Who knew that calling the AHL All-Star game in Hershey last year along with Binghamton’s Grady Whittenburg would be a preview of things to come for Scott Stuccio? As it turns out, that perch high above the Giant Center ice now belongs to him. On September 1st, Scott was named the new voice of the Bears after John Walton’s “call-up” to the NHL and Washington Capitals. We here at Sweetest Hockey on Earth are lucky enough to bring you an interview with Scott through the magic of the internet.
Sweetest Hockey: What was your first reaction when you were offered the job?
Scott Stuccio: I was blatantly surprised because of how fast everything had to happen. With John earning the job in Washington (and well-deserved I might add), there were probably four weeks, tops, to get his position filled. I would think it takes a good four weeks at least to allow the job to be posted and applications collected. And I know that there are MANY deserving broadcasters in ALL leagues that expressed interest. And when I got that call from Doug Yingst to be the next in an historic lineup of Bears voices, it made a rough day bright. My great-uncle Syl, who lived in Buffalo most of his life after serving in the Merchant Marines and was so close to me and my family, passed away a few days earlier. I was driving back home from his funeral when Doug called me. He taught economics in his working days (he taught the late Tim Russert, actually) and was the most articulate speaker we knew. This is for him, for sure.
SHOE: Since the Bears and Penguins are big rivals, what will it be like for you to make the switch?
SS: I think John said it best when he tweeted that I “will bleed chocolate and white for many years” and that “I’m a loyal soldier.” That couldn’t be any more truthful. Every call I make will be with excitement and a pounding pulse… but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, too! That first night in the Giant Center home booth is going to be ridiculously fun but I know how deeply passionate and driven our fans are. I know I’m going to be under a microscope. And I can’t wait to join in the fun with everybody. I need to win our fans over… a lot of them. I understand that. I just hope everyone gives me the chance.
SHOE: A lot of people might not know that you were the weeknight meteorologist at WYOU-TV in Wilkes-Barre Scranton, how did you go from forecasting the weather to calling play by play of hockey?
SS: That seems to be the question of the year and it’s tough to keep things short.
As far as weather, I have a degree in meteorology from Penn State. I worked at WYOU-TV for almost 13 years… at the beginning, much against my will! But it turned into something enjoyable for a while. Most people know that weather is the only portion of a newscast that isn’t scripted… it’s all off-the-cuff. So is hockey play-by-play, in a sense. It’s all ad-lib, while having facts and figures both in front of you and in your head at the ready.
Anyway, a few of our off-ice officials were also on-ice officials in my men’s league. Thursday nights used to feature a pick-up game at Mohegan Sun Arena, and during my first few invitations I got to know our main executives. They hired me originally for marketing and to do color commentary on home games. Being from the area and having a strong community tie (which, by the way, I look forward to doing in Hershey and as many surrounding areas as possible!), it quickly turned into a full-time broadcast position when Tom Grace put in his notice just about exactly four years ago. That’s how I got my “in” with the Penguins… just playing pick-up hockey.
As far as my love and learning of the game, I have three older brothers who are all Ranger fans (insert comments here). I think the only reason for that is because of what TV stations we received through our younger years in Wilkes-Barre. I remember when the Flyers were carried on Prism network with Doc Emrick and Bill Clement calling the games. I also remember when Marv Albert did Ranger games on WWOR-TV. Prism was a “pay channel” and WWOR was free. They also carried the Islanders at times… and since I didn’t want to be a Ranger fan, I rooted for the Islanders (insert an even better comment here). I watched every aspect of the games and even muted the TV to practice calling the action. I also played street hockey growing up, and intramural ice hockey through high school, college, and up to now. I didn’t do it professionally, or even as an amateur… but I got to know the game.
I did ad-lib broadcasts, and I loved and played hockey. The two joined up perfectly but I never planned it that way!
(I still can’t get away from weather, either. I’m thinking that Mark French and Troy Mann will be asking about snowstorms for our New England trips sooner rather than later!)
(Ed Note: We found video of Scott’s last weather cast with WYOU-TV if you want to check it out)
SHOE: Being a color guy for the past few year, are you excited to get back to doing play by play?
SS: I am VERY excited, absolutely! I look at play-by-play as being right there amongst the action. I feel that when I’m calling games… and our fans have felt that in Hershey for almost 75 years. It will be a huge challenge to keep that up… but I know I can, and I know I can get BETTER doing it.
SHOE: Whats been you impression of the atmosphere in Giant Center the past few year?
SS: I love hearing the answers from players who are asked this question, and trying not to sound repetitive, Giant Center is AWESOME!!! Loud, proud, and rowdy… just the way a hockey arena should be every single game night! I actually like to single out some of these things, when I think about it:
- I love the “It’s All About the Cup” Reese’s banner between 110-210/111-211… marketing at its finest!
- I love the “Ollie’s Cheap Seats”… same reason!
- I CAN’T write an answer to this without saying that I cannot wait to meet the man behind the “B-U-L-L-S-*-*-T” chant… there was not a game in which I heard it that I didn’t have to take off my headset from laughing….
- I love the Caps logo at center ice… NHL parent club logos should be in ALL buildings. It’s pride, for crying out loud!
- GC has THE friendliest people on press row… always a hello, a handshake, a smile… even for the Penguins former color man.
- And I REALLY love the media meal room… it’ll be hard to cut back on a pre-game feast knowing that I have to have more of a voice than during last season!
I’m sure there are more. They’ll come out during a future broadcast, don’t worry.
SHOE: Who are some of your favorite Hershey Bear players that you dealt with over the years, on and off the ice?
SS: As far as former players go, when Hershey and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton played an Alumni Game near the end of the 2008-09 season, I was actually asked to back up David Weninger because some of the others were unavailable. Freddie Cassivi without a doubt was a great human being… especially when our CEO “traded” me to Hershey for the game-ending shootout! Mitch Lamoureux was certainly tremendous as well. I had a chance to interview him at his Hall of Fame Induction back in January. Besides Alexandre Giroux and Andrew Gordon, whom I also met at the All-Star Classic, those are the only ones with whom I’ve had a chance to chat. Dany Sabourin of course was with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2005-06, just prior to my coming on board as broadcaster, but I did meet him when I substituted twice that year in goal during practices… another super human being.
I have a long fondness for the Hershey Bears since my first game in 1984 at Hersheypark Arena… and I also just dug out my program from the 50th anniversary season of 1987-88 when the Bears hosted the Skipjacks. It’s so neat to see names like Claude Julien on the Baltimore roster, to see Paul Stewart as that week’s referee, and to know today’s hockey operations staff members in Al Hill, Wendell Young, and the Chief Craig Berube played at the Old Barn that year.
SHOE: I have heard that you also play goalie?! Is that true?
SS: Hopefully that’s not too hard to believe! Yes, it’s true… although nowhere near the level worthy of donning the pads on Giant Center ice!!! Seriously, as I mentioned before, I filled in at practice twice in 2005-06, and twice last season. Never had to sign the ATO to back up someone yet though.
SHOE: And finally, what was your reaction when you heard your good friend John Walton is getting a shot to call games in the NHL?
SS: I already told most people that when he got the call, I pulled out my copy of Bear Trax from 2006, when John dedicated a page to me, and read it five times over. That’s the kind of guy he is. If management told me that I couldn’t write about a friend to fill a page in a game program, I’d have a hard time complying but I would have to comply. John would do that for anybody. Nine years in Hershey and previous time in Cincinnati proves that. His pictures with fans prove that.
I met John when I worked as an off-ice official in WBS in 2005-06. When I got called by the Penguins to fill-in behind the microphone for four games in January 2007, John said “I knew you’d be there someday!” He and I just clicked as friends. Our birthdays are a week apart and that helped. Grady Whittenburg in Binghamton, John, and I dubbed ourselves the “I-81 Mafia” and never looked back. Now, we’ll link up via I-83! I was really worried with John going to the NHL that we would lose contact and not be able to chat nearly as much. But when we talked FIVE TIMES the day after I got the job, I knew that he was proud of me, happy for me, and ready to work together every single day. That’s what makes me most happy and I couldn’t be any more proud to have John as my good friend. He achieved his goal. He will be deeply missed in Hershey. But he will be back from time to time… I will be texting or calling to make sure of it!!
You can also follow Scott on twitter: @ScottStuccio