Hockey Announcers Got Their Checks In Even Without Games

When there's a work stoppage, it's apparently better to be a hockey announcer than a baseball announcer.

Although mainstays such as Vin Scully and Bob Starr have contracts that paid them throughout the baseball strike, many baseball broadcasters don't.

Ross Porter and Rick Monday, who are employed by the Dodgers, and Angel television announcers Ken Wilson and Ken Brett, who are employed by rights-holders KTLA and Prime Sports, lost their paychecks when the strike hit in August.

At least Porter and Monday, whose pay was suspended for a while, are again being paid.

Porter said there is a clause in his contract that stipulates that if management had called a lockout, rather than the players calling a strike, he would have been paid all along.

As for Los Angeles' hockey announcers, all continued to be paid during the NHL lockout.

Only Jim Fox, the Kings' television commentator, ended up a little on the short end. He is also the Kings' fund-raising coordinator, and he was paid for that job, even though there wasn't much to do. But he did not get the extra money he usually gets for working Prime Sports telecasts.

His play-by-play television partner, Bob Miller, now in his 22nd season with the team, got paid in full essentially for hanging around home.

"My wife can't wait for the first road trip," he quipped.

The Kings also paid radio announcers Nick Nickson and Brian Engblom. Nickson spent most of his time puttering around his home and attending his two sons' hockey games and practices in Santa Clarita. Engblom, particularly during the early stages of the lockout, helped the Kings a little with minor league operations.

"I went in about two days a week during October and November but didn't have much to do here lately," Engblom said.

"It says a lot about our new owners that they paid us even though they didn't have to."

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Add hockey: The Mighty Ducks paid their announcers, but also used them fairly extensively.

"All of us went in almost every day," said radio commentator Charlie Simmer, who also heads the team's summer youth programs.

Simmer, radio play-by-play partner Matt McConnell and television announcers Chris Madsen and Brian Hayward made about 150 speaking engagements at schools and various organizations during the lockout.

All are also heavily involved in the team's Disney GOALS program (GOALS stands for Growth Opportunities through Athletics, Learning and Serving) and other community relation activities.

Now they're glad they will also have some hockey games to broadcast.

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Cooling down: Dick Enberg uncharacteristically came unglued during last Sunday's San Diego-Miami NFL playoff telecast.

The usually calm Enberg accused officials of a cover-up when they wouldn't explain an illegal-forward-pass ruling after Miami tight end Keith Jackson had tried a lateral that went forward and hit the ground after Jackson was spun around. A weird rule allowed Miami to maintain possession, even though the loose ball was recovered by the Chargers.

Then after an apparent touchdown reception by Charger receiver Shawn Jefferson was ruled no touchdown, Enberg said, "What will the excuse be now?"

Partner Bob Trumpy was as surprised as the viewers by Enberg's outbursts.

"I'm usually the livid one," he said by phone this week. "I believe it was a case of frustration heaped on frustration."

Enberg was in Pasadena on Tuesday at a gathering of national television newspaper reporters.

By then, he had cooled down.

Asked if he had any second thoughts, Enberg said, "Of course. There are times I wish I had an editor to stop me or change my words. 'Protect' would have been a better word than 'cover.' When I said 'cover' (as in cover-up), I caught my tongue as I said it.

"I think it was an accumulation of what happened during the whole course of the game. And what has happened in other games."

Enberg said he was also frustrated that sideline reporter John Dockery was unable to get Jerry Seeman, the NFL's head of officials who was at the game, to explain on camera the forward-pass ruling.

Enberg believed Dockery was blocked by an NFL official, but Dockery said by phone this week that wasn't the case.

"It simply took me a while to get up to where Seeman was," Dockery said. "And when I got to him, he declined to go on camera. He didn't want to set a precedent, and I can understand that."

Dockery said Seeman explained off camera that the officials had, according to an obscure rule, made the right call. Even though Jackson was trying to lateral, it technically became a pass, albeit illegal, when it went forward.

Enberg said he got a call from a friend, former NFL official Jim Tunney, at his home Sunday night, and Tunney said the call was correct. But Enberg still believes it is a bad rule, and he doesn't regret speaking up.

"Sure, I could have just sat back and let Bob do all the talking, but I would have lost all credibility," he said.

He said he can empathize with officials because in his younger days he umpired baseball to pick up extra money and knows officiating isn't easy. But, he said, "Whether I was right or wrong, something needed to be said."

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Add officiating: The announcers working Sunday's two conference championship games--NBC's Enberg and Trumpy, and Fox's Pat Summerall and John Madden--were all asked if they favored bringing back instant replay as an officiating tool in some form.

The lone dissenting vote was Enberg's.

"Maybe the audience didn't mind those delays, but they seemed interminable to us," he said. "And often what you thought would happen didn't.

"Pat Haden has suggested that we have it at least in the playoffs, and there I might relent."

Dockery said Seeman told him instant replay isn't even on the agenda at the next owners' meeting in March.

"But that was before last Sunday," he said. "It might be now."

Madden favors instant replay, but he is also sympathetic toward officials. He says the owners have made their jobs too difficult.

"The owners sit over there at their meeting in Maui and decide they want more high-scoring games," he said. "So the rules committee legislates a system they think will produce more scoring and dumps a lot of complicated rules on the officials and expects them not to miss anything."

TV-Radio Notes

Dick Ebersol, the president of NBC sports, was asked at Tuesday's gathering in Pasadena if NBC will televise baseball games if replacement players are used. Pointing out that network coverage doesn't begin until the All-Star game, Ebersol said that issue won't be discussed until late February or early March. ABC spokesman Mark Mandel said the same holds true for his network. . . . Brent Shyer, the Dodgers' director of broadcasting, said the team plans to broadcast and televise games as usual, whether replacement players are used or not.

Ebersol was also asked about the NFL's Sunday Ticket pay-per-view package and if it will ever come to cable. He said it was designed for a limited audience--satellite dish owners only--and will never be on cable as long as networks are televising free games. "Our sponsors would never allow 60% of the nation's home to get every game," he said. "Everyone would zap from one game to another and never see a commercial."

The new pay Golf Channel makes its debut Tuesday on many cable systems. It is also available to DirecTV satellite dish subscribers. . . . Golf Channel programming on Wednesday nights will include "Conversations With Ann Liguori" at 8 p.m. The first guest is Sylvester Stallone, an avid golfer and a member at Valencia Country Club. . . . TBS is televising the Hawaiian Open, with Vin Scully, Bobby Clampett, Don Sutton and Donna Caponi reporting.

The Southern California Sports Broadcasters Assn.'s fourth annual awards luncheon will be at Lakeside Golf Course in Toluca Lake on Feb. 1, and for the first time is open to the public. Jim Lampley will serve as emcee. Proceeds will go to a scholarship fund. Details: (310) 476-5320.

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