McLeod has long history with Gophers hockey

BY foxsports • September 26, 2012

FOX Sports North's new TV play-by-play voice of University of Minnesota hockey is a familiar one. Doug McLeod will step back into the broadcast booth to call Gophers games after spending a good part of his career in Minnesota. He'll be joined by analysts Kevin Gorg and Casey Hankinson during the 2012-13 season.

McLeod began as the voice of the University of Minnesota men's hockey team back in 1978, becoming the team's first full-time play-by-play announcer for the Gophers. He also served as the voice of the Minnesota North Stars for six seasons until the team left for Dallas in 1993. Since then, he has held numerous broadcasting positions across the country and has covered a variety of sports. McLeod now returns to Minnesota, where his career began.

A short conversation with McLeod  allows us – and you – to get reacquainted with the new voice of Gophers hockey:

FSN: What drew you to come back to Minnesota to broadcast Gophers games?
McLEOD: This is something I've always dreamed of doing. I did the Gophers for a long time and then I followed the NHL part of my career for a long time. That part of it ended a couple years ago. I always had it in the back of my mind that if there was some way to make it work, I would love to go back and do Golden Gopher hockey because it's the best college hockey going. It's such a wonderful tradition and has been so much a part of my life. My hockey roots are deeply planted in Minnesota, and it's something I've just always wanted to do.

FSN: You used to call games for the Minnesota North Stars. What was it like to work as a broadcaster in the NHL?
McLEOD: I would still be with the North Stars if they were still there, but they took a hike to Dallas in 1993, so I had to find a job. I was with the North Stars for six years and did the NHL and the Gophers at the same time, which provided for some harrowing winter travel, but it was a lot of fun. When the Stars went to Dallas, I got an offer from the Pittsburgh Penguins to do radio and some TV, so I went there for three years. But I kept my eyes on this situation. When it became apparent that the Winnipeg Jets were going to relocate to Phoenix, I really jumped at that because I knew a lot of the guys who were involved who were from Minnesota. … I moved my family down here (to Arizona) and we've kind of settled in down here. I've been here since 1996. My daughter's in college now in Arizona. (The Coyotes) went to a simulcast operation a few years ago to save money, so they cut the TV guys loose. I wound up going to Denver to help start the Altitude Sports Network. I got there to do the Avalanche just about the same week the NHL locked out the last time. So I spent a lot of time doing college football and basketball and I learned really fast how to do things like rodeo and bull riding and college volleyball to fill in the blanks. So that's my NHL career to date. I've been freelancing since I left Denver.

FSN: You said your hockey roots run deep in Minnesota. Are you originally from the state?
McLEOD: I grew up and went to college in Iowa. I came to Minnesota in the 1970s to be sports director at what was then News Radio 1280, WWTC. It was there that I put the first Gopher radio package together. People probably don't remember now, but the Gophers were never on the radio. It's bizarre, but they weren't. Somebody would pick them up occasionally for a playoff game or two or whatever. So I saw an opportunity there and put that package together, so I guess I was the first full-time regular Gopher play-by-play announcer. I got lucky because the first full season I did them was the '78-79 season, which is when they won the NCAA championship in Detroit, beat North Dakota on a fabulous goal by Neal Broten. Of course, the nucleus of that team and coach Herb Brooks went on to win the Miracle on Ice Olympic gold medal in Lake Placid the next year, so that was a great bunch.

FSN: What's your take on the new Big Ten hockey conference?
McLEOD: I don't know what to think. A number of us have been digesting the changes in the WCHA over the years. It's going to be great to have teams like Michigan State and Michigan back on the schedule on a regular basis like they used to be. Beyond that, I don't know what to make of Ohio State being on the schedule. Penn State's starting a program. What's that going to be like? I don't know. It's a real question mark out there, and it certainly is a scene change for Minnesota hockey fans after being in the WCHA all the way back to the ‘50s. We won't be seeing North Dakota anymore, Minnesota-Duluth and some of the great old rivalries, Denver, Colorado College, unless they're plugged into the schedule somehow.

FSN: Where do the Gophers rank in terms of storied college hockey programs?
McLEOD: This is one of the oldest and most successful programs in all of college hockey. People who don't live in Minnesota sometimes don't get how huge it is to people. This is like Michigan and Ohio State football. This is like basketball in Indiana. It's the same reason the high school hockey tournament (which McLeod broadcast for 14 seasons) is such an enormous thing. It's beyond just a sporting event. It's a way of life for people. It's a continuing tradition for people. Generation after generation of families have gone to Gopher games at Williams Arena and then the old Mariucci Arena and now the new Mariucci Arena. It's a continuum that goes back decades and decades. I think it's not only one of the most successful programs, but I just think there's a lot of quality to the program. They recruit a lot of quality young men to play there. The coaching staffs have always been extremely top-notch individuals. Watching Gopher hockey and good college hockey is, in many ways, not much different than watching games in the NHL. There's the speed, there's the precision. It's an exciting sport, and Minnesota plays it at a premier level.

Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter.