My cell rang on a Friday afternoon and the call display showed it was “Dapper” Dan O’Connor.
After answering, I was convinced he wanted to bring up a topic about his favorite sport, hockey.
The instinct was correct, but not long into the conversation Dan had some news, and this time it was about him.
“Hartley, I just wanted you to know I’ve accepted the Vancouver Giants play-by-play and Director of Media Relations job,” said O’Connor with the same enthusiasm in his voice he displays when describing an overtime winning goal for the Prince George Cougars.
I immediately offered my congratulations and then realized, he and I have likely worked together for the final time.
Dan has been the voice of the Cougars for the past six years, and for the last four, I have been fortunate enough to be his color commentator on the home games.
There’s apprehension about whether a broadcast pair, from two different backgrounds, in two different age groups, can become a team and work in unison.
One can’t fake chemistry; it’s either there, or it isn’t.
In our first season together back in 2013-14, Dan was 28-years-old, nearly half my age.
I had far more sports broadcasting experience, but he had considerably more experience in the broadcast booth.
From Day One, we were fortunate that it clicked.
This doesn’t mean our broadcasts were well received by everybody, and I’m sure some listeners preferred when Dan was on his own during the road games.
However, once the red light came on at 6:30PM for the home 94.3 the GOAT pre-game show, right through until nearly 10PM at the conclusion of the post-game show, the two of us were in sync and shared a common goal to make each broadcast the best it could be.
We did not have to rehearse much; we both had the sense and timing to realize when the other person was to speak.
Dan was always fully prepared, seldom having to look down at his line-up sheet.
He is a professional, who dressed the part, and along with it came the nickname he is very proud of “Dapper.”
The six-foot-one, 219-pound O’Connor not only knows the ins and outs of the Cougars, but has a wealth of knowledge on the other WHL teams.
In addition, his memory, while not photographic, is impressive as he can reel off stats from a game six months ago.
My one criticism of Dan is that his predictions were never right.
Off-air during some games, he would tell me some of his ridiculous hunches such as forecasting some lower end player that would score the next critical goal, and end up as a star of the game.
He batted a fat zero on his many prognostications.
Sure, “Dapper” heard complaints that he was “a homer.”
Well, guess what? He was an employee of the Cougars and his job with the team was far more that being the voice on the radio.
Of course, Dan wanted to see the Cougars beat Kamloops, and Kelowna, and Portland, and every team in the league.
He made no apologies about being a fan of the team and the ups and downs that came with it.
“Dapper” has a laid back personality; he loves to socialize and enjoy his many friends, and has earned the respect of his peers.
In 2016, his relationship with his best friend, Laura, blossomed.
Thinking Prince George would be home for the long-term, Dan last year was ecstatic after buying a condo on Tabor Boulevard.
That decision became a running radio joke he and I shared on the air waves.
Just like each game, that kind of humor took on its own identity.
It may be perceived going from one WHL team to another is a sideways move, but for “Dapper” this is a promotion since there is no substitution for going home.
He volunteered with the Giants during the 2003-04 season and his family spent three seasons as a billet family for the Vancouver team from 2004 through 2007.
“As a teenager, I would practice calling Vancouver Giants games from the top row of the Pacific Coliseum and dreamt that one day I would have the opportunity to join my hometown WHL team in this capacity,” said O’Connor.
Dan, who grew up in Tsawwassen, will temporarily move in with his dad Marty, who lives 10 minutes from the Giants home rink in Langley and share a special father-son bond.
Yes, the Giants will now become “Dapper’s” team of choice, but the Cougars will always hold a special place with him.
He will be back at CN Centre four times this season (December 1st & 2nd, January 9th & 10th) when the Giants are in Prince George, but it will seem strange seeing him squeezed in the visiting booth.
— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) August 15, 2017
Fraser Rodgers is the new voice of the Cougars, after he did the play-by-play for the Penticton Vees the past six seasons.
Rodgers was voted BCHL Broadcaster of the Year by his peers in the 2016-17 season.
If the WHL had a similar award, “Dapper Dan” would be in contention every year.
FROM THE QUOTE RACK:
Miami Dolphins head coach Adam Gase says quarterback Jay Cutler looks the same as he did the last time he saw him on the field. The good news for Cutler is that he decided to sign him anyway.
*Comedy writer Jim Barach of WCHS-TV in Charleston, W.Va., http://jokesbyjim.blogspot.ca/
Panda Sandoval was called up by the San Francisco Giants. The Giants immediately installed speed bumps in the buffet line.
*Comedy writer Tony Chong of Vancouver
The NBA will have the Brooklyn Nets play two regular season games in Mexico City this season. And if it works well, next year the league might send a professional team.
*Comedy writer Janice Hough of Palo Alto, California www.leftcoastsportsbabe.com
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
Princess Kate Middleton often wears a diamond Maple Leaf on Canadian visits. It reminds Toronto hockey fans that her father-in-law has also been waiting decades to be No. 1.
*Comedy writer RJ Currie www.Sportsdeke.com
Hartley Miller is the sports director and morning news anchor for 94.3 the Goat.
He also is the 94.3 radio color commentator for P.G. Cougars home games.
His column appears Fridays on myprincegeorgenow.com.
Send along a quote, note, or anecdote to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on twitter: @Hartley_Miller