On May 17, MSG Networks shocked New Jersey Devils fans by announcing that the team’s play-by-play announcer, Steve Cangialosi, would be stepping down after 11 seasons. The surprising exit meant a new opportunity for another individual, and on Aug. 11 the club revealed that Bill Spaulding would be taking over the booth alongside Ken Daneyko.
Spaulding’s Journey to the Booth & Gameday Routine
Spaulding’s journey began in early June, while he was working for ESPN in Disney World at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports. His agent reached out to say that he submitted his name for the Devils’ play-by-play position and that MSG Networks wanted to chat further with him. A few days later, he found himself on the phone with MSG Networks executive producer Jeff Filippi and Senior Coordinating Producer Bob de Poto.
The next step involved an audition alongside Daneyko in the MSG studio. Together they called a game from the 2021-22 campaign in addition to doing a mock broadcast opening. The then 30-year-old left the audition feeling like he performed as well as he could have hoped for, and knew he was going to feel good regardless because he gave it his best. After about a month of waiting, he received the phone call he was waiting for, the one that confirmed he would be the Devils’ next play-by-play announcer for MSG Networks.
“I was in my car running errands, and I saw an area code from New York City coming in so that was a big clue it was a phone call that I probably wanted to answer,” said Spaulding. “After getting the call and hearing those first words, it’s one of the moments people talk about where things kind of slow down for a little bit, and you think about everything that has led to that point. It was kind of an overwhelming experience.”
Just like the players, Spaulding will have his own gameday routine. Even though the regular season has not yet begun, the announcer has a good idea of what his gameday schedule will look like and it all starts with watching the morning skate for both the Devils and their opponent. By the time the players return home for their pregame nap, Spaulding will be eating lunch and preparing for that evening’s broadcast. At 4 PM, he will be in a meeting with the production crew, and will finally make his way up to the booth an hour to an hour and a half before puck drop.
After discussing how he found out about his new job title and gameday routine, I decided to dive a little deeper to find out more about what it will be like working alongside Daneyko and who is on his NHL’s Mount Rushmore.
Q&A with Spaulding
The Hockey Writers (THW): You’re replacing Cangialosi who replaced the legendary Mike “Doc” Emrick. Do you feel any pressure as the regular season inches closer or are you more focused and determined on carving out your own path?
Bill Spaulding: I don’t know if pressure is the right word, but I certainly feel responsibility, because obviously the history of who’s been in the booth for the Devils is a great history. I think [Emrick] is the best who has ever been, and likely the best who will ever be at hockey, and Cangialosi did a great job for the last decade-plus as well. I feel a responsibility to make sure that I am giving that level of broadcast that Devils fans both deserve and expect.
Related: Devils’ Fans Grateful for Cangialosi Who Steps Down as Team Announcer
I definitely don’t want to try and be Emrick or Cangialosi or try to be any of the other guys because I think if you’re anything but yourself fans can see right through that, so I want to be me and hopefully carve out that type of style more and more as the years go on. I certainly feel the responsibility of making sure that we give Devils fans the broadcast they deserve.
THW: Which play-by-play announcers do you admire?
BS: Well Emrick is the guy who is on the Mount Rushmore of broadcasters. I’ve gotten to know Jim Jackson who works with the Philadelphia Flyers very well over the last decade or so. We met when I was still in school, and I’ve watched a lot of his work and stayed in contact with him…Growing up in upstate New York, I watched a lot of Sam Rosen as well. Over the course of my childhood I was pretty lucky to listen to good hockey broadcasters every night I turned the TV on.
THW: What’s it going to be like to have Ken Daneyko as a regular partner in the booth, and what is it about him and his personality that meshes so well with you?
BS: Well, I think he is just so easy to work with. The number one thing is that you just feel comfortable working with him because he is such a good guy. Number two, I don’t think there is anyone who loves the Devils more than “Dano”, so that passion and enthusiasm just permeates off him throughout our entire broadcast as well. I’ve been told to be prepared for some fist bumps and things like that, and that’s something I’m really looking forward to seeing how passionate he is about it. I guess the third thing is we just seem to from the audition kind of jive naturally with our conversations. I couldn’t have asked for anything better.
THW: At what age did you realize this is the career path you want to take?
BS: I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to be a sports broadcaster. Coming out of school, my thought was not focusing on any specific sport, but trying to be someone who could be called upon for anything, because versatility is so important. Over the last decade or so, I called 32 different sports including a lot of different Olympic sports for NBC, but I’ve always loved doing hockey, and did a lot of college hockey, and always had hockey as one of the forefront sports for me that I focused on. When this was a possibility, I had to jump back in and I have told a lot of folks I think I am getting on this ride at just the right time.
THW: You’re 31 years old, which is fairly young for a play-by-play announcer. What have you learned along the way and what advice can you pass down to kids who are watching and listening to you and have a dream to one day follow your path?
BS: Yeah, I think there are really three things. I think first off, do everything. Coming out of school don’t just say hey, I [only] want to football or I just want to do hockey. Say yes to everything. If someone comes up and asks you to call water polo, say yes. Doing a lot of different stuff will make you better, and at the end of the day, the fundamentals of play-by-play are similar across the board, so getting experience in any way is huge in developing as a broadcaster.
The second thing is over prepare. I am a little bit infamous for my preparation, and I think that comes from a conversation I had when I was still in school, which was that if you prepare properly, you’ll only use about 10 percent of the prep work that you’ve done, but you just don’t know what 10 percent of the prep work you’re going to use. You don’t want to get to a spot where you need something and don’t have it.
Number three is don’t be afraid to be yourself. I think coming out of school, for me and a lot of my friends, you’re trying to be perfect. If you’re trying to be perfect and not make mistakes, you’re afraid to have a little fun or be yourself [and show your personality]. I think that’s an important part of people getting to know you, particularly in a role like this where they are inviting you into their home 80 times in the course of a year. You have to be willing to let them get to know you and show who you really are.
THW: What are your thoughts on the current Devils team and what are some of your biggest observations from preseason?
BS: I’m really excited because I think that I’m getting on this ride at the right time. Between the young core that’s not quite as young anymore, and the offseason acquisitions of the guys with veteran experience and winning experience, it feels like you’re starting to get that mix of a group that should be competitive, and I think will be competitive towards the ends of the season, with a chance to get into the postseason. The number one takeaway for me is the goaltending has been there, and if it continues to be there during the season I think the pieces are there to make this a really fun year.
THW: Which hockey greats should be carved into the NHL’s Mount Rushmore?
BS: You have to put Wayne Gretzky on there, you have to put Bobby Orr on there. I have to put Marty Brodeur up there as the goalie, so that’s three. Let’s put Daneyko on there as the fourth, because obviously he is my broadcast partner, and there is no Devils hockey without Ken Daneyko.
THW: If you could snap your finger and instantly become any Devils player past or present [excluding Daneyko], who would it be and why?
BS: I’ll give you two. I guess if it was any past player, I’m going to say Brodeur because when I grew up playing sports, I was always an average goalie, so to be as good as he was at stopping the puck, I think would have been pretty darn cool. Currently, I think I would say Jack Hughes because to be that athletically gifted would be amazing. Just for one day to be that athletic and do the things he can. That video from Vegas earlier this year when he was juggling the soccer ball on skates just totally blew my mind.
Spaulding Is “the Person” for the Job
During an interview with Amanda Stein last month, Daneyko summed up the hiring of Spaulding by making the perfect comparison: “It’s like an actor or an actress getting a role. And sometimes it’s the lesser name, and you go, that’s the person. I think all of us sort of felt that at the time.”
We thank Bill for taking the time to speak with us, and fans can see him and Daneyko make their regular season debut on Oct. 15 when the Devils face the Detroit Red Wings at Prudential Center.
Kristy has been contributing to The Hockey Writers since March of 2021. She is thrilled to be putting her journalism degree to use and is a credentialed correspondent covering the New Jersey Devils. Kristy is also a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. You can follow her journey on Twitter @InStilettos_NHL and Instagram SkatingInStilettos.