Sound Tigers - Twice Blessed
I learned to love the game of hockey early in life. The first magazine I subscribed to was the ‘Hockey’ magazine, which became mine after my dad had read it. On the cover of the first edition was Maurice ‘The Rocket’ Richard, my first sports hero. Life was easier then. When you went to the store for cereal you had eleven to choose from; three were the hot cereals ‘Wheatena’, ‘Farina’ and ‘Rolled Oats’, none were instant. Cold varieties roared like tigers, were ‘shot from guns’ or would ‘snap, crackle and pop’ for your listening pleasure. Sugar Pops had yet to be given their more nutritionally acceptable name of ‘Corn Pops’ and nobody apologized for it.
I grew up in Southeast Connecticut, the fertile valley of telecommunications in the early fifties. While many areas of the country had only one or two TV stations to chose from, we were gifted with six (more with the proper application of aluminum foil to the rabbit ears). Still, live hockey broadcasts were few and far between. When available they were shown in a fuzzy black and white and I loved every minute.
Players were easily recognized as none wore helmets and goalies wore no masks, but the puck was impossible to follow on our Zenith. My dad taught me to watch a players’ shoulders ‘that’s where the puck is’ and follow their hips ‘that’s where the skater is heading’. He explained the nicknames like ‘Boom-Boom’ who, he said, got his name from practice where he’d line up 10-12 pucks at the blue line and fire at the net. Boom when his slapper hit the puck and Boom when it missed the net and hit the boards. “What if his shot hit the net?” I asked. “Then he would be your hero Mike,” he said “and not ‘Rocket’”.
Hockey in Southeast Connecticut remains a fertile valley, but for different reasons. While HDTV and expanded network coverage have made the game more accessible universally, Bridgeport has three huge advantages on most. First of all we have a professional team the Bridgeport Sound Tigers entertaining us thirty-eight games a season at the Webster Bank Arena. Second and third on the list are two guys from the Bronx who provide the history and color of the game like few others. Mike Fornabaio and Phil Giubileo.
After graduating from Columbia Univ. in NYC in 1997, Mike Fornabiao joined the staff of The Connecticut Post. Early in his career as a beat writer Mike covered The Beast of New Haven the local AHL team at the time, and has covered the Bridgeport Sound Tigers since their inception. Travelling the east coast from North Carolina to Maine and beyond, he offers insightful coverage of all games home and away often turning his experiences into entertaining features. Widely recognized as one of the most dedicated and professional writers around the AHL, Mr Fornabaio was awarded by the AHL at the end of the 2003-04 season with the James H. Ellery Memorial Award in the newspaper category for his fine work. The cliché is ‘He has forgotten more about … , than I will ever know’ is applicable but falls short as I think he is yet to forget.
Phil also joined the Sound Tigers after completing his education in NYC. After his graduation from Fordham, where he served as broadcaster for many of the schools teams, he covered hockey’s now defunct Danbury Thrashers and the St Louis Heartland Eagles of the USHL. He studied 3 years of play-by-play under the legendary sportscaster Marty Glickman and is now in his sixth year as the voice of the Sound Tigers. I grew up listening to hockey on the air-waves, at times in French when atmospheric conditions allowed, and can truly appreciate how difficult it is to do and Mr. Giubileo does it better than any. Of the many wishes I have, one is that the Sound Tigers find a local radio station to air Phil’s broadcasts. Another is that that same station provide rebroadcasts of his all summer long.
Thank-you gentlemen for enriching the game for us all.
- Mike Flannery