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.
JOE O'DONNELL ON THIS UPCOMING SEASON AND THE CHANGES TO THE TEAM:
"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."
JOE O'DONNELL ON THE NEW DIVISIONAL ALIGNMENT:
"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."
JOE O'DONNELL ON THE COACHING STAFF:
"[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."
JOE O'DONNELL ON HIS BROADCASTS AND HIS INTERNET PEEPS:
"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."
JOE O'DONNELL REGARDING THE AEROS ON THE RADIO:
[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."