Austin Draude has lived his entire life in Iowa. That includes calling games for North Iowa Bulls hockey for the past nine seasons. But Draude believes that growth comes with change. That is why he’s leaving the Bulls and the comfort of The Hawkeye State to join the Wenatchee Wild.
“I love Iowa. Love the Midwest,” Draude explains. “Lots of great hockey opportunities here and most of my family is within a few hours of me, which has allowed me to be pretty selective as to which opportunities I go after.” However, the Wild organization’s sustained excellence made it through Draude’s selectivity filter.
“The Wild are a first-rate organization in one of the best junior hockey leagues on the continent, but it’s also a chance to see some new areas of the country and the sport.
“The general manager, Bliss Littler, is the winningest junior hockey coach in American history. I’ve known of him since he was coaching in Topeka almost a quarter-century ago, and then when he moved on to two USHL jobs in Nebraska. His teams played against Des Moines, where I grew up. He runs his organization with an intention on doing things right. I greatly respect that.”
The Wenatchee position opened when their beloved and longtime broadcaster Arch Ecker recently passed away. While the organization and it’s fans mourned, they also knew they needed to hire Ecker’s replacement. They contacted STAA.
“The job was posted in an STAA’s Job Leads+ email last Friday. I ended up applying for it Monday. My interview was Wednesday; they offered the position the same day, Draude recalls.
A recommendation from his friend Sean Zears boosted Draude’s candidacy. Zears had been filling-in for the Wild since Ecker’s passing and is closely connected to the Wenatchee organization. “Shortly after Sean sent a note to Bliss recommending me, I got an email back to schedule an interview. I know for certain that note carried some weight,” Draude states.
Draude was strategic in deciding the time of day at which to submit his application. “I applied mid-morning on Monday. Knowing that Washington state is two hours behind Iowa, I figured when [Bliss] first checked his inbox that morning, I could time it to be close to the top.”
Draude adds with a smile, “Not sure if it helped but it made sense to me.”
As for the pending move from the Corn Belt to the Pacific Northwest, Draude admits to some trepidation. “To be honest I’m kind of terrified,” he grins. “I’ve never been to Washington state. However, I also know that a lot of things are capable of happening in your comfort zone, and growth usually is not one of them.”
Draude joined STAA in 2014. He has attended an STAA sportscasting seminar in North Carolina and a play-by-play retreat in San Diego. “The job leads are a big part of why I’ve remained part of STAA all that time,” he says. “But it’s also being able to get feedback from [STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik] on the job search or the industry itself. And it’s the networking with other STAA members that comes with the membership. Some of my closest contacts and closest friends in broadcasting are STAA members.”
One thing Draude will need in his new job is a passport. The Wild are the only U.S.-based team in the British Columbia Hockey League. Fortunately, he already has one. “I actually got it when I started full-time with the Bulls, for just such an emergency. That time is apparently here,” he grins.