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Voice of Toledo hockey ready for puck to drop


Public address announcer Bobb Vergiels fires up the crowd before a Storm game at the Sports Arena on Jan. 7, 2007. Vergiels is looking forward to starting some new traditions at Lucas County Arena.

The Blade/Dave Zapotosky
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The charismatic Bobb Vergiels served as the last public address announcer at the Sports Arena and he will carry his unique catch phrases over to the Lucas County Arena.

Vergiels began his announcing career with the Storm in 1991. He parlayed that success into a career as the announcer for the Detroit Tigers (2004 present). Vergiels was the announcer at the 2005 baseball all-star game and 2006 World Series.

He also is the press box announcer for the Detroit Lions. He served as the Mud Hens announcer from 1999-2003. He also announces at University of Michigan men's and women's basketball games and Wayne State University football games.

But it was at Storm games where Vergiels formed a bond with local hockey fans.

Vergiels, 57, is a Monroe native and has a wife and three grown children.

What do you think of the new Lucas County Arena?

What an excellent facility. I'm just bowled over. I can only imagine what it will be like with the hockey fans rocking it. Longtime fans might not like the higher glass along the boards but as one who got hit with pucks 15 times, I welcome that change. Hockey in Toledo is all about tradition and this will help us to start new traditions.

Will you have the same signature calls?

At least one will be different. The Stooorrrm is gone, but there are some interesting possibilities with the Walleye. I never start out trying to do a signature call - they just kind of evolve. I have been trying out a few things. When I hear it - and it might just be an accident - I will know. I understand "Hey Tee-Town" was considered a signature so look for that again. From what I see of the roster, there are some pretty cool names to say.

Do you ever get nervous?

Absolutely, every game, and I do about 200 of them a year. People expect a certain level of professionalism, expertise and perfection and my goal every night is to make sure I do not let them down. If you control your nerves, you will find yourself more alert and ready and more capable of performing at a high level.

What were the highlights of your career with Storm?

There were many because I was there from the beginning to the end. The victory over Wheeling in April, 1993, to win our first Riley Cup. Having the penalty benches full of six guys each when a referee chased everyone off for fighting. Watching Brad McCaughey get six goals in a game. To this day the Ken Tasker-Trevor Senn fight is the most popular hockey fight on the Internet. Seeing Wheeling's Matt Van Horlick being beaten up by three guys in the same extended fight. Introducing Mike Eruzione when he came back and introducing the 1974-75 Toledo Goaldiggers team when they had a reunion. Being asked by Red Wing Darren McCarty "Why aren't you announcing at the Joe?" Kissing center ice one last time at the Sports Arena.

Who was the best player you ever saw play at the Sports Arena?

Wow - I mention one name and 600 guys will be mad. There really wasn't one. Iain Duncan in the 1992-93 season and Brad McCaughey in 1991-92 were the best I ever saw. They could dictate the pace of games by themselves. But I don't want to overlook David Goverde and Andrew Williamson. Let me start an ECHL team with those four guys in their primes and you'll be chasing us all season long.

What was the most memorable game you saw at the Sports Arena?

Easy - the night we beat Wheeling in April, 1993, to win our first Riley Cup. When the [winning] puck went in, the Wheeling goalie turned around and broke his stick over the crossbar. The referee grabbed it and gave it to me to hold onto. I still have that stick.

How do the players react to your signature calls?

Chris Blight, who played on the last Storm team, told me he loved the way I said his number - eeee leven - and growled his first name.

What makes Toledo hockey fans special?

This is not a hockey game for them - it is an extension of their lives. They are intensely loyal. They also look at hockey as a family reunion 36 times a year or so. These fans adopted me early on. I can't even tell you how many graduation parties, confirmations, weddings or other family events I have been invited to. I also have been to at least a dozen funerals of hockey fans. But the greatest example of my relationship with these fans was when my dad died in November, 1998, the first floral arrangement came from the Storm Fan Club. It was a living arrangement and it still is in my house to this day.

What do you think of the job coach Nick Vitucci has done?

On paper it looks like a nice balance. Nick is a great coach and I don't think Toledo will be the highest stop on the trip for him. Few goalies make good head coaches but Nick is the exception to that rule.

How do you see the Walleye's inaugural season playing out?

Crowds will be fantastic and the Lucas County Arena will be rocking. I see this team doing what the Mud Hens did in 2002 when they moved downtown from Skeldon Stadium. We will be the ticket to have. I see this team being very good. Winning teams generate a lot of buzz and that translates to bottoms in the seats.

Do you have any superstitions?

I always take a 10-minute nap in my car before I go in to do a game and I listen to Republica's "Ready to Go" just before I get out of my car.

What do you like most about being a public address announcer?

I get to use a God-given talent and be paid for it and deep down, I am a fan at heart. I get the best seat in the house. They also feed me. Plus I get to entertain 5,000-plus people every night, many of whom are friends. Pretty good gig, right?

What is something nobody knows about you?

I am a stamp collector in my "quiet times" and I have nearly 80 percent of all stamps ever printed with the likeness of King George VI of England on them.

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