Sept. 26, 2012
Hockey broadcasting veteran Doug McLeod was named the new FOX Sports North play-by-play announcer for Gopher hockey earlier today. McLeod has more than 30 years of broadcasting experience including an NCAA national championship, numerous Minnesota high school hockey tournaments and the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals. He's also on his second tour of duty with the Gopher hockey squad after serving 16 years as the team's first-ever play-by-play announcer.
Gophersports.com caught up with McLeod last night to talk about his new role with Gopher hockey.
You've been calling hockey games for over 30 years including serving as the first play-by-play announcer in Gopher hockey history. What made you want to return to the University of Minnesota?
"My hockey roots are all Maroon and Gold, and I really became a hockey announcer doing Gopher games. It was deeply embedded in me that Minnesota hockey was real hockey, and I was very fortunate to be able to cover a lot of championship teams when I was there. The University of Minnesota is a quality program with a long tradition of excellence, and I've always wanted to come back.
Coming back was really a combination of things. It was the experience of being here the first time. It was the quality of the program. It was knowing that you are going to have a great hockey game every night, win or lose. It's just something that I had to come back and do."
What are your thoughts on this year's team?
"Well, it's great going in ranked No. 1 in the country with Boston College. The team looked great last year, and the talent that is returning is very impressive. This is the year everybody believes, and I think rightly, that they can go all the way again, and that will be very exciting if that's what happens. I've been following the team somewhat since I left, but I'm excited to get back and start following the team in person. "
You've been tied in to hockey in the state of Minnesota for a long time including calling high school tournaments and the 1991 Stanley Cup Finals. What makes hockey so special here?
"To start with, you have a considerable portion of the population strapping on skates at the age of two or even younger sometimes. Hockey is just part of the atmosphere in the state - it's part of the DNA of Minnesotans. Even if you don't follow hockey, you know who the Gophers are, and you know what the state tournament is all about, you know about the Wild and the North Stars. I think one of the things that makes Minnesota so special is that there are so many high quality levels of hockey here. You can start with youth hockey, high school and college - not even just the Gophers, but all the college programs in the state - and the NHL, and the state just has a tremendous depth for hockey."
Your professional experience speaks for itself, but you're also a proven actor. What was it like serving as the play-by-play announcer in Mystery Alaska?
"It was a remarkable experience. Like many good things, it came right out of the blue. Howard Baldwin was the producer, and he had owned the Penguins when I was there, so that's how they hooked up with me. Our part of the movie was shot on a sound stage in Hollywood, so most of the movie had already been shot. I didn't get to meet Russell Crowe or Burt Reynolds or any of those guys although I did get to work with Mike Myers and had a hysterical conversation with him. You can imagine how that went.
The funny thing is we called the game without seeing it, and we got all messed up a of couple times because I would look one way and Phil Esposito would look the other. We finally called the game by having a crew member down on the floor of the sound stage moving a roll of electrical in place of the puck. Now the inside secret of Mystery Alaska comes out - we weren't there. One of the nicest things to me - apart from getting to do the movie - was working with the director Jay Roach. He let us call the game authentically. If you compare my call in the movie - which was somewhat scripted - to my regular call, they are almost the same."
With all of the games you've called, is it even possible to have a favorite hockey memory?
"Beating North Dakota in the NCAA championship game was great especially with Neal Broten's goal that turned out to be the game winner. He was tripped and beat the goaltender anyway. That's video that I never get tired of looking at. That's a great memory, and it was also my first year here. There were so many great clashes with Wisconsin and Minnesota-Duluth and North Dakota along the way.
With the North Stars, hands down would have to be the conference finals win in Edmonton that put the North Stars in the Stanley Cup finals. Everybody thought Edmonton was going to win, and they were playing "Roll on Down the Highway" on the PA at every stoppage of play. And it turned out that Minnesota was the team to go to the finals. Those are probably my two favorite memories, but, boy, that's a tough choice."
You had a chance to work with the legendary Herb Brooks. Do you have a story about him you can share with us?
"One oddity about Herb was that he always seemed to be in a better mood when the team was losing than when it was winning. I never could figure out the psychology behind it. They didn't lose very often, but he could really light the flame when they were winning."
One last thing, do you have anything that you'd like to pass along to Gopher fans before they see you for the first time on FOX Sports North on Oct. 12?
"I would just like to say again that I'm thrilled to be back. For the fans that I already know, it's going to be great to be back with you. For those who don't know me, I'm really looking forward to meeting over Gopher Hockey. It's a special community that's unrivaled in sports, and I can't wait to drop the puck."