The first broadcast voice of the Los Angeles Kings. The voice of the New York Islanders’ Stanley Cup glory years. Winner of the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Foster Hewitt Memorial Award. And soon to be the guest voice of the USPHL’s Florida Jr. Blades!
Ladies and gentlemen, presenting Jiggs McDonald.
McDonald, who got his nickname as a child from a newspaper comic strip, has called NHL games in every decade since the 1960s. Nowadays a resident of Fort Myers, Fla., he is working with the Jr. Blades’ co-owners Ron Kinnear and Kevin Miller to call a select number of Jr. Blades home games and potentially showcase games at the USPHL Florida Showcase in December, as well.
I’ve often referred to my work both in L.A. and Atlanta as missionary work for the sport of hockey.
“I expect I’ll be calling home games only. Once the schedule is available, we will sit down and see what works for me. It could be half a dozen or it could be more,” said McDonald, now 83 years young. “We haven’t discussed the showcase yet, but it sounds like it could fit in perfectly.”
McDonald hasn’t had a chance to see USPHL hockey as of yet, as he is still fresh off NHL broadcasts for the New York Islanders as recently as this past March, but he is very excited for being able to be a part of young athletes’ hockey journey towards college hockey.
“I know that a lot of young talent from this [Fort Myers/Gulf Coast] area, as well as the Fort Lauderdale/Miami area have gone on to college hockey, and even pro, careers,” said McDonald. “Here is an opportunity to play this great game and get an education while doing so.”
A Voice Fit For Kings
Born in Galt, Ont., just outside of the Kitchener-Waterloo area, McDonald got his start in radio and began his play-by-play career with local senior hockey teams. Along with many others, he simply applied for the open Kings play-by-play position when the job was announced shortly after the world-shaping Feb. 9, 1966 announcement of the “Second Six” NHL franchises in L.A., St. Louis, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, and Oakland, Calif.
“Once expansion was announced and becoming reality, I sent an audition tape from a senior hockey league team in the community that I was working in,” said McDonald. “In February 1967, I was still a candidate, and I was asked to meet [inaugural Kings owner] Jack Kent Cooke when he was in Toronto for soccer league meetings. He pointed out a few things he’d like me to incorporate into a broadcast. I cut another tape with those points incorporated, and I guess he liked what he heard. In March 1967, I got the job.”
(Excerpt from 1971-72 Los Angeles Kings Media Guide Reproduced With Permission From The Kings)
McDonald likened his first pro broadcasting job to being, in part, a teacher of the game. Los Angeles had a minor pro team called the Blades, but overall one of the United States’ largest markets was new to the game of hockey. He was also marketing personalities that no one really knew.
“In our case with the Kings, we had [Hall of Fame goalie] Terry Sawchuk and who else?” said McDonald. “It was a matter of selling the individuals, and Cooke demanded first and last names, height and weight, and a little bit of their background. When Cooke purchased the Springfield [Mass.] AHL team, that helped to make the Kings a better team, adding Dale Rolfe, Bill White, Brian Smith and Brian Kilrea. It was all a matter of selling NHL hockey to the people.”
He was also getting an education himself, working in the same market as broadcasting legends Vin Scully (L.A. Dodgers), Chick Hearn (L.A. Lakers) and local resident Keith Jackson (Monday Night Football).
The Flames’ ‘Boom Boom’ Era
In 1972, McDonald moved to Atlanta to be the first-ever announcer for another new franchise, the Atlanta Flames - still in operation today, known since 1980 as the Calgary Flames. McDonald called games right up to the final season in Atlanta, 1979-80. Once again, he had to put on multiple hats as broadcaster and teacher.
“I’ve often referred to my work both in L.A. and Atlanta as missionary work for the sport of hockey,” he said. “When I got to Atlanta, the city had one ice surface, and one industrial beer league, and maybe one youth hockey league with two teams. It was absolute grassroots, teaching the game from the ground up. You had to learn not to talk down, or up, to an audience, but you were always cognizant of the fact you were teaching.”
Once again, he was alongside a legend in Atlanta. Bernie “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, known in some corners as the “inventor” of the slapshot, was fresh off a 16-year Hall of Fame NHL career with the Montreal Canadiens when named the first Head Coach of the Flames. On and off over eight years, Geoffrion would find himself in the broadcast booth alongside McDonald after his stint as coach.
“It was fantastic. I couldn’t have asked for a more knowledgeable individual with great expressions,” said McDonald. “The listening and viewing audience - we simulcast the broadcasts between TV and radio - loved him, and he loved them in return. You couldn’t help but learn from his experiences. I learned how to better appreciate fine wine from him.”
He also remembers Geoffrion standing out in front of the former Omni Coliseum when the Flames were announced as joining the NHL in the 1972-73 season.
“It was a burning hot day, but he stood out in front of the Omni and dressed piece-by-piece in full equipment to teach Atlantans what hockey players wear, just right over his street clothes,” said McDonald. “And of course, he pulled an Atlanta Flames jersey over it all.”
Here is an opportunity to play this great game and get an education while doing so.
The Island of Champions
When the Atlanta Flames were sold and relocated to Calgary ahead of the 1980-81 season, McDonald was hired instead by the New York Islanders, an organization that - like the Flames - had joined in 1972-73 and had just won their first Stanley Cup in 1980. It was not to be their last.
“It was amazing just seeing firsthand how up close and personal that team was, and including Al Arbour and Bill Torrey, just how they geared everything towards where they were mentally and physically the first week of April,” said McDonald, who called games throughout the next three years of Islanders Stanley Cup Championships from 1981 through 1983. “They had a set of standards for strength and conditioning that I had not seen before. The Islanders of the early 1980s could let their opponents set the style of play, whether it was a track meet or a physical game, and they’d beat anyone at both. They were just so deep at every position, so well-coached and so well-managed.”
These memories came with quite a bit of sadness. Just in 2022 alone, the world has bid farewell to Hall of Famers Mike Bossy and Clark Gillies, as well as Randy Boyd and Jean Potvin, all former Islanders. A member of the Islanders’ inaugural team, Potvin retired after the 1981 Cup run and joined McDonald in the Nassau Coliseum broadcast booth, albeit on the radio side.
“It’s been a tough year for the organization,” said McDonald.
Although he has not called a full Islanders season since 1994-95, he has continued to come in and help from time to time, including most recently in March of this year when he called the action for two Islanders games in 2021-22. Along with work with Toronto and Florida in the 2000s, and fill-in work for the Islanders in the 2010s, that gave him seven decades of work calling games in the NHL.
“I’m just blown away with the technology now. Back in 1967, we got league statistics once a week,” said McDonald. “Now you have instant stats on a monitor. You can tell the speed of a shot a guy just took. Your head is more on a swivel now because you’re calling the play and then looking at this monitor with information to deepen the broadcast experience. High Definition viewing has also made a huge difference in how the game is presented.”
McDonald also has been tapped for special events such as calling the 1989 NHL All-Star Game, just one year before he received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame, enveloping him in the fabric of the game’s history for all time. He was also on hockey broadcasts in the 1988, 1992 and 1994 Winter Olympics.
“Working with Joe Micheletti and Bill Clement on those broadcasts were fun times and in Calgary I had Mike Eruzione as my color commentator partner, and also Ken Dryden for one or two games,” McDonald said. “Norway [site of the 1994 Olympics] was something else - the ice arena was built into the side of a mountain.”
Ready For The Call Yet Again
McDonald said that his relationship with the Jr. Blades comes via a mutual connection between himself and Jr. Blades (and P.A.L. Jr. Islanders) co-owner Ron Kinnear - an “old adversary” from his youth and later close friend named Bernard “Buzz” Deschamps.
“Buzzy has played and then coached all over Long Island. I saw him in Canada growing up as a baseball player in summer and hockey player in winter. We detested one another,” said McDonald. “He was an intense athlete and I thought he bordered on being overly physical, ‘crossing the line’ as they might say today. After I had left Atlanta and moved to Long Island, we became very close, found a lot of common ground and had a lot of laughs about old times. With our wives, we have traveled together on vacations since then. He got in touch with Ron Kinnear and let Ron know that I was living in Fort Myers now, and that I would love to work with the young broadcasters here and do whatever I can do.”
Why not just enjoy all Florida has to offer in retirement - why come back to call junior hockey games? What has kept Jiggs McDonald calling hockey games for seven decades? Simple.
“The love of the game,” said McDonald. “I grew up with the game, grew up listening first and then watching. In any argument, you can say it’s the best team sport in the world. Yes, you have your individuals who dominate, but they can’t do it without their teammate.”
Hockey became McDonald’s life and livelihood well before he began calling games, as he was a member of the Board of Directors for the Ontario Minor Hockey Association, a time during which he recalls seeing the rise of a young star named Bobby Orr.
“I was involved with selecting refs for playoff games and I had to know the rulebook inside and out,” he said. “How many kilometers away a player lived from the team he was on - you had to know all these regulations. Hockey became my life at that point, and I’ve had no desire to branch out and make football or baseball my thing.”
He equates the mission of the USPHL, to develop and advance players to college hockey, with the work done at the time he was first joining the Kings.
“It takes me full circle to a man named Art Guiney who put together a California All-Star team that would raise funds and take kids east to play in front of the college coaches, and it was called ‘Operation East,’” said McDonald. “Several good players from the L.A. area got scholarships and other college hockey opportunities. Operation East has a direct tie to the opportunities that this league is providing to its young players.”
The USPHL is proud and honored to welcome Hockey Hall of Famer Jiggs McDonald to its fantastic roster of broadcasters from coast to coast.
It was no problem for the Rockets Hockey Club to find their newest NCDC Head Coach. Once former coach Jason Kersner was hired as the new Head Coach and General Manager by the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, they only had to look at the same family for the man tapped to replace him. Jared Kersner was announced late last week as the new NCDC Head Coach.
See The Full Dan K Show Video Interview Here:
After all, USPHL advancement is not just limited to players - coaches move up to higher levels as well!
The fraternal connection will not only benefit family gatherings, but will greatly benefit players from both organizations as well as the organizations themselves as both teams work to develop players to move them to the highest level of college hockey while also garnering NHL scout attention. Jason Kersner has vowed to help NCDC players - not just the Rockets' - move up to Tier I hockey.
“Now being with the Musketeers, I know where we can find good players. And it’s not just with the Rockets, but the Jersey Hitmen have good players, the Junior Bruins have good players,” said Jason Kersner. “Every team in the NCDC has players who can play in the USHL.”
While Kersner is going to be pushing for the Musketeers to repeat as Clark Cup Champions after recently winning the USHL title, he knows his younger brother will be pushing for the Dineen Cup in New Jersey. Jared moves into the position after nearly 10 years of co-ownership of the Skipjacks Hockey Club with Jason and serving as Head Coach of their 18U and 16U teams over the many seasons.
“I’m definitely excited,” added Jared, of the new challenge of picking up on the rise in development and on-ice success started by Jason in 2020-21. “I’ve been a part of [the Rockets] the last couple years. We just ran his main camp the week before last, and I was involved with the players and former Skipjacks and players we’ve coached throughout the summer. So I knew a lot of the guys and had some connection with them.
"Jason built the team most of the summer, but I had my fingers in it. I’m excited to get to know them a little bit more and I’m just trying to stay above water with this transition. We are a little bit fortunate we are right next to each other and can hand it off.”
The upward mobility for the Kersner brothers began when one of their coaching mentors, former Musketeers Head Coach Luke Strand, was named an Assistant Coach for The Ohio State University, an NCAA Division I team. That cleared the way for Sioux City management to look east and see that Jason Kersner, in his first year with the Rockets - and amidst a worldwide pandemic - had lifted the team to 35 wins, more than the prior two seasons combined.
And to boot, he led the team to the 2021 NCDC Clark Cup Championship Game.
Additionally, the 2020-21 Rockets NCDC team saw an NHL Draft Pick in Sam Lipkin, who shone brightly during the Hub City Tampa six-week series in January and February. He doesn’t have to rebuild so much with Sioux City, though they will have to reload after the Clark Cup victory.
“I’m excited to be a part of the Musketeers. It is a program I’ve been kind of connected with for a long time. I’m very close with ownership and the coaching staff that’s here to get the opportunity to follow one of my coaching mentors and good friends, Luke Strand, who’s one of the all-time best,” said Jason. “Big shoes to fill, but I’m excited to be part of the program.
“We’ve obviously had a little success, with winning games and player advancement,” he added, when asked by Dan K how it all happened that he signed on with Sioux City. “I’ve worked a lot with Jared. We started the Skipjacks Hockey Club in 2013, and he and I have coached together for a long time. Alex Doyle and Patrick Jarrett, plenty of the other guys have been around us. Obviously the players get it done, so when you’re around good players and good people, good things happen.”
One of Jared’s earlier coaches in his career was Jason himself. Jared has been able to look up to his brother who is three years his senior, and while they’ve been partners in the Skipjacks ownership, he’s also excited that they can share this moment of advancement together, as Jared moves up from coaching (most recently) the 18U Skipjacks squad to the NCDC level.
“Jared started coaching me when he was 18 and I was 15. He’s opened a lot of doors and taught me a lot about the game,” said Jared. “He’s just continuing to move up and I’m happy that I’m going with him.”
Both brothers will work to develop the Tier I-ready talent that has come out of the Rockets over the last few years.
“Helping them to get to NCAA Division I is a big part of it, but trying to help them get to the USHL is a big part of it, too,” said Jason. “Sam Lipkin was our best USHL connection. He comes back to us in the NCDC, plays 20 games with us, has a great run, gets his confidence back, goes back to Chicago, finishes the season, wins a championship, gets his NHL Draft pick. Goes back there, part of the leadership group, and has another amazing season on his way to Quinnipiac.”
He also noted other players from this past season’s team who will move up to Tier I - Evan Brown will play at Dubuque and Kevin Fitzgerald will play at Omaha. The pipeline certainly will not end there.
The Rockets Hockey Club and Sioux City Musketeers are now both in a very good place with the Kersner family connection and a legacy of success to continue to build upon. The USPHL congratulates both brothers on their advancements.
The Boston Junior Bruins’ Frank Ireland is certainly excited to be getting ready for his NCAA Division I college hockey career to begin. He’s happy to be pushing on to the inaugural season of the new D-I program at Stonehill College in North Easton, Mass., for four years. A four-year NCAA career, if that’s where his future takes him, would be just one season short of his tenure in the National Collegiate Development Conference.
When Ireland, a native of Longmeadow, Mass., first played an NCDC game as a call-up in 2017-18, it began a thread that saw him become the only NCDC player to skate in all five years of the league, and thus, the only 2021-22 NCDC player to have also skated in that inaugural 2017-18 season of the Tier II Tuition-Free Conference. Ireland split his most recent season between two Tier II destinations, but the latter was with his longtime team for 11 regular season games and their playoff run that saw a drive to the Dineen Cup Finals. It all paid off, as he prepares for the goal of essentially all junior hockey players - a D-I career ahead.
“I’ve talked to Stonehill for a little while now and eventually it became the right fit for me. The Coach [David Borges] likes how hard I play, and the fact that I can make plays,” said Ireland, who racked up 113 points in 143 regular season games, good for ninth all-time in the NCDC. He is sixth in all-time games played. So, a likely business major at Stonehill is no surprise for a guy who was always all business on the ice all the time.
“Stonehill is a very good school academically. If you end up there, the success in people finding jobs in their career is high,” Ireland added. “The connections and people you meet is another thing that I’m excited for. The hockey team I know is rebuilding and working to earn a spot as a Division I team, and the cool thing is I can go in there and be a part of Stonehill hockey history of the first years of Division I.”
Ireland will be one of 20 former Junior Bruins NCDC players who will begin their NCAA Division I careers in 2022-23, a fantastic track record even looking at that snapshot view.
“I think the Boston Junior Bruins is an outstanding organization. They treat players like they are pros, and are so resourceful. They have a great staff who have all played either pros or top Division I hockey,” said Ireland. “Looking back to my first year of NCDC, it was an adjustment coming from 16U and a learning period, and every year I got better and better through the help of the coaches. They’re great at moving guys on to play at the next level and I was happy to be able to be a part of their family.
“I think it’s a solid league,” said the NCDC’s foremost authority on the player side. “I think having that COVID year in Florida was big for it. Having all the big names come and play on an NCDC team helped broaden the league’s name. I think it’s a good league for young players to develop.”
It was during the 2020-21 season - one in which the Junior Bruins entered as defending Dineen Cup Champions from 2019 - that Ireland had his best NCDC season, registering 48 points in 42 games and wearing the “C.” He helped the team to the Dineen Cup semifinals ahead of this year’s return trip to the Cup Finals.
The Junior Bruins brought Ireland in at the 16U level, and he was immediately effective. From 2016-18 at the 16U level, he posted 90 points 52 regular season games, good for sixth overall - giving Ireland Top 10 scoring honors in not one but two NCDC leagues!
“It was a fun process. I still talk to a bunch of people that played 16U with me. I think most of my development comes from the players I played with and being able to watch what they do and learn what works and what doesn’t was a good learning curve,” added Ireland. “I think skipping 18U [except for five games] and going from 16U to NCDC right away and playing was difficult, but as year went on, I adjusted to it.”
And he has truly seen the benefits of “trusting the process” with the Junior Bruins over the years. He remembers how he was as a 16U player getting that 2017-18 call-up and can see the progression to his final NCDC game at the Cup Finals in New Jersey.
“I think my game now is so much better,” he said. “I don’t typically just throw the puck away. I feel like I have a third eye out there because the game has just slowed down for me a lot, so it’s easier to make plays.”
That is just the type of player that Stonehill is getting, and he’s making sure the Skyhawks get him at his sharpest.
“I think little details will help a lot like having a good stick at all times,” added Ireland. “I think continuously practicing protecting the puck will be big as well, and being able to be comfortable on the forehand and backhand is a difference as well.”
He won’t be too far from home, all within Massachusetts, but he’s already feeling at home with Stonehill.
“I’ve been to the school a couple times and, to start off, the campus is beautiful. It’s in a great location as well. The facilities are top notch so I’m excited to be a student there,” said Ireland. “I think Stonehill was just the right fit and the right opportunity for me to be successful.”
The USPHL congratulates Frank Ireland, his family, the Boston Junior Bruins and Stonehill College for his commitment.
Earlier this month, former NCDC Jersey Hitmen goaltender and Dineen Cup Champion Chase Clark made the trip to the Washington Capitals (NHL) Development Camp to give his professional rights-holders a glimpse of the future.
And what a glimpse it was. The 2002-born Williamsville, N.Y., native earned applause from several corners by making highlight saves in the scrimmages - and he hasn’t even played a single NCAA Division I game yet. Along with playing the full 2020-21 season with the Hitmen, riding it all the way to the championship, he has since been a top goaltender in the United States Hockey League, preparing for the start of his college hockey career with Quinnipiac University this season. But he served notice that he is definitely pushing to someday join the team that drafted him 183rd overall in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft.
A few examples of the attention Chase Clark received:
And now, a few words with the man himself.
USPHL: Was this your first Development Camp, or did you get to go in 2021 as well?
Clark: After being drafted in the 2021 NHL draft by the Washington Capitals, the organization informed me they were not having a developmental camp that year due to COVID.
What did you think of the way the camp was organized, and the players you played alongside? That is, how do you see the Capitals future in terms of the prospects you played with and against?
First the Capitals did an amazing job organizing the camp. It was a first class and fun experience. I had a great time getting to know all the other prospects. They have unbelievable skills and [are] all really good character guys. I learned a lot on and off the ice, from goalie coaches Scott Murry and Olaf Kolzig.
What were the toughest challenges for you at the Camp?
The demands of the tight schedule. They had us busy from early morning through the evening. I believe it gave me a taste of what professional players have to deal with.
What were the parts of the Camp where you felt you excelled?
The highlight of my camp was the main scrimmage at the end of camp. It was held at Capital One Arena in front of fans. I felt good and had a great game.
What are you working on in your game this summer towards kicking off your NCAA career with Quinnipiac?
I am currently working on off-ice training to become stronger and faster. On ice, I’m working with personal goalie coaches home in Buffalo. The same coaches I’ve had for years.