforehand. In terms of pronunciations, that goes without saying, obviously. A. It’s a huge part of the job at the basic level. But B., you have to be able to get them out quickly, so don’t forget, don’t fumble, know them by heart going in.
As a Minnesotan, and a St. Paul native, being able to call Gophers hockey, has to be a pinnacle of the profession.
It’s a huge honor. I grew up watching these teams and knowing the history. When they won the national title in 2002, I wasn’t here but I made sure that I watched the game. To tell you a funny story, I actually watched that game on a VHS recording. That’s how old I feel. It might be the last VHS recording I ever watched. But I was living in Virginia at the time – not a hotbed of hockey, but we got ESPN. I had somewhere to be that night so I couldn’t watch the game (live), but I made sure I recorded it. I held onto that tape as long as I had a VCR. Because it was so special. They hadn’t won a national title in my lifetime. I remember all the pain and the heartache. I went to the Frozen Four the one year it was here and they lost in the semifinals to Boston U. And how disappointed we all were. And so I’ve been there with all the fans. The other side of it, growing up and watching the Gophers on television, they always had really good broadcasters. To be chosen to carry on that lineage is really special and not something I take lightly because I know Minnesota fans are passionate and they care.
Growing up and watching the Gophers on television, they always had really good broadcasters. To be chosen to carry on that lineage is really special and not something I take lightly because I know Minnesota fans are passionate and they care.
You mention living in Virginia. You went to school in Washington, D.C. at George Washington. How were you able to get your hockey fix?
We used to play roller hockey, and where we played was out in front of the White House. I mean, GW is only four blocks away from the White House. It’s the best place to play because the street is blocked off. So 9 o’clock every Wednesday we just go take over and we actually had a league. Six teams, 10 guys on each team. We played like a tripleheader every Wednesday. We were playing out there when state dinners would get out. I’m sure very important people would wander out and see all these scruffy guys playing roller hockey (laughs). We used to have a shot deflect onto the White House lawn and guards would come out with their guns and toss them back over and then go back into their guardhouse. It was a real interesting place to play.
The first Gophers game on FOX Sports North is Oct. 18. Will there be nerves before your first game?
There’s more nerves involved in getting the job than doing the job, I would say. Once I get in a booth, I feel comfortable. I think there’s two types of nerves, there’s nerves that are fear-based and nerves that are excitement-based. Nerves that are fear-based can really cripple you. Excitement-based nerves really galvanize you, and you’re ready to go. And that’s what I feel. I can’t wait to get started.
What kind of prep work do you do between now and then?
Everything. Just sort of immersing myself into college hockey. Just making sure you have all the little details mapped out and you know everything about every one of these players, that you’re caught up on Bob’s [head coach Bob Motzko] history, that every opponent you’ve got to make yourself an expert, and I’ll be an expert on Niagara hockey by Oct. 18.
Do you have a signature goal call?
I really don’t. I wouldn’t say I have any catchphrases at all. I think it’s partially because I have a pathological fear of repeating myself. I just can’t do it. And every situation is different and I think every goal call deserves to be a little different. That’s my perspective. Others who don’t do that and do have a signature call, I completely respect that because that’s their personality, it’s just not mine. And I kind of roll with every situation as it comes along.
Do you have a certain style to calling a game?
I never really think about it. I do the job the way I always have and I think other people may comment on my style but it’s never something I consciously think about. I just go out there and call the game and make it as exciting as I possibly can. One thing I will say is that the last 10 minutes of a close game are my favorite time of any sporting event, the last 10 minutes of a close hockey game. You can really feel the intensity pick up, and it picks up in your voice and it’s a lot of fun. I think that’s the one thing I’d like to impart is the fact that when you’re listening to me call a game, if you’re a fan just know that that’s the most fun I can possibly have doing anything. I love this. It’s hard to explain how much I love doing this. I think that comes across and I really want all the fans to be a part of that. I want them to enjoy it along with me.
What are you looking forward to most with this job and the season ahead?
Just the fact they are such a young team – they have 12 new faces and a lot of key contributors that are gone. And it’s the second year of Bob’s coaching tenure here and you start to see a coach put his stamp on a team in that second and third year. Just watching them grow over the season because I know that Gopher hockey fans are hungry for them to get back to that top echelon of college hockey and we may see it play out before our very eyes, whether it’s this year of next year, and I’m excited to be a part of that. To be a soundtrack for that is really fun.