Canucks announcer helps fans get through shutdown with personal goal calls

Vancouver Canucks announcer Al Murdoch has been sending fans personal goal calls on Twitter to help them cope with the NHL's suspended season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo courtesy: Al Murdoch)

VANCOUVER – With the Vancouver Canucks shut down and everyone worrying about far bigger things than hockey, Al Murdoch wanted to help and offered the most valuable things he could: his voice and a little happiness.

The National Hockey League team’s in-arena announcer started taking goal-call requests from fans and posting videos of those calls online. He had no idea what he was getting into.

“We’re getting into hundreds and hundreds of requests,” Murdoch said Wednesday in a telephone interview from his home studio in Port Moody, east of Vancouver. “And not only from people in B.C., but all over Canada, the States, Mexico, Australia, Croatia. This has literally gone worldwide.

“I’m getting requests from other parts of the country asking me to do Oilers calls and Leafs calls. As much as I’d like to, that’s not going to happen.”

He isn’t even doing Canucks calls, really.

After starting with a few fictitious Vancouver goal calls to mark the first home game fans would miss, March 15 against the Winnipeg Jets, Murdoch decided the calls should be personalized.

A kid who is missing out on his own hockey season, for instance, can score with assists from his dad and grandpa.

“People wanted to hear Jake Virtanen’s 19th and 20th goals,” Murdoch, 54, explained. “They wanted to hear more points for Quinn Hughes, so he would break more rookie records. But I didn’t want to take away goal announcements that are eventually going to happen. Every goal and every point is a milestone to these guys, and I didn’t want to take those away from current Canuck players.

“I asked people to personalize them. If you’d like to have your name, or your kid’s name, your family name, a neighbour or co-worker’s name on a goal call, you’ll never get to hear that ever in your life. So I just put it out there and the response has been just massive.

“I got one (request) from a guy in Saskatchewan who has multiple sclerosis and so the game of hockey was taken away from him. But I could announce a goal with his name and the name of his older brother, who is still playing hockey. Those are the ones that make me think: Maybe I’m doing a good thing here.”

Murdoch began his career as a radio broadcaster, and had a morning show on CKLG in Vancouver when basketball’s Vancouver Grizzlies arrived in 1995. He auditioned to be the NBA team’s announcer and got the job on the spot.

“Their one and only announcer; never missed a game,” he said.

By the time the Grizzlies abandoned Vancouver in 2001, Murdoch had left radio to focus fulltime on his voice business.

In recent years, he has voiced film trailers for Star Wars’ The Last Jedi and The Avenger movies, did commercials for Budweiser that ran during the Super Bowl, and been the announcer voice for numerous video games, some of them produced by EA Sports here.

He did his first Canucks game in 2011, and became the full-time announcer at Rogers Arena in 2018 when his friend and mentor, the iconic John Ashbridge, passed away. This season, the NHL hired Murdoch to work its Stadium Series and announce the Winter Classic.

His said his favourite goal call was Daniel Sedin’s overtime winner, on an assist by Henrik, in the brothers’ final game in Vancouver on April 5, 2018.

“I don’t know if the crowd even heard it because they were cheering so loud,” Murdoch said. “I knew that was the last goal we were ever going to see from the Sedins at Rogers Arena, and we also announced the three stars and made Daniel and Henrik the first star. That was pretty cool for sure.”

His personalized goal calls – and the fans’ reaction to them — have inspired NHL announcers in Detroit, New Jersey and Toronto to do something similar.

Murdoch has been posting one goal call per day on Twitter (@ALMURDOCH) but does three on “hat-trick Thursdays.”

Murdoch said: “Some of the comments I’m getting… I’ll read you one: ‘My kids are going stir crazy and are emotional about what’s going on in the world. We’re loving these videos and appreciating what you’re doing because it’s bringing a little bit of hope and happiness to Canucks fans everywhere.’

“You just want to make people think about something a little bit different than all of the other stuff we’re thinking about right now.”

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