Gophers

Charlie Beattie Rises up to Gophers TV Play-by-Play Voice

Charlie Beattie (mid) calls the Gopher Hockey game against Minnesota-Duluth on October 25 alongside analyst Ben Clymer (left). Via Gopher Puck Live

Charlie Beattie did not grow up in a hockey household. As he himself put it logically speaking, he should not be into hockey.

The winter sport he played as a kid was basketball. He never picked up on hockey until college, and attended few hockey games with his dad before the NHL left town in 1993. But despite all that, Beattie developed a love for hockey, and now, more importantly, a love for calling hockey games as a play-by-play voice.

After moving to the east coast and back to Minnesota, and then working his way up from the ranks of calling various high school games in the state, Beattie was named the new Minnesota Gophers hockey television play-by-play voice on Oct. 4. He calls games alongside analyst Ben Clymer for Fox Sports North in their limited schedule as the Gophers split between Fox Sports North and Big Ten Network, among a few other networks.

But how exactly did the St. Paul native, who in full disclosure was an original member of the Giles and the Goalie(s) podcast, rise up the ranks to become the new television play-by-play voice in the team’s 99th season? He offers an insight of his journey from childhood all the way up to his first call of the Gophers against Niagara on Oct. 18.

Not Exactly A Hockey Childhood/Latching onto the sport

Beattie did not play hockey as a kid. As mentioned, he attended some North Stars games with his dad, but once the team left there was not a professional outlet locally for him to watch hockey. Like most Minnesotans, Beattie remembers the Stars leaving very well. “I know exactly where I was when they played their last game,” he said. “I cried when they left.”

What Beattie can also recall was the moment when he really fell in love with hockey and the goaltender position, while also kindling a fire for broadcasting in general.

It was the 1992 Winter Olympics in Albertville, France. This was back when amateurs played hockey in the Olympics, as the professional players didn’t begin to take part in the Olympics until 1998 in Nagano.

“I can pinpoint the exact game that I watched,” Beattie recalled. “The goalie for the United States was a guy named Ray LeBlanc, who was a minor leaguer for the Blackhawks behind Ed Belfour and Dominik Hasek. He kept the U.S. alive and made all sorts of highlight saves. I had this tape of the U.S. versus Sweden (game). I had that tape for about five or six years.”

Beattie even held onto the tape after his sister taped over the first hour for the Mad About You finale. “Which is the most 90’s thing,” he said with a chuckle.

There were two main points that Beattie got out of watching LeBlanc, the United States and the hockey tournament from that Olympics: He wanted to try and play goalie and he wanted to try and broadcast a hockey game.

The play by play broadcaster for the tournament was Mike Emrick – with John Davidson as a color commentator – who you now can find as the voice of the NHL on their lead United States television broadcasts for NBC. But this was before Emrick really took off and became the Emrick everyone knows now. As Beattie now calls Emrick, “A living legend.”

LeBlanc and the United States ended up losing in the bronze medal game that year, but it helped Beattie get connected to the sport that would, later on, become a career.

Moving Away For College, Getting More Into Hockey, and a Broadcasting Beginning

In 1999, Beattie moved to Washington D.C for school. He was able to get reconnected with the NHL, as the Capitals were prominent at that time. “We got to go watch the Capitals while they were good when they had Peter Bondra, Olaf Kolzig and Adam Oates.”

Then not long after his arrival the Capitals fell off, but it allowed the team to draft Alex Ovechkin, so he was able to watch the team go from good to bad to good again.

While attending George Washington University, Beattie was able to get connected with a hockey crowd at school. He called the group ‘like-minded’ hockey nerds. With George Washington having many students from the east coast’s most prominent cities – Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and Boston – there were plenty of hockey fans there for him to connect with.

The group eventually began to play roller hockey. A league was formed with six teams and they worked it up to a year in which they played a full season and playoffs. The league also played right in front of the White House, as that was the closest place they could play.

“I got to play – sort of – a little bit,“ Beattie said as he mainly played goalie in the roller league. “We just got to hang out and play hockey, watch hockey, and talk hockey.”

While also attending GWU, Beattie made his first attempt with broadcasting. Following those ’92 Olympics, Beattie never really considered it a realistic dream to be a professional broadcaster, so he never really entertained the idea. However, a friend at the school informed him that the student radio station calls basketball games each year and got to travel with the team.

He had to wait a year to get his shot, but when he was a sophomore he made his debut getting a couple of games. Then as the following two years went on as a junior and senior he got to do more and more games and the realization that this is something he could actually do in life.

“I realized this was something I could actually do. It wasn’t just something that sounded cool,” Beattie recalled.

Before Beattie truly entertained the idea of doing this as a profession, he went back to his dad to make sure this was a plausible idea. “My dad is someone who is incredibly supportive but just wants to make sure you aren’t doing something really dumb,” he said. It took a couple of listens to Charlie call games for his dad to get on board, but it was monumental once he finally did.

“Once I knew I had him on my side I thought I actually had something here.”

Since that moment in 2001 or ’02 –he can’t recall the exact year — Beattie has been broadcasting non-stop.

Moving Back To Minnesota and Getting Into Hockey Broadcasting

Beattie graduated from GWU in 2005. He did spend some time in North Carolina during the baseball season but made his move back to his home state of Minnesota in 2007. Hockey was the last of the four major sports he got to broadcast when he started. Basketball and baseball were prominent in the beginning, then football, with hockey not coming until he returned to “the State of Hockey.”

Getting to hockey last certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying. It was for a lack of having games to call. “Because in Washington there’s not a high school game down the road. So when I moved back [to Minnesota] I knew there might be some chances to find some.”

The first hockey game Beattie got to broadcast was a high school tournament after Christmas in the Twin Cities called the Schwan’s Cup. Beattie got to do a few in that tournament, which ironically, came in Mariucci Arena (now called 3M Arena at Mariucci), the arena he works out of now for Gopher hockey.

“The first game I think was Minnetonka and St. Thomas,” Beattie tried to recall. “I got to do a couple [that tournament] and loved it. I’ve been trying to do as many hockey games as I can ever since.”

Broadcasting Idols

As Beattie made his incursion into broadcasting, he couldn’t help but try and model himself after those whom he has watched on television growing up.

Emrick, obviously, for hockey remains one of Beattie’s models. Also, there’s Chris Cuthbert, who also calls games on NBCSN for the NHL along as well as in Canada for TSN. Cuthbert also called the Minnesota High School Hockey tournament back in the ’80s, so he is no stranger to Minnesotans. A long-time favorite of Beattie’s, Cuthbert even once got a complimentary message on Twitter from Beattie – back when Charlie had Twitter – that the broadcaster liked.

Commenting on the interaction where he told the broadcaster that he was fond of his work Beattie said, “I personally told [Cuthbert] once on Twitter. I compared him to the broadcasting equivalent of eating comfort food and he liked the tweet. He is great.”

Beattie would still love the chance to meet Cuthbert in person and express his fondness of the Canadian’s work.

Outside of hockey, Beattie is fond of the great broadcasters that can do multiple sports. He referenced the great Al Michaels, who has gone from baseball to football to even basketball for a brief time. Michaels may be most remembered in hockey circles as the infamous announcer of the Miracle on Ice hockey game. But it’s the fact he can do any sport that makes him a favorite to the Gophers’ new broadcaster.

Other broadcasters Beattie referenced is Keith Jackson, Brent Musberger and even Joe Buck.

“This will be the most unpopular thing I say, I like Joe Buck,” Beattie declared. “Deal with it. I know everyone thinks he is biased and hates their team or thinks he is boring or whatever, but the man is good at his job. He knows every sport under the sun.”

There is not a current outlet for Buck to go into hockey with Fox, but Beattie was sure that the Super Bowl and World Series broadcaster would be great there as well if the opportunity presented itself.

Getting a Chance To Call The Minnesota High School Hockey Tournament

For any Minnesotan, the high school hockey tournament in early March has become a rite of passage. It is one of the state’s most prestigious events, with the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul being filled to capacity year in and year out.

Folks from all around the country and even the world tune into the tournament, as it garners high ratings.

This past March, Beattie was called upon to do between the bench work for the Class A portion of the tournament. Beattie was not originally scheduled to work on Thursday for the Class AA quarterfinals, but a stomach bug fell on his friend and between the bench regular Tori Holt the night before and Beattie was called into action on Thursday for the big schools.

Between the first and second game that day, play by play voice Doug McLeod was replaced for an inappropriate remark made on the telecast. Beattie was informed in the third period of that first game that he would be the one to replace McLeod for the second game.

“I heard late in the third period, can you come upstairs and do play-by-play for the next game?” Beattie said. “That’s a scary proposition because a lot of people are watching this. You are not prepared for this game in the way that you would want to [normally prepare]. But there’s no way you are going to say no to that, especially when that’s what you would want to do.”

Beattie accepted the offer to call the second game of the afternoon session, and went into the broadcast booth alongside Minnesota hockey legend Lou Nanne. “Lou Nanne was up there and they just said lean on Lou and I think I did. I didn’t have a lot of stories to tell but I knew I can describe the game.”

Beattie did indeed lean on Nanne, called the second game of the day, and went back to between the bench reporting for the two night games that night. It was a highlight for him to call the game, but certainly how he got the chance to call the game was a situation he did not celebrate.

“I don’t celebrate that aspect of it because that’s connected with someone else’s mistake. Someone I respect [as a broadcaster] quite a bit,” Beattie said. “We talk about hockey broadcasters, I grew up watching Doug McLeod. I did and still do think he is fantastic. I hope we get to hear him call hockey games again soon.”

As for the actual game he got to call that day, Beattie had very little time to prepare for the game between Eden Prairie and Lakeville South. However, he has a weird skill that allowed him to pick up the names very quickly which allowed him to call the game smoothly.

“The one thing I had going for me is the fact I had done a million games where you are handed the roster five minutes before the game starts and you have to memorize it as you go,” he recalled of his high school games that he broadcasted. “I found that I’m actually good at that. That’s not how I do it when I have the opportunity to [study the rosters]. You should never do that. It’s a lucky quirk of my brain.”

Also seeing Eden Prairie earlier in the season allowed Beattie to cut down his memorization time in half. So all he had to do was to get the Lakeville South players down, which he said just took half the first period. After that moment and Beattie got rolling, he said it was just like “any other game.”

Getting The Gophers Job

The tape from that high school tournament game between Eden Prairie and Lakeville South was actually the tape Beattie used when he put his name into the hat for the vacant position of Gophers hockey television play by play with Fox Sports North.

The actual process from putting his name into the hat to getting the call he got the job was not a swift one, however.

“It took a month and a half from when I sent them (FSN) my stuff to when I actually knew I had the job,” Beattie said of the process. “That means [for a month and a half] I’m sitting home talking to my wife saying ‘I think there’s probably more experienced people’ [for the job].” Beattie’s wife, Heather, kept reassuring him that he was fine and that he had as good a chance as anyone to land the job.

It took a month and a half for the decision to be made, as Beattie said, because there was some reshuffling at Fox Sports north. The Minnesota Wild had a reshuffling of sorts as Ryan Carter, Wes Walz, and Mike Greenlay are all now taking turns as color commentator alongside Anthony LaPanta as Greenlay was previously the main color commentator. The Minnesota Timberwolves had some people to hire, led by new studio host Annie Sabo.

So add that up, and the Gophers with their limited FSN broadcast schedule was not high on the docket until the other sports was resolved first. Which again, left Beattie wondering if he would be able to land a dream job like this.

But then on a Monday night, the phone rang. Beattie landed the job. “It was extreme relief,” he declared. “It was the biggest break I’ve ever gotten. Hopefully, it will open up a lot of doors because I want to do this for a long time.”

“I had come a long way for that moment. It was amazing.”

Getting Into The Gophers Broadcast Booth For The First Time

There is a great list of broadcasters in the history of Gopher hockey. A program steeped in tradition and the broadcast booth is no exception. It is a fact that is not lost on Beattie as he stepped into the broadcast booth for the first time.

“That’s not lost on me,” he said. “That’s part of the leap of faith [that FSN took]. There has always been good broadcasters for this team, so that’s something on me to live up to. It’s something I care about because I care about this profession and its traditions. I take that pretty seriously.”

The first game this season, and ever, that Beattie called for Gophers hockey came on Oct. 18 against Niagara. It was the home opener after Minnesota’s first weekend of the season was a split out at Colorado College. There were a few nerves for Beattie leading up into the game, especially considering the tradition of Gophers broadcasters.

“It was very surreal,” he said of that first game. “There was definitely some butterflies, but I think there was more stress and nerves for getting the job over actually doing it.”

But once the game got rolling, Beattie was able to get into the swing of the game and the butterflies went away. Also helping him was his analyst Clymer, who Beattie sang praises of. “I work with an awesome color commentator Ben Clymer who has done this a long time. He is really helpful and genuinely a good person. He was supportive of me from day one. He knows what he is doing.”

By the second period, Beattie said he was just on autopilot and rolling through it like normal. “You get locked into the game and it is a lot of fun.”

The game ended up going to overtime locked at two between Minnesota and Niagara. Minnesota’s Sammy Walker ended up scoring the winning goal in overtime with Beattie on the call.

He was asked if the call was really planned, he replied, “That’s something I try not to do. If you lock yourself into a certain call you might miss something. You have to go with the flow. Not everyone does it that way and I’m not knocking people who don’t. I try to just let the moment take care of itself and just react. I don’t lay it on too heavy in a moment like that. It’s the goal call and just get out of the way because the fans will do the rest.”

Parallels Between Charlie and The Gopher Hockey Team

When asked about the current state of the Gophers, Beattie first said how young this team currently is. Referencing the ups and downs of a young team, Beattie talked about how the Gophers were dominated in their first game against Minnesota-Duluth this season but then the next night came back and played much better.

“That will happen to a young team,” he said.

But Beattie also had some praises for head coach Bob Motzko’s young team by saying, “They are going to have some nights where they wow some people. There’s some really good talent in that freshman class. Give them 20 games and it’s going to look like totally different players out there. That’s what happens with players that have to adjust to a new level.”

The Gophers are currently off to a 3-4-1 start to the season after a tie and loss to Notre Dame on Nov. 1 and 2 at 3M Arena at Mariucci. They get their first taste of Big Ten road hockey upcoming with a matchup in Ann Arbor against Michigan on Friday and Saturday.

Then the soon to be 39-year-old Beattie drew a parallel between the team and himself on growing together.

“Eventually, the youngest team in college hockey becomes the oldest team in college hockey that is a Frozen Four caliber team. That’s what Bob [Motzko] is trying to do. It’s the first step. It’s fun to be here for the first step when you’re the new guy in the booth too because I get what they are going through.”


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