In My Own Words: An audition for the job of a lifetime | By Alex Faust
He muted the TV, brought up the program guide, and pressed the ‘Record’ button.
Seventy-two hours before calling my first NHL game, I was already in my future home city, sitting in an unassuming office, talking about hockey.
It was a Friday afternoon. That Monday, I’d be calling Blackhawks at Lightning.
Already the ramifications of that game were on my mind: a big break, a national audience, the one sport I wanted more than anything to be able to broadcast at a high level.
All the while, I was sitting across from FOX Sports executive producer and senior VP Mike Connelly, who had a TV remote in his hand, scheduling a recording of this game.
That was the moment I knew this one opportunity became something more: An audition for the job of a lifetime. No pressure, right?
That call nearly didn’t happen.
It’s every broadcaster’s nightmare. I had an awful cold that weekend. When I woke up the morning of the game, I had dreadful feeling — am I still able to talk?
In this business, you have to look and sound like you know what you are doing, even when you don’t. Calling a hockey game, or any sport for that matter, on the same network as broadcasters you admire, say John Forslund or Doc Emrick, means using a vocabulary that makes it sound like you’re a seasoned pro. The right word in the right situation makes all the difference. Especially in the big moments. That’s the measuring stick for play-by-play guys.
— FOX Sports West (@FoxSportsWest) September 28, 2017
I knew I didn’t want to put a foot wrong forward in my first game. But heading in on the day of the game, everything was different. I’d never done a morning skate or media scrum. One of the first faces I recognized walking around was Eddie Olyzck (he was doing the game for Comcast Chicago). How the heck do you introduce yourself? , and it was one of those situations where, ‘I know who you are, you don’t know who I am.’
So that was awkward.
All of this was going through my head, plus this nasaly, raspy croak coming out of my mouth, which fortunately subsided enough by game time.
Brian Engblom, my partner for the game, chaperoned me around the bottom of the arena, as if it were my first day of school. You mean, I just walk into the locker rooms and ask these guys questions? Not that I had anything profound to ask, mind you.
Months later, I heard that Brian texted a friend of his, Paul Beyak (the TV voice of the Winnipeg Jets), amused at how I was pacing around the tiny broadcast booth before the game. Yeah, I was a bit of a nervous wreck.
It took me the first 20 minutes to actually feel comfortable calling the game. I’d never called anything this fast before — way faster than AHL-level play. But Chicago provided some relief, pulling out to a big lead in the game, 4-1. By that time, in a strange way it was easier to just reset and focus. I thought ‘Alright, it’s a 4-1 game. No one is going to mind if you screw up in a 4-1 game.’ And then Tampa scored to make it 4-2. Then it’s 4-3. And then the Lightning tied it up at the end of the second period.
It’s game on.
The third period seemingly was played on eggshells, nobody wanting to make the critical mistake (myself included), until the final 90 seconds of regulation, when things really picked up. The teams went back and forth, up and down, all the while I was right on the edge of having some sort of squeak coming out of my mouth.
The game goes to overtime. Again the action is unrelenting through four-plus minutes, until an unheralded rookie named Yanni Gourde took the ice for the Lightning. Unlike most of the players on the Lightning I’d seen him before — he played with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL.
So I knew Yanni. I knew his tendencies. Even before the puck touched his stick, I was ready for the moment. And when that game-winning goal came with 45 seconds left in overtime, I gave it all my voice had left.
As a play-by-play guy, the best feeling in the world is when the big moment arrives, you nail it, and then lay out as the crowd takes over. In this line of work, that’s the rush you live for. And I knew, in that instant, as Gourde beat Scott Darling on that wrist shot, I had nailed it.
This was my audition tape for the Kings.
There aren’t many teams around the league with a cubicle in their team’s offices for the play-by-play broadcaster. There might not be any to be honest.
But from Day 1, the Kings understood it was all about forging something different with my role. And that feeling was mutual.
This summer, I spent four days a week in the office. While I justified it to others as ‘oh, I just want to work on my research for the coming year,’ the real reason was to get to know the team behind the Kings.
From community relations, to PR, youth hockey, video, social media, ticket sales, business operations, hockey operations — you name it, I wanted to get a feel for every part of what the Kings do, not just on game nights. I used to work in an office — after graduating college, I had a 9-to-5 job that paid the bills while I did broadcasting on the side — so I enjoyed feeling like a part of the bigger picture. Or maybe it was the random interactions with Luc Robitaille when he passed by my cube. Have I mentioned he’s the coolest boss I’ve ever had?
There was one time, a season ticket rep sent me an email asking ‘Do you know where your booth is in Staples Center?’ Since I had never stepped foot in Staples Center, I had no idea, but I did a little digging online, and by the time I walked over, she was in the midst of a conversation with a prospective buyer. They wanted to buy tickets near the broadcast booth because they want to say hello to the broadcaster. She then tells them, ‘I’ve got Alex Faust right here in the office, he says it’s near section 317.’ That was pretty cool.
I’m right where I want to be, here in Los Angeles. But I’m not where I want to be yet, as a broadcaster. In terms of the quality of my play-by-play , I’ll readily acknowledge that each game I’m learning, getting better, and trying new things. The call you’ll hear at the end of the season in April will be different than the one you hear today.
In the first preseason game, I joked with Jim Fox and the crew that all I wanted was to NOT blow that first goal call. That was the only thing I really wanted to do. Naturally after the first one goes in, Jim belts out ‘he got it right, he didn’t mess it up!’ Always ribbing the new guy.
— Alex Faust (@alex_faust) September 28, 2017
It’s been a gradual process. There have been a few ‘welcome to the Kings’ moments so far this season that I’ll never forget: Jake Muzzin’s OT winner in the preseason, that first road game in San Jose, the OT winner from Tyler Toffoli with .9 seconds left in overtime in Boston.
All those are little steps along the way, notches in my belt.
But that first home game against Calgary, that’s the moment where it really sunk in, how big of a deal this all is. Stepping on the patio outside Staples Center, seeing the stage at LA Live and this horde of fans in Kings sweaters, streaming into the arena
It was in that moment that it all washed over me and all I could think was, ‘Oh, wow this is big.’