Continuing our series of summertime Q&A sessions, here are some thoughts from Milwaukee play-by-play man Aaron Sims. He talks about how his summer is going, the best press room food in the conference, who he is looking forward to seeing take the next big step this season, what his favorite karaoke songs are to perform, and a whole lot more. Enjoy.
Admirals Roundtable: You’ve said previously that you’re a very lucky broadcaster because you’ve had the privilege to work with guys like Claude Noel and Lane Lambert. Would you put Coach Herbers in that category too? Do you have a favorite Herbie story?
Aaron Sims: I would. Herbie and I became pretty good friends. He’s a smart coach and he’ll thrive in the collegiate ranks. Herbie has a very dry sense of humor. Last season, when the boys wore mustaches for “Movember”, Herbie was sitting at the front of the bus and greeting players as they boarded. He said each players name as they came by, “Smitty, Fordo,” etc. When Teemu Laakso came aboard, Ian greeted him with “Magnum”.
AR: Assistant coach Stan Drulia will begin his first full season with the team this year. What are some of your favorite things about Stan?
AS: Stan really clicked with the team right from the start. He’s a players coach. He treated them all very well and they respected him and liked him. He also was willing to shake some things up. The Admirals penalty kill improved greatly with some of the concepts Stan implemented. He’s another one of the coaches that has taught me a lot about the game. He has shown me diagrams of what he likes to do and how his plan would work. He is another rising star in the coaching ranks.
AR: The hockey season for us ended in April….what has been keeping you busy this summer so far?
AS: The most important thing is I got married in June. It’s been great. The key still works so she must think it’s going ok, too. We’ve finished a basement in the house. I spend a lot of the summer on the interstate between Milwaukee and Madison. I am in my 9th season with the Madison Mallards, a baseball team in the Northwoods League. I am the public address announcer. I’m also trying to work out.
AR: Who are the broadcasters that you tried to model yourself after earlier in your career? I’m guessing a North Stars announcer may be on the list?
AS: I loved Al Shaver, the Hall of Fame North Stars announcer. His grandson, Jason, is the Chicago Wolves announcer and is a great friend. I heard Vin Scully when I was 8 years old and that’s when I knew what I wanted to do. There are so many great announcers. I love Bob Kurtz with the Wild. He’s another guy I grew up listening to. Today, I think Matt Lepay and Brian Posick in Madison are tremendous. I also really like the Blackhawks radio guy, John Wiedeman.
AR: Do you have any pre-game rituals? Are you superstitious at all when it comes to the Admirals?
AS: I don’t really have any rituals. I’ll get to the rink on game days for the morning skate. After the team has its meeting, I’ll do my pregame interviews with players and the coaches. After that I go to lunch with Ryan Costello (Hockey Operations Coordinator). I am usually in the press box about three hours before the game. The only real superstition I have is silly. I sit in the exact same chair in the media room before the game.
AR: Do you keep in touch with any of the players after they leave the team, be it by promotion or defection? Are there some you wish that you did keep in touch with?
AS: Every so often I will hear from someone. Most of the time I get to visit with them for a few minutes when the Admirals play them with their new team. There are a few guys I can reach to be a guest on our Monday night radio show. I have really liked every player we’ve had in my time here. When a player makes a move I send them a text to congratulate them, but that’s about the extent.
AR: What arena has the best media room food? And the worst, if you feel comfortable going on record?
AS: The food at the BMO Harris Bradley Center is pretty good. I think I like Chicago’s meal best. Texas has roller grill hot dogs, which is awesome. Winnipeg had the best press box with popcorn and ginger ale. The pregame meal isn’t about the food, though, it’s about visiting with people you only get to see a couple times per year. More and more teams are giving vouchers for the concession stands. That’s fine but it takes away from the chats with the other team.
AR: In your opinion, who has the best goal song in pro hockey, past or present? If you could pick the Ads’ goal song, what would it be?
AS: A good goal song has to be unique. The Blackhawks, as much as the opposition hates that song, found a pretty good one. I don’t know if having a major hit has to be a requisite. The best example, I think, is Todd Rundgren’s “Bang the Drum All Day.” It reached #29 on the Mainstream Rock chart in 1983 and #66 on the Pop chart. Certainly not a monster hit. We probably wouldn’t know it if the Packers hadn’t used it for the last 25 years. I really have no idea what song I would choose for a goal song. I would use ELP’s “Karn Evil 9” for an intro song, however. I am not so sharp when it comes to the hot hits of the day.
AR: Looking ahead to this year, which guys from last year do you think are poised to take a huge step forward this year? And which of the new guys are you most excited to see in action?
AS: I am really excited to see Taylor Beck. He had moments last year where he was brilliant. The test for all players is doing that every game. He had a few stretches last year where he could do that. I look forward to seeing Juuso Puustinen return from his injury. I think Jani Lajunen has a better idea of how to train in the offseason for the schedule. He, too, had a long stretch of games where he was one of the most reliable players on the club. I think Scott Valentine is a real prospect. Signing him was a great move. Of the new guys, Mike Moore is billed as a big open-ice hitter. I’m curious to see how Austin Watson has grown since we had him in the playoffs two years ago. I’m also intrigued by what I hear about Joonas Jarvinen.
AR: We heard a lot last year about how young this team was, and it looks like it may be another young team again this year. But at the end of the day, do you think most teams can claim that? Yeah, we saw a whole lot of Haydar and Cheechoo and Sterling since they were in the division….but in your opinion, were the Admirals really that much ‘younger’ than a lot of the other teams at this level?
AS: That’s a good point. I think we always refer to the team as a young team because we rarely see the veterans that other teams do. Jon DiSalvatore has been around for eight years. The same for Sterling, Haydar, Hensick, Ortmeyer and the like. Teams get excited when veterans are signed because they’re known commodities. There’s a track record in the AHL, or the NHL, with them. Age-wise, things may be similar, but the professional experience is different. It can take European players awhile to get used to the North American game. A great example of this is Kim Staal. He finally figured out how to play at the end of the 2006-07 season. Chicago may have Darren Haydar and Brett Sterling, but they also have Nathan Longpre, Darren Archibald, Nicklas Jensen, Jordan Schroeder and others.
AR: When they announced the shorter schedule last year, the league cited the one of the reasons they did this was so that there’d be less wear-and-tear on the players. Do you think that this goal was accomplished?
AS: I think it was, to a degree. We eliminated the four-games-in-five-nights schedule and that was most important. This is a weekend league. That’s when people are coming out. Every team wants the weekend dates so the three-in-threes will always be there. Taking out the fourth game allowed the players a day off or, at the least, an optional skate. The reduction in games also allowed a few more days of on-ice teaching which is beneficial. Milwaukee was probably able to bring skating coach Shawn Allard to town more frequently because of the fewer number of games.
AR: What are your thoughts on the rule changes for this year? Stricter face-off rules, hybrid icing, and of course, video replay? Do you anticipate positive results on all three?
AS: Regarding video replay, it’s about time. If we have the technology, let’s use it. The officials have a very hard job and they do it to the best of their abilities. I may be hard on them every so often, but they are all working to the best of their abilities. The video replay will help them do their job better. I like the hybrid icing. It’ll keep the players safe and it shouldn’t take away the hustle on a play. It seems like the best of both worlds. I’ll withhold my judgement on the faceoff rule. I really can’t think of a time where using the hand to direct a faceoff made a huge difference. Of course, I’ll probably be inundated with several examples of how it did, indeed, change a game.
AR: And finally, I know that you’re a fan of karaoke. What are your top 3 favorite songs to perform?
AS: My top 3 songs are: “Suspicious Minds”, “Funky Busride”, and “You May Be Right”.
Many thanks to Aaron for some great responses. Catch him on the Admirals Center Ice Radio show on select Monday nights during the off-season on Sportsradio 1250 WSSP.