Above the Friday night Goggin ice, a tiny press box houses a man with a voice destined for radio, a friendly disposition and a love for LaRosa’s giant chocolate chip cookies.
Greg Waddell became a hockey play-by-play broadcaster for Miami in 2006, the first year the Goggin Ice Center opened, and coincidentally, while current head coach Chris Bergeron was an assistant coach at Miami.
“He [Bergeron] was so welcoming back in my early days, and I didn’t know a lot about the team,” Waddell says. “Just had a great relationship from the get-go with him.”
Waddell, a 1987 Bowling Green alum, grew up listening to Marty Brennaman, the recently retired radio voice of the Cincinnati Reds. Waddell began broadcasting hockey as a sophomore in college at BG.
“I played sports growing up,” Waddell says. “It came to a point, though, that I knew that I was not going to be playing for the Reds someday, or the Bengals or hockey or whatever it was. So I knew my next route was to be around the sport somehow, and broadcasting is what that was.”
On game days, Waddell meets with Bergeron for a pregame interview, 90 minutes before the puck drops. Holding a recorder and a microphone, he takes the elevator down to the Champions Room. Several hockey players swarm the adjacent hallway, stretching, running and preparing for the night’s game against Ferris State.
Waddell’s interview with Bergeron is casual and concise, and ten minutes later, Waddell returns upstairs to the booth.
Divided by a panel, the booth is split between radio and official review. On the radio side, two rolling chairs squish into the tiny space and a counter displaying computers, a set of headphones, papers, several wires and recording devices juts out.
Dimming lights shift as brightness floods the arena and players spill onto the ice for warmups. Music blasts through the speakers, and in between songs, collisions of stick-to-puck vibrate around the rink.
Waddell and Drew Davis, his broadcasting partner, set up their computers, chatting back and forth with an obvious camaraderie about Davis’ upcoming marathon in Disney World. The Miami pep band begins drumming energy into the slowly-filling arena.
Dinner from LaRosa’s arrives, and Waddell snags some pizza and a giant chocolate chip cookie. He grabs an Orange Crush to drink, laughing because that makes him sound like a kid.
Throughout his career, Waddell has covered the Reds and the Bengals in the locker rooms, as well as other prominent sporting events.
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“None of that compares to the joy and reward I’ve gotten from broadcasting Miami hockey,” he says.
When the game begins, Waddell doesn’t sit — he stands.
Donning a headset, his dark hair flecked with grey, he leans against the chair clutching a red sheet of paper listing Miami’s roster and a yellow sheet detailing the Ferris State roster.
Glasses perched on his face, his gaze follows the puck. The red and yellow papers guide his announcements.
In the trademark broadcaster cry, Waddell’s words amplify and move closer together as the plays unfolding on the ice reach their most exciting point.
Junior forward Ben Lown scores and it’s 1-0.
“The game, you never know what’s going to happen, the game itself will write the story,” Waddell says.
A clash of movement below signals a goal. On a shot by sophomore forward Noah Jordan, Miami takes a two-goal lead, which it quickly extends to three.
“That’s a luxury the RedHawks have not yet had,” Waddell says.
The small room is a tangle of wires and recording buttons, but he navigates them with ease. Waddell says it’s been exciting to see how broadcast technology has changed in the time he’s been in the thick of it.
“The quality of the sound, the quality of the picture,” he says. “I think it just makes for an overall better broadcast, and it makes me sound better because the equipment that we use is just so good — it’s top of the line stuff.”
When the action resumes, Waddell repositions his headset and dives back into the game, his louder voice a comfortable contrast against Davis’ calmer tone. Ferris State puts away two goals, and Waddell narrates as senior forward Gordie Green slaps one into the net, bringing the score to 4-2. Ferris scores again, but Miami holds onto the lead, 4-3.
The blare of the buzzer signals the end of the third period. Waddell and Davis chatter animatedly, wrapping up game commentary, clearly excited for the RedHawks’ first win of the season.
From the radio booth, you can glimpse moving outlines of jerseys and helmets reflecting on glass sideboards.
As Waddell sweeps his gaze about the rink, smiling and talking, there isn’t a reason in the world to ask whether or not he loves his job.
Every hockey game, he lives the answer.