From the Canucks to the Kraken: Dave Tomlinson returns to radio

Former Canucks radio commentator joins Everett Fitzhugh, the NHL’s first black play, on KJR radio in Seattle.

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Dave Tomlinson just wanted to go back to hockey full time.

Left four years ago as a radio broadcast analyst for the Vancouver Canucks when the rights moved from TSN 1040 to Sportsnet 650, the former player had remained as a contributor to morning shows at the now-defunct Vancouver sports radio station under the TSN brand. .

He also covered international hockey and worked on movies – he coordinated the hockey action for the recent Mighty Ducks TV series on Disney + – jobs that kept him busy even after TSN 1040 fired him in March 2019.


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But the NHL dream never died. He was in the race a few seasons ago to join the Winnipeg Jets television broadcast, but was ultimately not cast.

Funny how life works – he finally landed in the NHL, basically his own backyard.

Dave Tomlinson (left) and Everett Fitzhugh are the Seattle Kraken's play-by-play radio team.  They worked together on their first game on Saturday, October 23, the Kraken's first home opener at the Climate Pledge Arena.
Dave Tomlinson (left) and Everett Fitzhugh are the Seattle Kraken’s play-by-play radio team. They worked together on their first game on Saturday, October 23, the Kraken’s first home opener at the Climate Pledge Arena. Seattle Kraken Photo

On Thursday it was confirmed that he will be joining the Seattle Kraken radio broadcast team, along with caller Everett Fitzhugh, at KJR 950.

“We had talked for a while,” Tomlinson said Thursday about how he had gotten the job.

Years, if you are counting creatively.

The moment Seattle was confirmed to be joining the NHL, he figured out who to call.

“They said it was early. It was very early! ”

But they didn’t forget his name either.

This summer, Rich Moore, KJR’s program director, called Tomlinson to ask if he would be interested in joining the broadcast.


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“I didn’t know at what level, I just said ‘sure’. I’d take anything, ”he said. “The broadcasting community in the NHL is pretty small. In 2017 I performed for the Winnipeg Jets television color concert, so I was prepared to move to Winnipeg to continue doing what I love, whether it be on television, radio or in a soup can. ”

They had hired John Forslund and JT Brown to be the broadcast duo, in addition to Fitzhugh, quite some time ago.

“I think they wanted someone who was experienced and local,” he said.

Fitzhugh, who grew up in Michigan and has been calling hockey games since he was at Bowling Green University, is the first black player to call play-by-play in the NHL. He is delighted to have Tomlinson and Forslund teach him how to do it.

“He’s the mayor,” he joked about his longtime partner. “Because of the work he did in Vancouver, a lot of people are excited about him.”


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“I am very excited to be working with Dave. I had my first conversation with him in early August. We had an hour-long conversation and I hung up and thought, ‘This is the guy.’

“He’s going to be the hockey boy from Seattle. He’s going to be our Eddie Olczyk, the guy every other market goes to to talk about this team, ”he said.

Fitzhugh was hired a year ago and watched as much NHL hockey as he could last season. Due to COVID-19 protocols, he was unable to travel as much as he would have liked, but did his best to get used to the league.

“The NHL was very kind to give me, they got me a signal with natural sounds, so I was able to do simulated broadcasts on my television,” he said. “Any announcer will tell you that it is impossible not to call you if you are watching a game. But just having the raw sounds, that helped a lot. ”


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“I think for me, this is the first career goal I set for myself, when I was at Bowling Green. I wanted to be an NHL announcer, ”he said. “This is what I want to do with my life, through thick and thin.”

But that was just something he realized in college. In high school, it was a different story.

“I didn’t even know that play by play was an option,” he said. “I knew that I always wanted to work in sports. If anything, he was going to be the next big dead (ESPN announcer) Stuart Scott. ”

“It wasn’t until college that I realized that a play-by-play career was possible,” he said. “These are jobs for life, it’s like a supreme court appointment. It’s a job for life. ”

Growing up in Michigan, there weren’t many black kids who followed hockey. They made fun of him on the playground. And it’s his young self that he thinks about as he breaks through a barrier in the NHL.


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“For me it is an opportunity to be a positive black influence in hockey. I became a fan of Mike Grier and Georges Laraque when they were on the same team (Edmonton Oilers). Looking at those guys I thought, ‘I belong to this sport. This is an opportunity for that nine-year-old boy who was teased on the playground because he liked hockey, ”he said. “You never set out to be the first, but here I am.”

He called up the Cincinnati Cyclones games for five seasons (Tomlinson, they both laughed, played for the Cyclones a decade earlier) and also worked with the USHL.

“I was preparing for a life in the minors,” he admitted. But then the Kraken called.

“This is my home now. I don’t see myself leaving Seattle, ”he said. “My wife is white. We are an interracial marriage. There are places in the Midwest that are not so accepting. You still see yourself when you walk down the street as an interracial couple. But in this city, you can be yourself. ”


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“Being able to work for an organization that accepts differences, racial, cultural, gender, sexual orientation… this is something we believe in. We are trying to change the face of hockey, ”he added.

“I think Seattle is the perfect place for that, because there are such a wide variety of people. You’ll start to see that headquarters reflect the market they are in. ”

For Tomlinson, the excitement of being a part of something new is really setting in. His work visa was finally approved this week, so after watching the first five games from afar, and attending the Kraken’s preseason visit to Rogers Arena as an observer, he has begun his new life in the Emerald City.

“It’s a hungry hockey market,” he said. Having two youth teams in the area means there are a lot of fans ready to convert. Plus, there’s a mountain of sports fanatics ready to be conquered.


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“I feel like I’m going to be a fun conduit between playing in the league, internationally, broadcasting in the league and internationally,” he said.

Doing a radio broadcast brings a different challenge. You are painting a picture for people who have chosen, for one reason or another, not to look.

“I think we will be very aware of that. You want to attract new fans without alienating the hardcore fan, ”he said. “I never felt like the type to be snobbish in hockey. The more people who tune in and want to learn as they go, the better. ”

And being fun will be the most important thing. He took the color commentary chair for Tom Larscheid, who left large gaps to fill.

Larscheid’s main trait was his energy. He took the fans into the building and said what he felt. Tomlinson didn’t recognize that part of the concert when it started.


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Now it does.

“I think from the beginning I tried to show that I knew my stuff; It was a bit dry. If you’re having fun, the people listening will also have fun, ”he said. “People have so little free time, if they want to separate and entertain themselves … I think I have learned that part of that, to carry that energy every night.”

Potential Kraken fans are everywhere, Tomlinson realized in literal terms as he moved south.

“When crossing the border, they marked me because I had a car full of things. So when they took me inside at the Arch of Peace, the guy inside said, ‘Are you Dave Tomlinson? We just googled you, this sounds like fun, what a great job, ‘”he said with a laugh.

“It’s great that there are people who want to get on board.”

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