Houston Aeros 1994-2013: Thank you for all the great memories and two decades of great hockey and entertainment.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Discussion With Joe O'Donnell

I spent some time yesterday with Aeros play-by-play guy Joe O'Donnell -- you can read a profile of Joe over at the mothership if you want to give it a look. (Remember, the more that you click and read over there the more willing the editors are to allow more hockey coverage.) But besides my Houston Press duties, I spent some time with Joe discussing the off-season, some of the changes, and the upcoming season. There's a lot of off-the-record stuff I can't share, but I thought you might enjoy reading some of Joe's thoughts.

You might not like or agree with everything he says, but unlike myself -- and most of us -- he spends a lot of time talking to Kevin Constantine and Troy Ward during the off-season.


"If I may, I would like to give a disclaimer to the fan base: everything will be fine in Houston this season in my opinion. Now if it’s December and the team’s not playing well, email me and remind me about this. But in my estimation, this team will be fine.

"The Minnesota Wild put a lot of stock in what the Aeros mean as far as being a piece of the organization. On the roster right now…I think defensively, there have already been upgrades. There’s going to be some guys on the Aeros who are borderline Wild guys -- Clayton Stoner, Jamie Sifers, etc. There’s a good chance there will be eight defenseman in Houston who are going to be legit. That are going to be fighting for ice time. Max Noreau and Justin Falk could be your five/six. That’s pretty darn good. And I talked to Troy Ward about this in the last week, and he’s really excited about the defense as well.

"Goalteanding. You know what you’ve got. If [Wade] Dublielewicz is here, awesome. If not, Brust and Khudobin are certainly capable of winning you games. They’ve proven that.

"Offensively. Are you losing some pieces of the puzzle from last year, sure. But there’s a lot more that goes into it than just putting up points. There’s certain roles that guys didn’t play last year that maybe new guys will fall into this year. You’re still going to have your hard working guys, your Danny Irmen’s, etc that’ll most likely be here. If a [Benoit] Pouliot or a [Colton] Gillies ends up down here, then this team’s going to be good, they’re going to be real good again, and the division’s going to be better."

"If there’s a fan that’s upset about losing players like Locke, Kolanos, etc. I get that. I’m sad to see those guys go. And I know the coaching staff would love to have a Matt Beaudoin back again, or Marco Rosa. Those are big pieces to lose. But there will be guys to come and fill those shoes or take on a different role and this team will take on a different style and have a different identity."


"I expect Austin to be good. And we’re going to see Matt Climie a lot, and we all know about him. Austin’s going to be no slouch. San Antonio’s going to have a better year. They essentially have to….The Aeros are built defensively right now. They’re built from their blue line out, which is a good start to the summer. Plus the Wild have cap room. And they’ve got some trade bait.

"I think the Aeros will certainly benefit this year from having an easier travel schedule. A better schedule as a whole. There’s no way they’ll have 15 three-in-three’s again….I think the schedule and Austin coming in is great. I know as an organization we really want to play off the Austin/San Antonio rivalry for years to come. And hopefully the fans will buy into that…I think it will make for a great West Division this year."

"[Kevin Constantine last season] was interesting to work with. Just such an unique hockey brain, such an unique person. The stuff he looks at, I’ve never heard any other coaches look at. The stuff he talks about, the way he tries to see what players are thinking and feeling, that stuff is very unique to him. I also learned with KC to pick my spots. He’s very driven hockey wise so there are times when I just know it’s not a good time to go B.S. with the coach or go ask for an interview. But there are also other times when Kevin Constantine is your normal guy, he’s an awesome guy, and he has fun….his brain is just always hockey oriented.

"Troy Ward is a consummate professional who really knows the game and works tirelessly. And Luke Strand is awesome as well….I know the coaching staff will miss him a lot."


"Hockey was my passion and that was what I wanted to do from the time I was a freshman.

"It’s hard to call a baseball game because there’s so much down time and dead air, [but hockey] comes naturally…with my style, it flows...if I see something I just try to describe it…I’ve just learned that you can’t get everything [happening on the ice] out and you’ve just got to stay with your thought….

"I’ve always been objective. I don’t know where that came from, but I pretty much told myself from game one when I got into this business that I wasn’t going to be a homer. I’m passionate about the team I work for. Sure I want them to win. Sure somewhere deep down inside I’m pulling for them, but to me, there’s nothing worse than a guy who doesn’t tell you what’s going on and just tells you one side of the story. With my style, with my call. I’m going to be passionate, and you’re going to know I’m working for the Aeros, but you’re also going to know when the Aeros aren’t playing well, or when it’s time to give credit to the other team.

"It was tough [coming in at the last minute and having to learn the team, the league, and the players]….It was difficult. It felt for me like the first ten games I was trying to find my game. And I kind new that the start of the year took a handful of games to get back into it, it’s like everything else. But when I hit the 10th game, when that 10th game ended, I kind of proclaimed to myself that I was ready. That I was finally caught up to the speed of the game, that I knew the Aeros well enough to talk about them confidently, and now all I had to do was focus on the other team."

"What I’ve been trying to do…is I try to talk to both coaches before every game and get a thought or two or a key to the game from both sides, whether it’s a player or whoever. And I try to mix that stuff in more than I try to mix in stuff about a guy’s family or whether he has a sense of humor….I try to get what is the objective for this team for this game.

"I was trained from the best. I say that because my board operator in Boise would talk to me non-stop during the game. He would sing in the studio. He was a fan. So if we were down 4-1 in the third period, I would be listening to him gripe about the team while I’m calling the game, so I learned to block it out. You’re in a broadcast booth by yourself sometimes for five hours between preparing and breaking down the post game show and the broadcast. If it’s not going to be fun, then why are you doing it. So that’s why you’ll hear me talking to my internet peeps…I hope that they find the broadcasts enjoyable. Shoot me an email during the game, I’ll respond to it.

"It’s a blast. I love what I do."


[The Aeros are currently without a radio broadcaster.]

"Our deal with KNTH was a one-year deal. We’re currently in the process of exploring some options. We’re going to talk KNTH again. We’re going to talk to some sports stations in the area. We’re going to do our homework, and we’re going to try and find a radio partner that fits best for us and essentially our fan base. Someone that wants to be partnered with us. That’s going to promote us, and somebody we can get some exposure for."


Andrew J. Ferraro said...

What kind of a (expletive deleted) clicks "I'm cranky" on this post?

Perpetually amazed by human beings,

AeroFinn said...

I did.

Well-written story, Joe sounds like a nice guy.
I guess you are being cranky on me being cranky because you think I did not appreciate the effort?
Should you maybe install a button that says "Great effort/I'm cranky about something that was said (please explain in the form that pops-up)"? Reading the story I was reminded once again that it will most likely be defensive hockey next season. And I don't like seeing defensive hockey too much. Plus the uncertainty about radio broadcast for the season also stood out.
Therefore "I'm cranky". I guess people have different reasons for "I'm cranky", some might not like the style of writing, some might not like the context.
Should you maybe get rid of the buttons if you can't take it? Or write "Rules To Click By - Meanings Defined" guide? And if I'm not completely mistaken
your "What kind of a (expletive deleted) clicks..." might not quite agree with the newly set "Rules To Comment By"?

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Whoa dude ... was being sarcastic.

I have talked to others in charge of the site about changing that button to reflect the difference between something they could care less about reading and something in the story that makes them cranky.

We welcome any and all critcism.

As far as the newly set rules to comment by ... well that was just posted to keep the unnecessary insults down. Just a reminder to stay responsible.

Most of them, I know, are thrown around just to be funny. But unfortunately, others don't see it that way, so we felt there should be a gentle reminder.

artandhockey said...

I am always very glad to listen to Joe IF the game is out of town and/or cannot go to the TC myself. He is soo good one can just close eyes and SEE the guys on ice.
Re 'cranky' it does NOT mean 'could care less' at least that's how I see it.
I WAS cranky with AF when he groused about Dimples last year!

I do agree that some comments should be edited to avoid hurting someone!
Words can cut so deep, alas.

For John, the'Word'is'geeky'today :-)

alw02 said...

We are certainly lucky to still have Joe. With the Loss of Jerry and Luke I was beginning to wonder.

Kevin will get them to winning if they have it in them. Just call us Wilkes-Barre south.

Fred Trask said...

Gotta love Joe AND he's got great hair.

Rob said...

I generally don't click on the buttons but I just clicked cranky. Joe seems like a very likeable guy and I've enjoyed his interviews and blogs. Lots more information than the previous year. I hope Joe is around for a long time. But when he speaks of the upcoming season it sounds like he has had his cup of kool-aid and is doing what he's paid to do, spin it. Paint things any way you like but from my perspective right now next season does not look very promising. Read cranky.

And forgive me, but not for nothing friends, last couple of days it sounds like those Aero press passes are gaining some influence. Just saying.

Andrew J. Ferraro said...

Again, we love criticism ... but when you make a statement like that, I think it would only be fair to hear why you think that.

Oh and use examples.

John Royal said...

Rob, and others:

I'm sorry you don't like the information. I deliberately set out to talk to Joe because I know he's in contact with everybody inside the organization. I also set it up just that you could read what he had to say, without any of my thoughts or comments.

I also resent the PR remark. I try to be objective as possible. I don't like some of the moves that have been made, and I have said so. I have also said that despite what I think, the organization has the right to do what it wants.

And since Joe was kind of enough to sit and down talk about the team, the roster, and his job -- specifically since the talk was one I was doing for the Press about him and his job -- I didn't think it called for me to be a smart ass to him.

CatTrick said...

Hey!!! Don't even talk about getting rid of that sweet little button! It CARES about my feelings! And I don't need yet ANOTHER thing I like gone from my life!
I must admit, sometimes I click on "I'm cranky" if I am, even if it doesn't reflect my reaction to a blog. Sorry ... I'll try to do better.
AeroFinn: I don't especially like defensive hockey either, thus some of my extreme crankyness at losing Kolanos and Locke.
As for Joe - I like him a lot - his play-by-plays, interviews, blogs, and video clips. He's enthusiastic and knows the game. If he sounds like he's doing his job ... well ... he is!!! He's an insider who's also a fan. I, for one, want to hear his perspective. A bit of reassurance for John - I love this blog and appreciate the hard work the four of you do. Even when I don't necessarily like or agree with what's said, I promise you, I'll definitely be back. It's been a lifeline to me during this off-season. Not only do you give me the information I can't get elsewhere, you give me an opportunity to be CRANKY about it!
Love 'ya!!!

Fred Trask said...

Rob and others, I know Andrew, Heather and John pretty well. All 3 are pretty objective and add in my opinionated self and we generally cover the gamut.

I am a long time season ticket holder currently holding 3 full season tickets, so I have a financial investment in the club as well.

All four of us are hockey fans first. Sometimes there is a conflict between the fan, the season ticket holder, and the blogger in us.

We seriously try to be objective and you wouldn't believe some of the email between us on points of disagreement. At the end of the day I think we try to put some of the fan aside and see things from the other side. When something happens (like a player not being signed) our first reaction may be like some of those you see in the comments. After that we realize that there are many possible reasons why the upsetting event occurred. We look at the fact that perhaps the player got a better offer, or had a better chance to play in the NHL or thought they would get more ice time or would be further up the depth chart on either the AHL or NHL team. It doesn't mean the Aeros didn't try, it doesn't mean the player didn't want to come back, it just didn't happen. We could voice displeasure or we could realize it's business (for both sides) and see what we do have to work with.

In the blog I think we choose the latter most of the time. First off it's closer to reality, secondly it's healthier and finally there is no sense in stirring up the troops over things we have no control over and don't know all the details about.

What we try to do is give you the story, throw in some opinion and give the readers some information.

In this case I think Joe was making some good points and reacting to many of the comments he's seen. This might make it seem a bit too optimistic. I think he's trying to balance things out. Also there is no one I can think of that knows the Aeros better than Joe. He spent countless hours watching the guys, talking to the players and coaches. I think his foundation is better than any of ours.

John did a great job in setting up an interview and getting comments on the issues. I think we are all thankful to Joe that he took the time to grant the interview. Now, you may not agree with the observations Joe makes (neither may John) but at the end of the day it's opinion. Joe even sticks his neck out a big with a prediction.

I think it's safe to say that when the front office needs calling out we'll do it first with the front office directly, that's the real way to bring about change or get a straight answer to the why's and sometimes it'll end there. Other times it'll make it to the blog.

I think it fair to say you've seen criticism of the team, front office, Toyota Center and staff in MN in the blog from time to time. What you probably won't see from us is our pure fan reaction. For us it's about painting the whole picture or just bring facts and letting the reader decide.

I have some concerns about the make up of the team so far. I think we lost too much scoring but I know the defense will be more solid. I'm waiting to see how they play when the puck drops before I go all doom and gloom. I know for a fact that there was NOTHING that we could do to keep some of the guys. I'm still pissed about Jerry Meins getting fired and I know the first time I talk to upper management I'll let them know what I think.

As far as your comment about "Aero press passes gaining some influence" I don't think that's a fair analysis. Could you give some examples?

Fred Trask said...

Oh and my comments and mine, not necessarily those of Andrew, Heather or John.

CatTrick said...

Fred, many good points. Thanks!

Ms. Conduct said...

Rob, if you got that idea from what I posted the other day in my blog about my lack of comment on Jerry's firing, please don't ascribe MY perspective onto the other writers here. I'd be happy to explain further via email if you'll shoot me a line. msconduct10 at gmail

AeroFinn said...

Fred Trask wrote [...I have some concerns about the make up of the team so far. I think we lost too much scoring but I know the defense will be more solid.
I'm waiting to see how they play when the puck drops before I go all doom and gloom...]

Well if it happens to go all "doomy and gloomy", I hope we hear some more criticism then. For the wishy-washy stuff I can go to an official source during the season.
It has been great to read about the new signings from here first, but it would make it that much interesting if you would feel the need to suppress the fan in you a bit less (you wrote that you have that urge). I was hoping that this would be a blog written by hockey fans to other hockey fans?

Sarcasm does not read very easily on this medium, especially if you don't know the person. I think if one does not want to be misunderstood better add at least a dozen smilies after every sarcastic comment. I better take it as sarcasm then though, seeing that the OP already has a lawyer on his side.

:-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) :-)

Fred Trask said...

AeroFinn, if it goes doom and gloomy you'll hear me. :-)

I'm not a writer so I leave most of that to the others but I usually comment.

As far as the suppression of my inner fan goes I mean that, as a fan, I might have a more visceral reaction to something, but then I realize that isn't really a fair assessment of the situation and there might be more to the issue.

I think it's far more important to illuminate that "more" than it is to react to the item at hand.

We'll all react, we might not all see past the reaction. Man this sounds pompous.

Let me just say I try to give the situation the benefit of a closer examination.

Some are happy to say "Minny sucks" or "the front office sucks" and leave it at that. I'm willing to say the situation sucks and then look for the reason behind it, making sure I try to attribute it properly. I think I owe that to myself and others. I try to bring that here.

All of us can easily relate to our favorite player no longer being on the team. Some of us might not realize all of the reasons why that might be the case. I try to illuminate some of the issues that lead to that situation and from that I try to understand it.

artandhockey said...

Well...I just can't believe it..it MUST be just me getting these apropos words.

This time it is "imnormal" :) :)which am not, not really.

AeroFinn, a bit of levity IS good for the soul.
And please DO add as many 'smileys' :) :)
'weepies' :( :( or even 'winkies' ;) ;)
,as the case may call for,
you like.
Well written and thought through comments are not to be sneezed at! :)

Anonymous said...

Joe Cool rules. The idiots in the front office will screw this up. He's way too good to be here, working for them.

Fred Trask said...

Joe Cool does rule! :-)

Rob said...

I'll rephrase my comments concerning Joe. He does a great job. I'm glad he is in Houston and I hope he remains here as long as he likes. I think his comments about the upcoming season are overly optimistic but I would not expect too many public negatives from any current Aeros employee. Sorry if that is out of line. Not trying to be.

T3I folks it was not my intent to offend, just a personal observation that I should have kept personal. I was talking out of my hat, I apoligize. If you need to hash it out further, John knows how to contact me. I also apoligize to any of your readers who were offended by my comments.

Note to Fred. You have been consistant with your comments. And thank you for the photos you took of the KU family last season.

I am thinking of the things that first attracted me to hockey. Number one, it is played on ice, not grass or dirt or concrete but a sheet of smooth white ice. It is a fast game. It is a team game. Hockey is also physical but requires lots of skill and coordination. And it is sometimes played with great emotion. In the beginning I enjoyed the game so much it did not really matter who won or lost. Plus I got to watch it in a nice facility and often times with my family. A hockey game was just a really good time. I am going to try to get back to that place of unattached fun again. Hope everyone has a good time this next season and if we bump into each other, the first round is on me.

CatTrick said...

Yeah, Joe Cool RULES! :) :) :)

artandhockey said...

Rob, if we bump into each other at a game, we may be wrong but we do believe we owe YOU a drink or dinner?
Agreed, hockey is fast, exciting, nail biting, edge of seat clinging, cowbell ringing, surprising, disappointing, rooting for a certain favorite player, yelling, jumping up and down FUN to watch, where else can one get such a great cardiac workout at low cost :) :)!
Even, as MS. C. will surely post, such fun to PLAY!
VIVA Icehockey!