Friday, July 26, 2013

Penstone Will Not Return as PSU PxP (Updated)


Long-time Penn State hockey play-by-play broadcaster Steve Penstone is moving on after 11 seasons, as disclosed by his Twitter account and confirmed through sources.


Beginning with the 2002-2003 season, Penstone's voice became synonymous with Penn State hockey. Through changes in platforms, coaches and partners - Fight On State to GoPSUSports All Access, audio to video, Joe Battista to Guy Gadowsky, John Mulhern to Tim King - Penstone was always there to tell us when someone went top shelf and disturbed grandma's peanut butter, and his sense for the flow of a game was unmatched. His run included the 2003 ACHA National Championship, which involved a Penn State shutout of host and archrival Ohio in the championship game, as well as PSU's first NCAA season, a happening once written off as impossible.

The former Toronto police officer and proud Canadian also provided Icers followers a mid-week inside look at the team through his popular View from the Booth blog usually including healthy doses of player and coach interviews. He often went the extra mile on his broadcasts, eschewing those old standbys of silence or music during intermissions for score updates, interviews and discussion. Thanks to both he and his wife Barb, the underappreciated "executive producer," Icers fans enjoyed an ability to follow the team superior to the offerings of any other ACHA program, and this blog written by an out-of-stater owes a debt to both of them, particularly during the first two pre-varsity seasons. An intermission interview back in 2011 at Ohio's Bird Arena gave TYT a nice bit of early exposure as well.

In a Pennsylvania Puck feature last year marking a decade of Penstone behind a blue and white mic, he said something that may have proven eerily prophetic:
For those such as Penstone who have been intimately involved with what he calls the “Icers family,” the arrival of D-I hockey summons mixed emotions.

"Because you lose that family atmosphere and all of a sudden it becomes a business,” Penstone said. “But, everybody’s wanted it, and now it’s here.

"The Icer family will still be here. It’ll just be a little different. Families always go through that type of change."
Broadcast details for the 2013-2014 season have not been released yet, but it's assumed that Big Ten Network will play a heavy role in showing Penn State games. Even when the Nittany Lions are not on television, most contests are expected to be carried on BTN's digital platform. It's unknown right now whether any shift in the nature of PSU's media arrangement led to Penstone's departure.

UPDATE 7/27, 3:30 P.M.: Penstone posted the following statement on Facebook late Friday night:


Dear Friends

It is with regret and sadness that I'm writing to let you know that I will not be returning to the Penn State hockey broadcast booth for the 2013-14 season.

Obviously, Barb and I are in shock right now, but we both know that the road ahead offers us new challenges and opportunities.

We would like to thank each and every one of you for your support, and most importantly your friendship, over the past eleven seasons. The bond that is the Icers family will never be broken.

No matter where the road ahead takes us, we will always look forward to seeing you and sharing a laugh at some point in the future.

We love you all.

Cheers

Steve

9 comments:

  1. I've been waiting to see the same thing: "Because you lose that family atmosphere and all of a sudden it becomes a business".

    I hope Penn State understands that hockey is not the same as football, and is much more of a "family" atmosphere all the way around, for the players, their families, and the fans.

    I guess we'll have to wait and see if Penn State treats hockey as a business machine, and strips away the family atmosphere that keeps people coming back.

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    1. Yeah, I'm not sure where it's all headed, but I'm not particularly encouraged. I know Battista's in the right place. I know Downey's in the right place. And I know Gadowsky and his staff are in the right place. But ultimately, the buck doesn't stop with any of them when it really comes down to it.

      I don't particularly like when hockey people get insular and bitter towards generalists and other sports (as we tend to do), but it is worth asking how much people like David Joyner, Jeff Nelson and Greg Myford (the guy who probably makes the final call on something like this) value hockey. I don't know the answer one way or another. But I always got the sense that there was a twinge of athletic department bitterness over the Icers, who were better supported and more successful than most of their teams, and these are also the same people who had no intention of adding hockey until a guy handed them $102 million.

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  2. I bet Steve Jones is the new radio guy. And then maybe some student or recent grad as the backup for conflicts with football/basketball.

    I'm only half-joking. It wouldn't shock me at all.

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    1. I don't watch enough BTN basketball to know exactly how it works, but don't they use students for a lot of the online stuff?

      Theory, 100% speculation: BTN has their guys for "real" TV, with the non-TV games on BTN digital mostly done by students. Radio is now separate from TV (previously, they had used the audio from the streaming for radio), but gets a limited schedule. Maybe they wanted to push Penstone to the limited radio-only schedule while he insisted that he remain on every game, home and away, as he's done for years.

      We'll see soon enough, I guess (under 77 days until Army after all). But supposing there's only something like 10 radio games, all at home...honestly, seeing Steve Jones for something like that wouldn't shock me either.

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    2. There are separate, dedicated radio (and also streamed online) audio broadcasts for football (Steve Jones/Jack Ham), men's basketball (Steve Jones/Dick Jerardi), women's basketball (Jerry Fisher), baseball (Loren Crispel/Brian Tripp), wrestling (Jeff Byers), and men's hockey (TBD) (plus online only audio of women's volleyball (Brian Tripp)).

      If a game (any sport) is televised by BTN/ESPN/whoever, they bring in their own announcers and there is still a radio broadcast with the PSU announcers.

      When BTN.com does the streaming stuff, it is usually student announcers and there will still be a separate PSU radio broadcast.

      If there is no television or BTN stream for home games, there will probably be a stream on PSU All-Access with the videoboard video and radio audio joined together, but produced independent of each other.

      I think men's hockey will have a regular audio broadcast (home & away), at least being streamed online and possibly over the air in the State College area.

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  3. There are separate, dedicated radio (and also streamed online) audio broadcasts for football (Steve Jones/Jack Ham), men's basketball (Steve Jones/Dick Jerardi), women's basketball (Jerry Fisher), baseball (Loren Crispel/Brian Tripp), wrestling (Jeff Byers), and men's hockey (TBD) (plus online only audio of women's volleyball (Brian Tripp)).

    If a game (any sport) is televised by BTN/ESPN/whoever, they bring in their own announcers and there is still a radio broadcast with the PSU announcers.

    When BTN.com does the streaming stuff, it is usually student announcers and there will still be a separate PSU radio broadcast.

    If there is no television or BTN stream for home games, there will probably be a stream on PSU All-Access with the videoboard video and radio audio joined together, but produced independent of each other.

    I think men's hockey will have a regular audio broadcast (home & away), at least being streamed online and possibly over the air in the State College area.

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  4. I knew this s**t would happen when they went varsity. So much for the "Icers Family" JoeBa was always talking about - it's all about the $ now!

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    1. Thanks for the comment - I tend to take things I see as anti-Icers a bit personally, so it's nice to see that I'm not out on that ledge alone.

      I'll be honest, I'm disappointed with how this has all been handled on that front, whether something like this, the history, you name it. The fact that there was no official acknowledgment of Vance McCullough's passing (a charter member of the Icers Hall of Fame) beyond Battista's lightly-used Twitter with 150 followers blows my mind. How a program that's done almost everything else right could botch something like this so badly is beyond me.

      I don't want to lay it *all* at Battista's feet - I assumed, incorrectly apparently, that his presence would protect certain things, but he spreads himself pretty thin and probably doesn't have time to babysit everyone. The problem is that few others in the athletic department liked or respected the Icers, and in some cases were probably a little jealous of things like how they outdrew the vast majority of "real" (haha) Penn State teams. To be sure, Battista does deserve some of the blame too, because there have plenty of opportunities for him to step in. Previous sentence retracted if he's objecting to things behind closed doors and being overruled, I don't know either way.

      My cynical side says that even things that I considered "right" at one point, like giving the Icers letter status retroactively, were done for selfish purposes, specifically the ability to solicit donations for the alumni challenge or whatever.

      Alabama-Huntsville fully embraces their roots. So does Lindenwood on the women's side. Why not Penn State?

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