By Gord Montgomery
September 18 is D-Day for Tom Strangward and Chad Coughlin. No, best make that B-Day, for Broadcast Day, as the pair of local radio personalities make their FASTHockey play-by-play de-but.
The two, who work side-by-side as the news and sports on-air guys for Parkland County’s FM 88.1 THE ONE, will stick to those positions but stretch their horizons a bit as they take to the broadcast booth (in their very limited spare time) to bring Spruce Grove Saints action into living rooms in Parkland County and beyond.
Sitting in their office in Stony Plain, both said this for them is a dream job come to life and neither can wait for the new AJHL season to get underway.
“Since Tom and I started here we talked about how we’d approach this because this is what we want,” said Coughlin. “This is in addition to our roles and coverage of the Saints (with the radio station). Now that thing are falling into place it’s a dream come true for both of us.”
Both have done play-by-play and colour commentary in the past so it may take a while to see who best fits where. There is though not going to be a donnybrook over who does what.
“We’re both very capable of doing both,” pointed out Couglin. “Tom has more experience so we’ll start with him on play-by-play and me on colour. As the season goes on, and people get to know us and our styles, I don’t think it will make much difference who does what.”
Speaking of their experience, both come to the Saints table with lots of goodies to offer.
“It’s been a long ride,” Strangward said of his journey to this point in time. He graduated from university with a degree in Canadian History where he spent time researching and writing on Canadian hockey. From there he went on to SAIT and the broadcast journalism field, “where I wanted to get into sports radio.”
To begin achieving that goal he did on-air play-by-play work with the SAIT Trojans hockey team plus called games in the Alberta Cup and the prestigious Mac’s Midget tournament last winter.
“I personally did every game (at the Mac’s) at Father Bauer arena; 25 games. I loved it! That’s not work to me!”
It was a similar route to here for Coughlin who graduated from the U of A in Drama. He too went onto SAIT where he also became the play-by-play guy for the Trojans, the year before his new partner did so. In the 2014 season he made the call as that team won the ACAC championship.
“After that I went to work in Okotoks and as far as play-by-play goes, I was the fill-in guy for the Oilers. Again, like Thomas, we’re doing this because we want to.”
Each brings their own style to the airwaves and they feel the mixture works well together.
“I like to elevate the game,” Strangward said. “You can’t see radio so you have to find a way to describe things so people can understand what’s happening. I like to be very descriptive. I use a lot of metaphors. I try not to be a homer, but this is a Saints broadcast,” and it is very likely, he noted, he’ll be “very excited for (Saints) goals more than for the other team’s.”
“My style, I guess, is my love of hockey coming through the speaker to you. I want to share that.”
Coughlin then noted: “Me, jumping off my theatre background, I’ve always been taught to paint a picture in someone’s mind. I try to do that with broadcasting. It’s theatre of the mind. I believe you need to let a game breathe a little bit. Nobody wants to turn on the radio and hear rat-a-tat-a-tat-a-tat because it is so fast. You need to make it as simple as you can so people can understand it and enjoy it. And no matter what’s happening in the game, I’ll be smiling because I’ll be enjoying it the whole time.”
Coughlin is more familiar with the Saints than Strangward having grown up in Edmonton and seeing the St. Albert Saints in action. Both though have seen this Spruce Grove incarnation of the franchise in the recent past in Calgary, Okotoks and even in the Grove, so they know what this team is all about, especially for family entertainment.
“I don’t think people realize the level of hockey they’re going to see at the AJHL level, and on top of that the Saints level, because the Saints are always a competitive team,” said Coughlin. “It’s the best bang for your buck when it comes to hockey. If Tom and I can get that message out, through either The One or the team, then hopefully we’ll help garner a little more interest.
“The Saints deserve the recognition, and a full house, the way they’ve been playing.”
Besides the FASTHockey stream, Coughlin will do a daily update on the Saints (8:20 a.m. and 5:20 p.m.) on The One and on Sunday, the pair will produce a half hour show that will air on the station meaning they’ll be all in once the new season begins.
The pair will hit the air for the first time on Friday, Sept. 18 when the Saints kick off their 2015-16 season at home vs. Calgary. They’ll also be on-air the next night when the Saints unveil their championship banners from last year in a 7 p.m. start against the Ft. McMurray Oil Barons.
Until then though, the’ll be waiting anxiously, working on their goal calls, for their dreams to finally come true.
“I am personally very excitted. This is something I didn’t think would ever happen. I’ve been told my whole life, “Do something else. Make some money.” Getting this opportunity is life changing for me. It’s great,” Strangward ended.
“I just want to get started,” his booth buddy chipped in. “We’re excited and we want to be the voice of the Saints,” which is exactly what they’ll become in two weeks time