Those familiar with Yellowjacket hockey will likely recognize the voice of Jon Garver, who has helped tell the team's tale for 13 years.
As athletic marketing and external relations manager, Garver’s main focus has been play-by-play for men’s hockey. Garver has also called women’s hockey, baseball, softball and has anchored radio coverage of Grandma’s Marathon.
For Garver, however, 2020 and 2021 were unexpected and complicated chapters in a story already full of experience in the field, altering his work schedule, space and technique.
He called his 491st men's hockey game Feb. 26, but had the COVID-19 pandemic not happened, he already would have surpassed 500 games called. He's called more than 346 consecutive games — every contest since 2008-09, he said.
The resumption of Yellowjacket hockey in 2021 has brought some new challenges, including new rules and procedures regarding away games.
“For road games, (the WIAC) are not allowing visiting media to travel this year,” Garver said. “So in order for us to put our games on the radio, it basically amounts to me using that same equipment I would use if we were traveling down to that venue and instead setting it up in my office, connecting to the radio station across the street via the internet, and then watching the game’s video feed provided by the opposing school and broadcasting the game off of that.”
The rules were implemented in part due to the varying sizes and layouts of facilities across the various WIAC schools. It's a different experience for the play-by-play veteran.
“This is all brand-new. When I did this on Jan. 27 of this year to call a game that was being played in Ashland, that’s the first time I had ever called a game where I wasn’t in the venue.”
While broadcasting from his office does trim the amount of time he spends time on the road, Garver said it does little to counter the negatives.
“You lose a lot of elements to your broadcast,” he said. “If you’re calling a hockey game, you’re not hearing the puck hitting the boards, a stick hitting the puck, or skates digging into the ice.”
Garver also said it is more difficult to identify players on the broadcasts, in addition to not being able to see the scoreboard or full ice sheet.
Technical issues have also caused headaches during broadcasts.
“I had a video feed once this year that just turned off — for a period and a half of the game, it was just gone. I had another instance where the video froze for a minute and when it came back a goal had been scored," he said.
Garver's contributions are not something the university takes for granted, Nick Bursik, UWS athletics director, said.
Bursik said the conference's decision not to allow visiting media was made with the ultimate goal in mind of protecting student-athletes from exposure to COVID-19.
“We continue to plan that visiting media will be back as normal for next year," he said.
And for Garver, returning to his old routine will be a welcome change.
“I am never going to complain about being on the road, about being at a venue to call a game again," he said. "Yeah, some of them, your feet get too cold and your computer has trouble working, but I’m never going to complain about that or take that for granted again."