The SportsChannel8 Diary: Mike Maniscalco

SC8 Diary

Editor’s note: The SportsChannel8 Diary is where we “pass the pen” to someone outside of the SC8 team who can give us a unique perspective. Today’s post comes from Mike Maniscalco, who spent 9 years as a radio host on 99.9 The Fan in Raleigh and was also the pre-game, post-game and beat coverage guy for the Carolina Hurricanes. Fans loved Mike for his good nature, his humor, and his ability to not snap at either the team’s play or annoying callers through a mostly frustrating period of Canes hockey. Fortunately he has moved from the North Carolina sports media to…..the North Carolina sports media. He now hosts in-week and game day shows for IMG College in Winston-Salem (you can listen on the TuneIn radio app) and contributes to The Hockey Writers. There are two things I know I’ll never forget about Mike: one is how many hours he’d work and how little he’d complain about the hours. This was always best on display at the ACC Tournament–he would do his morning show, do play-by-play of games in Greensboro, drive to Raleigh, work a Hurricanes pre- and post-game show, drive back to Greensboro, STILL CATCH A LATE NIGHT BEER (or 4) WITH THE FUN MEDIA PEOPLE, and then be live and ready to rock and his morning show again the next day. The second is the time I asked him to help me with a hospital visit for a diehard Canes fan with cancer. Not only did Mike say yes immediately, he brought gear from his personal stash, patiently waited at the hospital when our original time to meet was extended, and got John Forslund to text and call the lady as a follow-up. I probably should have used a solo picture of Mike as the header photo, but I loved this one of a bunch of media people goofing off. It’s perfect Mike–he loves sports and he loves people. -HP


Eight games, maybe ten but that was as long as I was supposed to be the pre- and post-game host around Carolina Hurricanes broadcasts on the newly minted flagship station, 99.9 The Fan. Nine seasons later–and after becoming the radio beat reporter–as the hockey season draws near it is sinking in that I won’t be doing a tenth.

Mind you I arrived in Raleigh as the morning show host for a new sports station and, more than anything, was excited for the opportunity to cover three Power Five schools for college football and basketball. I could tell you how in this business a new station will never assemble the talent to launch local programming with the talent that was on-air and behind the scenes like when we arrived at the studios on St Mary’s. It was a fun bunch of people to be around and most of us remain good friends despite the unexpected changes that this industry brings. Chris Morris, Dave Rothenberg, Scott Jackson, Dave Nathan, Adam Harris, Tim Hall, Rory O’Brien, Mark Thomas and Dave Shore are all big parts of my time in Raleigh. There are too many stories to share about getting a station off thmaniscalcoe ground, some hilarious and some not funny, but a great group of guys to be around on a daily basis. Not often people in this industry stay too much past their shifts if they don’t have to, but that group did. For 18 months is was as good as the radio business gets.

The behind the scenes people like David Modlin, Rusty Helser, Keith Harrison, James Alverson and Will Patnaud who I can’t repay for all their technical help during my stay in the Triangle. I will say it again, you won’t be able to start a new station and bring in people like that, it was great to be a part of. [editor’s note: had totally forgotten 99.9 started in the building on the corner of Hillsborough and St. Mary’s. Also, I don’t know as many of the talent guys and they have scattered, but the “beh
ind the scenes” crew Mike mentions is still mostly in tact and are likely the best group of engineers/production people of any sports radio station in the country. I’d bet on it.]

Change is the only constant in this world and especially in radio, and the change that brought Lauren Brownlow and Demetri Ravanos as my last cohosts in Raleigh–two special people that made getting up really early a fun thing to do.

There are also a ton of people I met along the way doing the job, I know I am going to not mention every name and I can tell I am going ramble on this. I do offer a special thanks to Chris Spatola, David Cutcliffe, Art Chase, Mark Armstrong, Jeff Gravley, Jay Bell, Hayes Permar, David Glenn and the incomparable Tom Suiter for the advice and fun times covering games and events.

When I arrived in North Carolina, I was looking forward to going to Cameron Indoor and the Smith Center or Carter-Finley for big games. However, it was another venue that I would be able to call a second home from September until April (and how I hoped for longer than that!)

img9665I had not covered the NHL for almost six years, it was basically in the footnotes on my resume. Working for the Buffalo Sabres and hosting pre- and post-games was pertinent to what I did, but I also hosted those kind of shows around NFL and other ACC schools’ broadcasts. It never occurred to me that in Raleigh those footnotes would have me called into double duty. I cannot begin to tell you how happy I am that they did: eight years of people, friendships and moments that I will never forget.

It was not going to be easy, hosting a pre-game show in the concourse of the then RBC Center, with the new guy in town. Plus when it got out that I grew up in Buffalo and worked for the coaching staff of the not-so-well-thought-of Sabres, I had doubts I wanted to wake up early and stay up late. Eight games soon stretched to 15 and I realized how much I had missed covering the NHL. The Hurricanes had a great group of players, so when a month had passed and I was asked I would be willing to host for the rest of the year, it was a no-brainer to say yes. Having an awesome wife that loves hockey made it easy too.

This is an important note: I was never an employee of the Carolina Hurricanes, I was an employee for the flagship station. Being in that position at times gave me unbelievable access and at other times, well, let’s just say put me between a rock and a hard place with stories or facts that I knew. I will say being in that circumstance it was more good because it led to some of the best moments of my professional life.

The number one question asked of me during these past nine years was “do you sleep?” Working a split shift is tough, but yes I did sleep. The month of June is what I would reply, but when you love what you do, it’s not work and I never really got that tired. West Coast games could be trying, but I love sports and I would have stayed up anyway. Still it was the connections you make with people that you never expect and here is the big secret of why working those hours was great fun.

I was able to be the color analyst for radio broadcasts with Chuck Kaiton, the Hall of Fame voice of the Hurricanes. It is impossible to put into words what that experience meant to me and the words ‘thank you’ never felt strong enough to convey my feelings to the wonderful Charles Kaiton. An encyclopedia of hockey history, there were times we would think about the old Adams division and players that are long forgotten and laugh at some of the moments that weren’t exactly highlights. Every pre-game I could count on a story of a former player or building that related to today; Chuck’s recall always put a smile on my face. Road games I could hear Chuck talk down the line asking for the technical director to “Give me the Show!!” It was the last thing I would hear before the open would hit and, hopefully, I gave you a good show.  As a kid you might dream of hitting the winning shot or scoring the clinching goal, I lived my dream and was able to do it with one of the best radio voices the NHL has ever had, an honor that I still shake my head at.

The area is lucky to have Hurricanes broadcasting crews, like when Tripp Tracy would comment on the lone pair of expensive dress shoes I own, but then take the time to talk strategy with me before going on. It was always appreciated.

Then there are the best sideburns in hockey: John Forslund. The definition of professional, prepared and most important helpful is the television voice of the NHL on NBC and the Hurricanes. For nine seasons I was Clarence Clemmons to his Bruce Springsteen and much like “the Boss” we put on shows that we hope were entertaining no matter how long we were on.

A lot of people don’t know this, but the post-game show was only intended to be one hour for home games and 30 minutes on the road. I lost count of the overtime we put in, but I know that I could count on John to explain the what just happened on the ice and wouldn’t ask for a minute back. John is one of those rare people in this industry, where his kindness and giving of his time just doesn’t happen. Letting the producer know back at the station that John was ready to join the show after his broadcast and cue up “the Boss” and we were off. The part I hope people appreciate was our attempt to consistently be fair–if the team played well or poorly we didn’t go over the top with praise or overboard with criticism. When we started to get regular callers to the show late in my first year, I was thinking, “you know I could do this again next year.” I always wanted to explain what happened in a simple way and then have John come in and break the game down even more. From post-games on the concourse to eventually hosting up in the fortress of solitude in the PNC Arena press box, the times spent talking with John and you, well that was fun, not a job. Again thanking John just doesn’t feel like it is enough for what he gave in return.

The players, coaches and people in the organization always treated me with respect and I tried to return that in my coverage of the team. It is very easy to have respect for people as classy as Ron Francis and Rod Brind’Amour. The executive vice president and GM of the Canes called me recently to thank me for my coverage over the years, which basically left me speechless. The Captain, and yes, that title still fits Rod Brind’Amour reached out in similar fashion and I reiterate: I will find a way to Toronto and put up a piece on The Hockey Writers when the voters wise up and put him into the Hall of Fame. It’s hard to single out the players that I have covered in a Red and White jersey, but having the access I had and getting to see the people in the jerseys, not just the players, I can tell you they all made my job easy.

I also could not have done both jobs, covering the hockey team and hosting a talk show without the help of Mike Sundheim and Kyle Hanlin, the two men who are responsible for dealing with the media on behalf of the Hurricanes. You will be hard pressed to find two better at that job, making players and coaches available, no matter what time I put in the request. Again, it really isn’t work when you are dealing with good people.

Then there is you, the people who listened in the early morning mornings and through the late nights. I wouldn’t have had the chance to have these great memories if it wasn’t for you. In my line of work, when you are asked to leave, you rarely get the chance to say goodbye to the people that really made the stay memorable.

Thank you, for all the people who stood around the little desk listening to pre- and post-game show comments, all the callers, emailers and twitter followers. It truly is unfair to single out individuals here, but those nights at the PNC Arena, getting to know great hockey fans and better people like thurle crew from Section 328 or post game calls from the Wilmington Boys, they are the things that made putting in what seemed like long hours to some easy for me. Talking not just about hockey, but about life with Arthur Fritsch and his lovely wife Mary (you might know them as former anthem singer KK Fritsch’s grandparents) I will truly miss that. The countless parents and their middle school kids who listened and now those kids are in college, while it made me feel real old, it was great to be a part of your life at the rink. So to Brooke and Freddy, thank you. Friends like Jack and Joe that truly know what dealing with hard times and always showing what the term heart really means, I thank you. Thanks to those who gave me a chance to talk hockey or sports with you or finding where a great restaurant is, thank you Bob. For all the hugs, cookies and every conversation that we had, I thank you.  

There is a line from a song from a band called The Tragically Hip that I am quite fond. (for those of you who wondered what the opening music to the pre-game show was, it is from one of their songs “The Lonely End of the Rink”). While that band might have embarked on their last tour this summer for reasons far worse than being downsized, the line really struck a chord with me and I think it is appropriate to sum of the nine years of being part of your sporting life in Raleigh.

“I got to go, it’s been a pleasure doing business with you.”

September 20, 2015. Carolina Hurricanes Caniac Carnival Scrimmage, PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC. Copyright © 2015 Jamie Kellner. All Rights Reserved.

September 20, 2015. Carolina Hurricanes Caniac Carnival Scrimmage, PNC Arena, Raleigh, NC. Copyright © 2015 Jamie Kellner. All Rights Reserved.