Chad Pergram has spent weeks consulting two binders: one on the coming midterm elections, the other with his insights on the Washington Capitals. He has cheat sheets for pronunciation in each: for congressional candidates' names in one and for foreign NHL stars in the other. He’s charting campaign spending in one and average ice time in the other.
The Fox News senior Capitol Hill producer will be on the Capitals' radio call on Saturday night when the team faces off against the Dallas Stars as the third man in the booth with John Walton and Ken Sabourin. Ben Raby is out for the night.
Pergram will be responsible for the intermission reports, game resets toward the end of each period and spots on the pregame and postgame shows. He says it’s a broadcasting dream come true a couple of decades in the making. Below is an interview with Pergram about his first hockey broadcast. Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How’d you become a hockey fan and a Caps fan? And how’d this radio gig come to be?
I worked in radio for many, many years, starting in Cincinnati when I was in high school, and I’ve always been a sports fan. And in Cincinnati, southwest Ohio, you don’t have an NHL team. So when I moved to Washington after grad school, the Caps became my hockey team. I’ve gone to games for 25 years. And when you go to school at Miami of Ohio, you live in Swing Hall, and the old hockey arena used to be just across the parking lot. So that’s kind of how I got hooked on hockey.
John Walton, who is of course the voice of the Caps, is a fellow Miami grad. I didn’t know him well when we were at Miami. He’s a little younger than me, and so he was in undergrad when I was in grad school. He and I crossed paths a couple of times, but when he came out here I said: “Hey, congrats on the new gig. We’ve met some years ago, let’s go to dinner.” And we just became friends and talk hockey a lot. He told me Ben Raby was going to be out and asked if I would be game to do it.
I think it’s good to get out of your comfort zone once in a while. I know Capitol Hill pretty well. I know motions to recommit, and I know the budget reconciliation process. I know the cloture rule in the Senate. But I’d like to think I know a little something else about faceoff violations, bench minors and being in the crease rule, too. So it’s good to get outside your comfort zone and try something that’s a little bit different. And Capitol Hill can be a contact sport much like hockey as well.
Did you play hockey growing up? And have you ever covered hockey?
I have never put on skates to play hockey. Not once. I played sports. I played soccer, played baseball. I’ve studied martial arts for many years, and so it’s not it’s not a thing that I wasn’t somebody who played sports. But a lot of times you’re a product of your parents. There was no hockey in southwest Ohio except over at Miami, which is not very far from where I grew up, but it’s just my dad was very much into baseball. I grew up in the 1970s, and so it was the Big Red Machine of Pete Rose and Johnny Bench.
I will say this: I might not have had interest in being a hockey player, but I thought about two different routes I could go professionally was being a sports announcer or being a news broadcaster. And the reason I interned at WKRC radio in high school was they carried the Bengals games and I thought I would do sports. And I wound up in the newsroom and never did any sports. I always did news, and to some degree I’ve always covered Congress. A couple of years later I covered this guy’s first race for Congress, a guy by the name of John Boehner, who became speaker of the House. He was the local congressman. And the guy who lived in the fraternity house down the street from me at Miami was a guy named Paul Ryan, who’s now speaker of the House.
How are you preparing for your first hockey broadcast?
My wife and I were on vacation in western Canada last week. We go on hockey road trips a lot of times, but we never got to see the Capitals play. And so we wound up getting to see them in Edmonton. That was that was a little bit of preparation even though I didn’t know I was doing the broadcast at the time. That’s one type of prep, watching games. I’ve been watching the Dallas games the past couple of days and spending a lot of time on pronunciation.
I have a list here with the midterm elections Tuesday. There’s a bunch of House candidates who I’ve never met who I’m not sure how to say their name because they haven’t been elected yet. People like Guy Reschenthaler (Rec-on-soll-er) in Pennsylvania the 14th District against Bibiana Boerio (Bib-E-ah-no Bor-E-O). But by the same token, I’m working on Julius (U-li-us) Honka and Miro Heiskanen (Hace-can-en) and Anton Khudobin (Koo-doh-bin) with Dallas. You write them up phonetically. I was watching Dallas. They played Montreal the other night. Of course the Caps played Montreal recently, too, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi (Yes-per-E Coat-kin-E-nem-E) scored two goals Thursday night. I learned today from our friends at the Embassy of Finland that Kotkaniemi means “eagle peninsula.” So that goes into my notes.
Do you see any similarities between covering politics and covering hockey?
I’m told that there’s some postgame scrums in the locker room, where reporters all gather around someone and ask them questions, and those types of things happen in politics, too. There’s a hearing, or you get somebody off the floor. Everybody knows who they need to talk to. It’s the same principle in that regard.
I went to New Hampshire in 2008 for the presidential election. And I went to the Manchester Monarchs minor league game. This is when they were the Kings’ AHL affiliate. But its New Hampshire during the primary. Politics is part of the game. And so Kevin Westgarth, he got a pretty good scuffle that night. And I interviewed him in the locker room, and he said, “I would rather deal with fighting somebody on the ice than dealing with some of the dirty behind-the-scenes stuff that they do in politics.” He said out on the ice, it’s all straight up. It’s right out there in front of you. And I think that that’s kind of the case as well.
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