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Sharks' 'Day One' radio broadcaster to call first Cup Final

Photo via Sharks website

Dan Rusanowsky was OK with the fact that he didn’t watch his beloved Indianapolis 500 from green flag to checkered flag on Memorial Day weekend.

The ‘Day One’ San Jose Sharks radio broadcaster was busy at team practice in Pittsburgh as both he and the Sharks prepared for their first Stanley Cup Final.

“I’ve been to four 500s and been to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for Formula One when they had the race there. My brother goes every year and I just got off the phone with him a little while ago. If we’re not at the race together he ends up calling me and we talk to each other and listen to the cars go by for the first lap,” Rusanowsky said. “It’s the start of a beautiful journey that we’ve been dreaming about for 25 years.”

It’s a voyage that’s had many twists and turns which led to this point and Rusanowsky, who is adored by Sharks fans and highly respected by his peers, has enjoyed every second.

“It’s something that dreams are definitely made of and you don’t get tired of this opportunity. Hockey in June is a sweet thing for everybody in both San Jose and (the Pittsburgh Penguins),” the 55-year-old Rusanowsky said.

Rusanowsky, who is from Milford, Connecticut, didn’t go to school to learn broadcast. Instead he got an English degree from St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. where he started to call the team’s hockey games.

He also gave himself a well-rounded broadcast portfolio by doing classical music shows and news on radio to supplement his sports. Rusanowsky then went to Clarkson to get his MBA so he could learn more varied skills, just in case he was forced to go a different path.

“I was doing a lot of marketing and finance classes in grad school. I felt that was the best way to pursue the dream I had but also provide me good skills if this didn’t work out,” Rusanowsky said. 

But after he graduated he received an offer by the AHL's New Haven Nighthawks and from that point on he was on his way as a professional hockey broadcaster.

“I graduated with Clarkson on a Sunday and on a Monday the next day I was offered an opportunity to go to New Haven,” he said.

His Sharks’ voyage stated in 1991. He was the play-by-play voice of the Nighthawks for five years at the time and saw the opening in San Jose.

“I applied for it and I got it, right?” he joked when asked how he was hired.

It was somewhat more complicated than that, he explained. The ability to call games for an NHL expansion team in one of the most beautiful parts of North America was a competitive process, one that included a few interviews for Rusanowsky. 

“A lot of people were very interested in it of course,” Rusanowsky said. “I was fortunate to go through the process and get interviewed a couple of times and then get offered the opportunity and I’ve cherished it ever since.”

There are a few games that stick out to Rusanowsky that remind him of how far the organization has come. He was sitting by himself in Calgary in 1992-93 during the worst season in Sharks history and the Sharks got a 1-0 lead on the Flames.

“The Sharks went into Calgary and hoped to just finish out a tough second season by starting off 0-0 and forgetting about that past,” Rusanowsky said. “With that attitude they took a 1-0 lead and things were looking pretty good and then they ended up losing the game 13-1. I was there that night.”

He also remembers a game at the Cow Palace – the first Sharks’ arena – against the Montreal Canadiens where the Zamboni dragged a goal peg on the ice by accident and caused a delay for 55 minutes. Then there was a pre-planned wedding on the ice that made it longer.  

“I’ll always remember the fans yelling ‘Don’t do it!’ when they were about to take the vows,” he said.

But really nothing compares to San Jose’s Game 6 Western Conference Final win at home that sent the team to a Stanley Cup Final.

“It was great to see these fans get that reward from these players especially with the way they played against St. Louis,” Rusanowsky said.

Overall he has a unique perspective on his job and life because he almost lost both suddenly.

On Nov. 25, 2000, before the Sharks played the New Jersey Devils, a car ran a red light and hit his car in downtown San Jose going 50 mph.

Rusanowsky suffered a ruptured diaphragm and a fractured femur a cracked pelvis and cracked ribs.

“I didn’t realize how serious the injuries I had were and I remember them telling me what they were before I went into surgery and I was fading in and out at that point,” Rusanowsky said. “It makes you realize how it all can go away in just the blink of an eye and that’s part of the appreciation of understanding that we’re not on this earth for all that long so the opportunities you have to enjoy.”

The 27 games he missed as he recovered from his injuries are the only Sharks games in team history he hasn’t watched. He’s called 2,074 Sharks games, including 199 in the postseason.

There have been other times he struggled with some broadcasts, but powered through – like one where he needed a garbage bag in the booth for a stomach problem.

“That was fun,” he quipped. “I remember sitting there drinking water and saying, ‘Please God let the Sharks win 1-0 so I don’t have to call too many goals because I don’t know how strong my voice is and wouldn’t you know it, they won 1-0 that night.”

Ask Rusanowsky about his favorite call and he brings up a playoff goal by Patrick Marleau against the Detroit Red Wings in 2010. But really he understands that calling a Final can give him a chance to make new memories for Sharks fans.

Rusanowsky has his facts ready to inform listeners but really he hasn’t scripted anything in case San Jose wins their first Stanley Cup. He likes his broadcasts to be conversational because it makes them more realistic.

“I believe a game and a broadcast as an organic life of its own. You think of general things you might talk about that you might want to mention, but you also have to let yourself feel the emotion and convey that to the audience. If you don’t do it, it gets a little bit, shall we say, forced. And I’d rather have it be organic all the time. So that’s the way I prefer it,” Rusanowsky said. “I always tell people the best calls are still to come and there’s an opportunity now to throw some in there. “









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