The Kings knew they could never replace Hall of Fame broadcaster Bob Miller, whose health problems led him to retire in April after 44 seasons of calling their games with a storyteller's charm and a unique historic perspective. In choosing his successor for their TV play-by-play job, they went outside the box to hire 28-year-old Alex Faust, who acknowledged he wasn't a diehard hockey fan growing up but has immersed himself in the sport since he called hockey games for Northeastern University's student radio station.
The Kings had given on-air auditions to several announcers last season while Miller recovered from a stroke. Brooklyn-born Faust, whose hiring was announced Thursday, wasn't among them, and his relatively low national profile didn't make him an obvious choice.
"Believe me, it wasn't an obvious outcome for me either," he said, recalling that he initially hoped to merely get an interview with Fox executives and put his name in their minds for the future.
"The expectation isn't that I'm going to replace Bob Miller, because that's just impossible to do. When you're there for 44 years, you build up a rapport with the audience and you build a relationship with the audience, and I know he developed a relationship even beyond the TV sphere of going out and meeting people at events or meeting fans at games. That's part of the job responsibility for me, for me to get to know fans, for fans to get to know me, and hopefully it all works out over the long haul."
Jim Fox is expected to continue as the TV analyst. Radio play-by-play announcer Nick Nickson and commentator Daryl Evans also are expected to return next season.
Faust has done play by play of college football, basketball and lacrosse for ESPNU and also has worked for NESN. In addition, he has done radio play by play for the Utica (N.Y.) Comets of the American Hockey League and has freelanced on NBCSN's hockey coverage as on the Tennis Channel.
Kings President Luc Robitaille was heavily involved in the search to fill a coveted job that attracted many candidates. Through it all, Faust stood out.
"We sat with all the folks at Fox, and they had sent us the reels of a bunch of different people, and we had a small meeting a couple weeks ago and we chatted in the room," Robitaille said. "We were all prepared. We all had our favorites without anybody talking to each other, and we listened to them. After listening to everyone and hearing everyone's points and what we were looking for, it came down to Alex."
For Robitaille, Faust's youth isn't a drawback. "It's kind of funny. If you listen to him, you don't really know about his age," Robitaille said. "I look at it from a standpoint where I'm glad this guy is going to come in and work with us and be with us for a long time.
"We're not looking to replace Bob. That was the No. 1 factor. We thought it was important to get a national voice, someone that when you hear the city of Los Angeles and Kings fans you feel almost like you're watching a national broadcast."
In choosing a relative newcomer to follow a revered announcer, the Kings followed the example set by the Dodgers, who brought in then-28-year-old Joe Davis last season to substitute on games that Hall of Famer Vin Scully didn't work. After Scully's retirement at the end of last season, Davis became the Dodgers' full-time TV announcer on SportsNet LA.
Faust is aware of the parallels. He's also acquainted with Davis, whom he met in 2014 when Davis was calling an NCAA regional hockey game in Worcester, Mass., for ESPN.
"I was fresh out of college at the time and Joe was a role model for if you're young and you work hard and you find the right path and you have a strong voice, you can make it when you're young," said Faust, who has a degree in political science and economics and worked for a time as a data analyst for PricewaterhouseCoopers to finance his sportscasting hobby.
"He was hired by Fox shortly after that, I think, to work high-level college basketball and high-level college football at a probably younger age than where I'm at. When I heard he got the Dodgers job, I was just as floored as I'm sure people will be reading that I got the Los Angeles Kings job at such a young age, because it's just so uncommon. … It's been an inspiration, it's been comforting to a certain degree to see how he's been able to handle such a high-pressure role and hopefully lay the groundwork to where, especially in this market and with fans who are so accustomed to one voice, there can be a successful transition.
"I'm so glad that the Dodgers set him up to succeed, and I think the Kings have given me the expectation that they're trying to set me up to succeed as well."
Faust said he tries to avoid catchphrases or gimmicks. "I don't like to be pretentious," he said. "I think there's a difference in the way that I call the game that folks may not be used to. I don't necessarily do as much of a mechanical radio style as you may see elsewhere. And that's evolved into my style on TV."
He described that style as jovial. "I hope it comes through on television how much I enjoy calling the sport of hockey. There's no rush quite like calling hockey," he said. "I've called other sports and I intend to do that still, through my relationship with Fox, whenever it works in the schedule, but at the end of the day I don't want to be pretentious. I don't want to have any shtick, because people can see right through that. If I'm honest with how much I'm enjoying what I'm doing, all the while learning and growing into the role, because this is new for me as well, … I think it will work out."
There's one more amusing parallel between Faust and Davis. When Scully called to congratulate Davis on being hired by the Dodgers, Davis didn't recognize the number and let the call go to voicemail. Miller's congratulatory call to Faust also went to voicemail, though Faust said it was because he was driving through an area with poor cellphone reception. They eventually connected, and Faust plans to meet Miller during his next visit to Los Angeles.
"I had a chance to chat with Bob and he's been so gracious and his words have been so kind and flattering. From Bob to Jim to everyone at the Kings, they've been so, so incredibly nice and I know that this is a big change for them," Faust said. "It helps with them being so complimentary and helping me kind of being, 'OK, I'm going to be in the NHL now. This is my new full-time job.' They have been so, so great. And I can't wait to meet Bob because I would love to pick his brain.
"I don't have any Jack Kent Cooke stories," Faust added, referring to Miller's legendary anecdotes about the club's original owner. "I know he does. I don't have any yet. Maybe he'll share one that he hasn't put on TV yet."