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Jotting it Down with Jesse: A Remote Solution

Saturday, December 12th
Jotting it Down with Jesse: A Remote Solution

Tonight marks the first game of the 2020-21 regular season for the Orlando Solar Bears, and it almost sounds too good to be true when you say it to yourself.

When the puck hits the ice at Hertz Arena, it’ll have been 276 days between regular season games for Orlando - the longest offseason in the history of the team’s tenure in the ECHL.

This was not due to the team’s failure to clinch a post-season berth last year; quite the opposite in fact, as the Solar Bears were in the middle of a spirited run for a fourth consecutive trip to the Kelly Cup Playoffs under Drake Berehowsky. With Clint Windsor returning from the AHL and players becoming healthy at a desperately critical time, the team was certainly positioned to do so, especially after a 3-1 win over the South Carolina Stingrays - the best team in the league - on March 11.

That same evening a member of the Utah Jazz’s roster tested positive for COVID-19, and suddenly the sports world screeched to a grinding halt; the ECHL season was canceled that same weekend, when Orlando was scheduled to make a trip down to Estero.

Our world was turned upside down thanks in part to a microscopic enemy that has robbed many of their health, and in some cases, even their lives. And many have seen their means of making a livelihood thrown completely off-kilter.

During the summer months, I make a habit of doing a deep dive and listening to some of my game calls, and really trying to figure out what I can improve upon for the next season: my diction, my cadence, my knowledge of the stories of the players that will be on the roster or likely assigned to the team, etc. — I remember thinking to myself and feeling confident that I was “on” in that March 11 game against South Carolina, and there were a few wistful moments when I reflected that I wasn’t able to pick up where I had left off.

Tonight’s game, I’ll throw on the headset for the first time since March 11, and provide the play-by-play of Orlando’s game against the Florida Everblades. Hopefully, you won’t notice much of a change. Truth be told though, there will be a noticeable difference to the guy behind the headset.

As part of the protocols this season to protect the health and safety of our players, coaches and hockey operations staff - along with that of our partners and fans - the ECHL has made the determination that team broadcasters will not travel with their teams for away games this season - instead opting to have broadcasters handle the play-by-play duties for road games remotely off a monitor via the new streaming partnership with FloSports.

It won’t quite be the same as Mike “Doc” Emrick calling the NHL playoff games in the Toronto and Edmonton bubbles from his home in Michigan, or Dave Miskin calling the Lightning Stanley Cup-clinching game from Amalie Arena, but the hope among all of the ECHL broadcasters who feel a sense of loyalty and devotion to our teams’ fanbases is that we’re able to deliver a comparable experience for those of you watching at home.

The ECHL is not just a development league for its players and coaches, but its staff as well, including the broadcasters. Look no further than my good friend Everett Fitzhugh, formerly of the Cincinnati Cyclones, who was hired this summer to be one of the voices for the NHL’s expansion Seattle Kraken. This is going to be a learning experience for myself, and all of my fellow play-by-play broadcasters around the ECHL.

Like it or not, this is our new normal. I hate that cliché, but it’s a cliché because it’s true. Which in and of itself is a cliché, but I digress.

We’re still figuring out the best means of how we will carry coverage of our home broadcasts at Amway Center, and whether or not my usual position on the club level radio deck is going to be a suitable and safe location in light of our efforts to mitigate any risk of our fans or staff transmitting and/or contracting COVID-19.

Necessity breeds innovation - and regardless of whether we are at home or on the road, the hope is we will have some creative solutions for how to deliver the best broadcast experience to you at home during the regular season (and hopefully Kelly Cup Playoffs as the Solar Bears make their bid for a fourth consecutive berth in the postseason under Drake Berehowsky), whether you are watching the game on FloHockey or listening along on Mixlr.

Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his sixth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2020-21 season. Use the form below to shoot him your questions, comments or blog ideas.

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