written by R.L. Bynum
It will be an odd season for a Canes fan favorite — PA announcer Wade Minter
That familiar mellifluous voice with a distinctive flair will reverberate through PNC Arena and again punctuate the best moments of Carolina Hurricanes home games this season.
But, for now, there will be no fans to react to Wade Minter’s work as the public address announcer that Canes fans have grown to love. As with just about everything in life during the pandemic, it will be different for home games. Because of COVID-19, it isn’t clear when that first home game will be with the Thursday and Saturday games against the Florida Panthers postponed.
“It’s going to be a weird year, and you’ve got to adapt,” said Minter, a product principal at Dualboot Partners who has been on the arena mic since the 2015–16 season. “Lots of stuff that I do is to get a reaction out of the fans in the arena. The challenge for me is how do I continue to make myself entertaining and provide a good game atmosphere when my audience is either the players on the ice or fans watching on TV at home? So, I’m going to have to change some things that I do and find some new things.”
Because NHL protocols don’t allow game presentation personnel such as Minter to mix with NHL officials, players and team management, he won’t be in his familiar rinkside spot between the penalty boxes. Instead, he’ll be set up with a table about 10 or 12 rows up in the stands.
Without fans, he likely won’t be doing sponsored promotions and will probably stick to hockey-related announcements, such as lineups, goals and penalties.
Working without an in-person audience won’t be new for the 45-year-old Minter. He has been part of a virtual improv comedy show for ComedyWorx during the last eight months sitting in front of his laptop in an empty room. For 20 years, he’s been the “referee” for sports-themed improv shows.
“You still gotta find a way to make it entertaining for the people watching, so it’s gonna be a very similar setup,” Minter said of the improv setup. “There’s nobody in the room. I will not get direct feedback from the people for whom I’m entertaining. So, I’ve got to do whatever I can to make sure that it does come across as a very natural, entertaining feel for people watching on TV.”
Most PA announcers around the league probably have announced plenty of big moments, but it’s unlikely any have had a goal shown on ESPN.
That happened when he scored off of a Glen Wesley pass in the 2016 alumni game. He then quickly skated to the penalty box, grabbed the mic from John Forslund and announced his goal instead of celebrating.
“If you were to pick somebody from Kenbridge, Virginia, to be on ‘SportsCenter’ for an athletic achievement, I would not be that person,” said Minter, who grew up in that small southern Virginia town 48 miles southwest of Petersburg. “Being able to do that was kind of a lifelong thrill.”
Just scoring a goal, which is rare since he mostly is a defenseman or a goalie in his beer league games, was memorable. But to do it in the alumni game that featured a lot of players from the 2006 Stanley Cup champion team was special.
On the faceoff shortly afterward, Erik Cole, who was playing for the other team, took his stick and swept Minter off his skates.
“He skates away laughing,” Minter said. “So, I’ve got a signed photo up on my wall of the aftermath — him standing over me and I’m just kind of looking up at him laughing my ass off.”
The video of the sequence was posted on Twitter, which led to his “SportsCenter” appearance.
Unique ways to get crowds fired up
Minter also is the only PA announcer in the league to have declared a “fat trick.”
That happened after a Justin Faulk power-play goal triggered fan discounts from a pizza chain (for the third Carolina goal), as well as free queso (for a Faulk goal) and a free biscuit (for a power-play goal) from a fast-food chain.
“I was super thrilled that I was, number one, able to announce a fat trick over the mic and, number two, nobody yelled at me about it,” Minter said. “Because anytime you start freelancing, going off script, you run the risk of somebody being like, ‘we don’t like that.’ But everybody enjoyed it. That recording is one that I’ve got kind of stuck in the archives and I listen to it every once in a while when I want a good laugh.”
The creative way that he pronounces the names of some players, such as Teuvo Teräväinen, is what fans have come to expect and many try to say the names in the same way along with him.
It’s also a fluid dynamic at times after a Carolina Hurricanes “goooooaaaaaaaal,: such as how to say Sabastian Aho’s name. Early in Aho’s career, Minter said his last name in a short, normal manner. He started stretching out the delivery.
AAAAAAAAAAA [breath] AAAAAAAHHHOOOOOOOOO #RoadGoalCalls #LetsGoCanes pic.twitter.com/sDx2zGS9Wa
— H. Wade Minter (@minter) January 19, 2021
“And then, what if I make that a little longer? Oh, people cheer,” Minter said. “What I make it a little longer? What if I make it ridiculously long, how would that go over? And the answer was quite well.”
It didn’t take long for Minter to win over the fan base.
His goal announcements became so popular that Minter records videos of himself making goal calls for road games and posts them on Twitter (an example above is from Aho’s Monday goal).
Minter first did that because he was frustrated when a milestone goal was scored in a road game that he was eager to announce. The feedback from fans led him to start doing that all the time.
“It was kind of a slow discovery process that some of the stuff I was doing was really resonating with people and kind of becoming part of a culture with my years of improv and pro wrestling and everything else,” said Minter, who has been on the ring mic for GOUGE wrestling shows since 2011.
“I’ve kind of developed a sense on reading the crowd,” he said. “You know what works, what doesn’t work. I would find things that seem like the crowd would cheer louder if I did it, and so I did keep those. I try things that no one reacted to and I just throw them away.”
He also a signature exclamation point after victories.
If you don’t know, now you know. #CanesWin #LetsGoCanes pic.twitter.com/NUXWbP0Kkm
— H. Wade Minter (@minter) January 19, 2021
“The ‘Canes win’ at the end was just something I threw in one night because I was like, ‘Yeah, let’s try this.’ And people cheer for it and now it just becomes something that people wait for. So, a lot of it’s kind of trial and error and reading the crowd.”
Another crowd favorite is when he quietly deadpans the name of the opponent before the game, then enthusiastically adds, “and YOUR Carolina Hurricanes!”
Hockey names aren’t always the easiest to announce but he does a good job of getting the pronunciations right. Once, that wasn’t enough. After Minter announced a penalty on Joakim Nordström, he was told during the next intermission that Nordström had changed the way he wanted his first name pronounced from “YO-a-kim” to “Joe-KEEM.”
The only pushback he’s received for a goal call was when Derek Ryan was on a goal-scoring tear and Minter called him “the doctor, Derek Ryan” after a goal.
“Immediately in my ear, the game ops are like, ‘don’t do that,’ ” Minter said.
In his normal spot between the penalty boxes, he is often on the phone communicating with the game director throughout the game. This led to one of the oddest moments early in his tenure, thanks to an overly paranoid referee.
During a timeout, the referee skated over and knocked on the penalty box door.
“He kind of sticks his head and he’s like, ‘Hey, you.’ ‘Yes?’ ‘What are you doing on the phone so much?’ ” said Minter, who explained that he was talking to his director about the script. “He’s like, ‘Well it looks like you’re on the phone critiquing me. It looks like you’re judging my reffing.’ ‘No, your name hasn’t come up at all. Just talking to my director.’ ‘Well, it looks like you’re judging me.’ ‘No sir.’ And then he just kind of skates off, and I couldn’t tell you who the ref was if you put a gun to my head. That was a weird welcome to the league.”
Different path to the mic
How does somebody in the technology field with no broadcasting experience end up as the PA announcer for a major professional sports team? The majority of PA announcers in pro arenas are also broadcasters or voice-over announcers, but he’s taken a different path.
Anybody who has been to a Canes game since 2015 knows Minter is excellent at his job despite the lack of broadcast experience. After doing a lot of public speaking in high school, he did PA work for women’s soccer, volleyball and women’s basketball games while earning his computer science degree at William & Mary.
He admits that his work was “absolutely terrible” at those Tribe games.
“But it was a good experience to kind of get on the bike and start figuring out how that works,” said Minter, who built one of the first websites for the William & Mary athletics department.
Minter had 15 years of experience with that improv show when he started doing PA work for N.C. State club hockey games in 2014. It was a natural fit for Minter, who started playing in hockey in 2006.
“I built an announcer personality in the improv show and transferred that into the N.C. State gig,” Minter said. “I also knew the ins and outs of the sport from picking it up and playing in my adulthood.”
Minter never played or followed hockey growing up. His favorite sport to play and watch was baseball, and there wasn’t a rink within 90 minutes of his house.
“Hockey was that weird thing you’d occasionally see flipping around ESPN trying to find the baseball game. I didn’t really know anything about the sport at all until I went to college,” Minter said.
He watched his share of Norfolk Admirals games while in college and attended a Washington Capitals game in the mid-1990s. Minter moved to Raleigh in early 1999, the end of the final Canes season of playing home games in Greensboro. He was a longtime season-ticket holder in section 328, sitting with friends from the Raleigh improv community.
His vantage point for the action changed after the longtime PA announcer Brian Hoyle, a professional voice actor and real estate broker, decided to leave the job during the 2005 offseason after 10 years.
Minter was one of several to audition but did so late in the process. Once he told the Canes he was a longtime season-ticket holder and that he had experience with Wolfpack hockey games, they gave him a shot.
“When an opportunity came to audition for the Canes, I think I had a pretty good audition and that kind of got me to where I am,” Minter said.
They gave him cue cards to read and called out a bunch of player numbers to test how quickly and accurately he could announce a goal or a set of penalties.
“They wanted to make sure that I could process it quickly, get accurate information out, make it sound fun and not have big long pauses while I tried to figure out what I was going to say,” Minter said. “For me, the years in improv really helped with that because you never know what’s coming out. You have to be able to read and react and make it entertaining, no matter what happens and trust yourself to do so.”
He brings a different voice to the mic
The voice you hear in everyday conversation from Minter isn’t the voice you hear when he’s making announcements. That was clear when he worked a 2015 exhibition game against the Penguins as a tryout on a Friday. Another candidate tried out two days earlier for an exhibition against the Capitals.
His wife Holly was in section 328 with friends during the game. When they said they really liked the Friday guy better, she had to tell them that it was Minter on the microphone because they didn’t recognize his voice.
Three days after his tryout game, the team offered him the job and he’s had a rinkside seat for every home game since then. That, of course, changes this season.
Minter’s wrestling gig came about because he grew up watching Ric Flair, the Four Horsemen and being a big pro wrestling fan.
“It had always been kind of a bucket-list thing to step in the ropes and be an announcer,” Minter said.
Minter had told them that he’d love to be a ring announcer if they ever needed one. One day, he got his chance when the regular announcer didn’t show up. That guy never worked another show and Minter has been on the mic ever since, with usually monthly shows before the pandemic started.
For now, he’s wrestling with the changes the pandemic has demanded for his job at Canes game. Fans can only hope to be able to hear his announcement in the background during radio or television broadcasts.
No full-time N&O high schools reporter for now
The News & Observer hasn’t had a full-time high school sports reporter since McClatchy named Jonas Pope IV the N.C. State beat writer last summer. It didn’t matter that much in the fall because there were no games involving public schools.
The action is picking up now, but Matt Stephens, McClatchy’s southeast senior sports editor, says that there will be no replacement hired for now. Langston Wertz Jr., the Charlotte Observer’s preps editor, and Charlotte Observer correspondent Jay Edwards will handle the coverage, supplemented by a network of stringers.
“With his help over the past few months, we’ve already seen a significant increase in web traffic for Raleigh preps coverage,” Stephens, via text, said of Wertz.
McClatchy southeast assistant sports editor hire closer
Stephens said that he is in the final stages of hiring a replacement for Todd Adams, who left McClatchy in November.
The person hired will be one of three McClatchy southeast assistant sports editors, along with The N&O’s Jessaca Giglio and Dwayne McLemore of The State in Columbia, S.C.
Just like Adams, Giglio will be listed on contact sheets as The N&O’s sports editor, although Stephens says that technically that position hasn’t existed since former sports editor Steve Ruinsky took a buyout in February 2019.
Giglio has been a southeast assistant sports editor since July 2019. Stephens said that Giglio will serve as The N&O’s legacy sports editor and the new person will oversee preps coverage and work night shifts.
North Carolina-related sports stories of note
Another PA announcer also is dealing with working in an empty arena, as Scott Fowler wrote in Charlotte Observer, is Hornets announcer Patrick Doughty. In the case of “Big Pat,” he has returned after battling a series of health problems.
In The Athletic, Brendan Marks wrote about the time in 2008 when Barack Obama had a rally at the Smith Center then played a pickup game with the UNC team and dealt with an aggressive walk-on.
In the Winston-Salem Journal, John Dell wrote about Wake Forest guard Jalen Johnson, who has as much of a passion for artwork as he does for basketball.
Former Duke women’s basketball coach Joanne P. McCallie writes about her battle with bipolar disorder in her book Secret Warrior: A Coach and Fighter, On and Off the Court, which comes out Feb. 16. She talked to Mike Lowe of the Portland Press Herald about that journey and her book.
In The Athletic, Joseph Person writes that new Carolina Panthers general manager Scott Fitterer has a low ego, is great in the draft room and is an easy leader.
Tony Franklin disagreed with NCAA violations at Kentucky two decades ago. Last season, as an assistant coach at Middle Tennessee, he battled what he saw as the football program not following COVID-19 protocols. Those frustrations led him to retire with two years left in his contract and settle in Raleigh. Kent Babb wrote about Franklin’s difficult journey in The Washington Post.