The likelihood of a sportscaster jumping from junior hockey to the AHL is similar to that of a goalie scoring a goal. Yet two broadcasters have done it this off-season; both of them are STAA members.
TJ Chillot moved from the Tier II Austin Bruins to the Charlotte Checkers in July. Now Alex Thomas is moving from the Tier III Northern Cyclones to the Hartford Wolf Pack.
Thomas follows veteran Bob Crawford, who turned down an offer to return to Hartford for a 25th season.
A tip from a friend
“I heard about the potential of the job in the late spring/early summer from a friend who is employed by the team,” Thomas recalls. “They had told me that they passed my stuff along because the team may actually be looking for a broadcaster moving forward.”
Thomas was relaxing at home when the Wolf Pack called. “I was both a little surprised and really excited to receive the phone call. I knew there was a possibility that the team would be looking, but honestly I didn’t think much of it. I had just come out of two interview processes where I fell short, and had only heard the rumblings about the potential of this job.
“To be quite honest with you, I was a little down on myself at that point in time, but that call gave me that extra jolt of confidence I needed.”
Thomas is a 2016 graduate of Springfield College. He joined STAA one year later. “The [STAA] tools really helped me prepare for interviews, edit the reel I wanted, and to mold my resume in a way I felt presented me as a strong candidate.”
Thomas’ hockey experience includes broadcasting for Northeastern University, Tufts University, UMass Lowell and Holy Cross. He served as the main voice for Northeastern’s three-time Hockey East Champion Northeastern Women’s Hockey team.
Thomas spent last season with the USPHL’s Northern (MA) Cyclones. He appreciates that jumping from Tier III juniors to the AHL might be unprecedented, but adds that the Cyclones prepared him well for the opportunity.
“I can’t thank Bill and Joe Flanagan, the team’s owners, enough,” Thomas enthuses. “If any organization was going to give me the tools to succeed and make the jump, it was them. They run the Cyclones like a professional organization and the expectations there are high. They invest the money to produce, in my mind, the best stream that the USPHL has to offer. The resources available to ensure that I had everything I needed to call a game was super important to me, and I believed helped me become a better broadcaster.
Things Thomas did off-air for the Cyclones helped prepare him as well. “The experience I gained running their social media platforms, running their website in terms of producing consistent content, hosting their ‘Coach’s Corner’ podcast and getting involved on the sponsorship side made me a more well-rounded broadcaster who could wear multiple hats. I feel like I’ve worked for a professional organization.”
Big shoes to fill
Following a local legend like Bob Crawford won’t be easy. Thomas speaks reverently about Crawford. At the same time, Thomas is confident Wolf Pack fans will like him, too.
“Hartford has been absolutely blessed with some terrific voices over the years, going back to the days of the NHL and the Whalers,” Thomas states. “I’m stepping in for a legend and one of the most well-known and well respected broadcasters the AHL has ever seen. To step into those shoes is for sure a challenge, but it is one that I embrace and I believe I am ready for.
“I’m sure I have some real work to do to win over this great fan base, but I plan on coming in and being myself, putting my own stamp on the call.”