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Florida Panthers hockey play-by-play voice Randy Moller's goal is to entertain

By Gene Wang
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 29, 2010; D01

What do Hannibal Lecter, Kool Moe Dee and Fozzie Bear have in common? If you're a devotee of Florida Panthers hockey on the radio, you'd know right away.

They are just a handful of pop-culture icons play-by-play voice Randy Moller has referenced during his animated calls of Panthers goals, which he punctuates with a signature movie line, song lyric or catch phrase.

Moller, who will call Friday's game against the Capitals in Washington, has turned his madcap, irreverent approach into broadcast legend in South Florida, where he has developed a following that rivals that of the players. A compilation of some of his most uproarious moments has generated more than 330,000 views on YouTube, and that's only Part 1. Parts 2 and 3 have been viewed more than 110,000 times.

A sampling of Moller's greatest hits:

-- "Seidenberg comes in, shot, shoots, and he scooooores! Assist from David Booth, and I think he tipped it right in front, and I just ate his liver."

-- "Bryan McCabe takes the feed from Cory Stillman! This game is tied up at 1! I go to work like a doctor!"

-- "Richard Zednik, I believe is going to get the goal! This game is tied at three! Wocka wocka!"

The only former NHL player to serve as a full-time play-by-play announcer, Moller began interjecting his distinctive comedy into Panthers broadcasts at the beginning of last season, his second as the team's radio voice. The genesis came partly from the Dan Le Batard Show, which serves as the lead-in to Florida hockey radio broadcasts.

Moller had experimented with zany calls at previous stops, and during the handoff to one of those Panthers games, Le Batard asked if Moller would accept offbeat suggestions from callers to use after a Florida goal. At first Moller agreed to do one per game.

"It was just a whim," Moller said in a telephone interview, "and I just said, 'Yeah, no problem.' So the first few were some of the most popular ones like, 'Maaa, the meatloaf,' and 'Wiiil-son,' and 'Run, Forrest, run,' and that kind of stuff."

Those initial calls from "Wedding Crashers," "Cast Away" and "Forrest Gump" became wildly popular on the Internet, and soon Moller had to get a bigger notebook to keep track of all the offerings from fans who jammed phone lines into the Panthers' flagship station, 790 The Ticket.

The Panthers organization is on board too, encouraging fans to post submissions on the team's Web site.

Moller at one time had a database of more than 4,000 suggestions from across the globe, including Sweden and the Czech Republic. A professed pop-culture junkie, Moller said he doesn't remember which witty line he used first, but it probably came from a movie, perhaps "Old School," from which "You're my boy, Blue" is one of his all-time favorite lines.

"Seinfeld" is another one of Moller's most cherished shows, although he has not uttered the transcendent line, "No soup for you," because of overuse by the millions of viewers who made the show one of most watched comedies in television history.

There are other boundaries. Moller avoids controversial quips that may offend because of racial stereotypes or political leanings, and under no circumstances will he issue a wisecrack if the Panthers are losing.

Other than that, just about anything goes, including unforgettable lines from "Fletch" -- "My car just hit a water buffalo" -- or a margarine ad -- "Oh, I can't believe it's not butter."

Selected 11th overall in the 1981 NHL draft, Moller retired in 1994-95 after 13 seasons, mostly with the Quebec Nordiques. There he played with Hall of Fame center Peter Stastny and Dale Hunter, who went on to become one of the most highly regarded players in Capitals history.

Moller got his start in radio soon after retiring and dabbled in television for Fox Sports in Florida. He eventually joined the Panthers, his final stop in the NHL, as a radio analyst. He held that job for 10 years before ascending to his current position.

"I broadcast down here in a nontraditional market, and we're trying to grow the sport," Moller said. "We're in a very cluttered, competitive market down here with the Heat, the Dolphins, the Marlins, the University of Miami, and we're all about entertaining and taking care of our fans and customers, and if this is part of it, and they enjoy, then so be it."

"In Florida they've got to do things a little bit different," said Capitals radio play-by-play announcer Steve Kolbe, noting the state isn't exactly celebrated for hockey. "But when you take a look at Randy Moller, you know he's a guy having fun inside the booth, and I think that translates over the airwaves as well. We know he's having fun because we can look through the glass and see it."

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