FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Los Angeles Kings television play-by-play broadcaster Alex Faust spoke with Frozen Royalty about his first season behind the microphone. Part 1 of a two-part series.
LOS ANGELES — With his first season behind the television microphone for the Los Angeles Kings under his belt, evidence suggests that Alex Faust is beginning to gain at least a little bit of celebrity status here in Southern California.
“Mr. Faust,” a customer at a Los Angeles area Starbucks asked, out of the blue. “I wanted to tell you that I enjoy your work. I enjoy listening to you on your broadcasts.”
Faust thanked the gentleman, who added that he was an Anaheim Ducks fan, but thoroughly enjoyed his work.
Yours truly witnessed this encounter, first-hand, after having just completed an interview with the 29-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York.
Although Faust can walk down the street of his neighborhood without being recognized (unless he goes to the local Starbucks, apparently) his work as the new television voice of the Kings has garnered plenty of attention and high praise—he was a pretty big hit as a rookie National Hockey League broadcaster.
“It was all I could ask for,” he said. “We had a post-season berth. I felt like I got better as the year went along. I felt more comfortable in my own shoes as the year went along and every experience along the way was pretty much exactly how I pictured it, from the first-class travel, the first-class [lodging], how the league is run. It met and exceeded every expectation, which is hard to do in a new job, anywhere, because you have this idea of how it’s supposed to be and it went above and beyond.”
“Part of that is the organization,” he added. “How they treat everything first-class and that includes how they believed in me from day one. They never wavered in that at all. I was thrilled with how everything went.”
As Faust noted, despite the fact that he had virtually no experience in broadcasting at the NHL level and very limited experience at the American Hockey League level, the Kings firmly believed in him from the start.
“Honestly, I haven’t had much feedback [from the Kings or Fox Sports West], but it’s been, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing. We love it.’ Again, from day one, it seemed like the team had my back. They just said, ‘Do your thing.’ There have been minor tweaks here and there made during the season, a lot of subtleties that wouldn’t immediately jump out to the viewer. Other than that, the feedback has been ‘keep doing your thing.’”
To be sure, Faust has received praise that could be considered overwhelmingly positive for a first-year play-by-play announcer who had, as reported earlier, virtually no experience in broadcasting in professional hockey. His big career move to the NHL and the Kings has also been a big change for him in ways that most probably wouldn’t think about.
“Any time you’re going into a new job—this is changing so many dynamics for me—I used to be a freelancer who just walked in and walked right out and nobody knew who I was and nobody would care,” he said. “I could go about my day and it didn’t matter. But now I’m accountable to an entire fan base. I’m accountable to a team president. I’m accountable to a network president. That all changes your viewpoint on how you work. Not that it’s going to change my call of a game in any way, but you become more cognizant of that.”
“As the year went along, I became more comfortable in the job,” he added. “It’s a very different thing to carry fans through 82 games as opposed to one college hockey game here or one college basketball game there.”
Especially for a first-year NHL broadcaster with little experience, one would guess that Faust experienced a case of nerves or jitters going into his first broadcasts. But he went through contrasting emotions and feelings in his first games.
“Strangely enough, for my first game at Staples Center, I was very reserved, both in the way I called the game and how I went about my day,” he recalled. “I wasn’t my usual jovial self. I just wanted to do a good job and get it done and it was fun. I think it was easier because it was at home.”
But his first regular season broadcast was an entirely different story.
“My first regular season telecast, by the end of it, I felt like I was going to throw up,” he noted. “I felt like, ‘What did I just do with my life? I just moved to this place and I’m under-qualified.’ All of these thoughts were spinning in my head. ‘This went poorly. I thought it was awful.’ But you don’t realize, and this is something [former Kings right wing and current television color commentator] Jim Fox said to me right after we got off the air, it’s never as bad as you think it is.”
“I went back and listened to the game and it wasn’t that bad,” he added. “It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t that bad. There have only been two times where I was really nervous. That was one. The other was when [legendary Voice of the Kings Bob Miller, now retired] had the statue put up outside and the banner put up inside Staples Center.”
“It really hit me, at that point. It didn’t hit me earlier in the season because I had bounced from one gig to another over the last couple of years, so for the first four months of the season, it was just a new gig. That’s how I compartmentalized it. But when that game and that day hit, I realized, ‘Whoa! This is a big deal. You’re taking over a big job and you’re here for the long haul.’ That’s when it really hit me that this is what I was in for, especially following in Bob’s footsteps. That was the only other night where I felt true jitters. Then there was the first game of the playoffs. I knew that it was going to be tough to keep the emotions in check because I had never called a hockey game on that level before. Managing that before Game 1 of the post-season was challenging, as well.”
Again, noting his lack of experience in broadcasting hockey at the professional level, there were some aspects about the job that he Faust didn’t expect.
“I was surprised at how emotionally invested I got because this is my first team experience,” he noted. “I just figured that I would get wrapped up in it, in terms of the day-to-day minutia of the job, as well as wanting to call a good game. But by the end of it, I got emotionally invested in the team’s results. I didn’t expect that to happen.”
“I don’t want to put that in a bad light,” he added. “I love this organization and they believed in me from day one. But [normally], that takes time to develop. Having never been in that situation, as a broadcaster, you feel like you could be detached. You can leave your emotions to the side because you have to carry the show and you’re trying to call the game down the middle. We do more storytelling from a Kings standpoint than from another team and we’re not going to be ‘rah-rah’ cheerleaders. But when the end comes, whew! It hits you a lot harder than I thought it would.”
Faust also indicated that, coming into his new job, he expected to offer more comments and opinions on Kings telecasts. But that really never panned out.
“I have a very narrow scope from which I have to operate and that’s something I learned to evolve with as the year went along,” he said. “I came in with the idea, noting how big of a personality Jim has, I wanted to be right there with him and have opinions. But as the season went along, it got to the point where it was taking a little bit away from what he might have to say if I were to interject some sort of opinion.”
“As the year went along, I kind of narrowed the scope of what I was looking to do and it wound up enhancing the broadcast,” he added. “Simple can be better and it wound up making a better product. It might have been a little misguided, from my standpoint, to think that I would steer it in a different direction to begin with.”
Something that wasn’t a surprise for Faust was the similarity of the routine between all of his hockey broadcasting gigs, in terms of the game-day routine.
“It’s just hockey,” he observed. “When you’re walking into an arena off a bus in the AHL, or in college, or in the NHL, it’s very much the same experience. You walk down the loading dock, all the players put their gear [in the dressing room]—in the NHL, they have extra help to have it there already. But it’s the same experience.”
“That’s part of what makes hockey so much fun,” he added. “There’s a universal experience at every level. There are different tweaks and obviously, on a TV broadcast, we have a production meeting and detail on that side to get through. But the surprising thing to me is how similar it was to the AHL and not in a bad way at all.”
An area where inexperience likely played a role is that Faust wanted to excel so much that he sometimes made matters more complicated than they needed to be.
“I wanted to do a good job,” he emphasized. “I wanted to own this job. But at times, I made it more difficult on myself than I had to, in the way that I called games, the mental gymnastics of trying to get out of the bad habits from radio and make sure you’re giving only enough for TV to caption the moment—striking that balance.”
Something that was apparent from the very beginning was that Faust worked very well with Fox.
“As the season went along, we got more comfortable with one another, for sure, and I think that will continue to happen,” said Faust. “It’s not an overnight process and as much as our chemistry—we hit it off, right off the bat, there’s still the mechanics of doing the broadcast that occasionally—things happen. There’s miscommunication. But you work through it. We had a couple of instances of that this year. But you move on. You learn from it and you go from there.”
“From his perspective, he’s only worked with one other play-by-play guy,” added Faust. “There’s a new voice, a new cadence, a new rhythm. I’m taking on different responsibilities than what Bob had on the show. Even something as simple as reading a promotional message. The last couple of years, Foxy was doing that. Now I’m doing that. How does that change the rhythm of how we go back and forth on the air? It’s little things like that that seem so silly and trivial, but they make a huge difference to the viewer because you don’t notice it. If you do notice it, that means we made a mistake. We’re tripping on each other or there’s an awkward silence. That’s when you notice it. But when you don’t notice it, it’s smooth. I’d say 99 percent of the time, viewers didn’t notice it.”
Speaking of Miller, those who know him would guess that he kept his distance from Faust, in terms of offering advice, and sure enough, that’s exactly what Miller did. Nevertheless, Faust quickly developed a relationship with Miller and his wife, Judy, and he picked Miller’s brain, a little.
“It was more along the lines of managing your day-to-day [routine] in the NHL,” said Faust. “Maybe some horror stories from the road and knowing what to expect. Otherwise, I think he really wanted me to own the job and he wanted me to own it in my own voice.”
Faust indicated that Miller has made his job easier simply by continuing to be a part of the team.
“I have a lot of respect—he still wants to be part of the team and I absolutely admire that he is a fan,” Faust noted. “He still comes to the games as a fan. We see him in the media room. He holds court with everybody down there. I also have to thank him a lot for taking a burden off of my shoulders. Everybody says to me that it must be tough to follow in the footsteps of a legend. But considering that he’s still around, that he’s still holding court in the media room, the fact that he emcees the Legends Nights, that’s something I don’t have to do with limited experience. That helps me along. The fans can still say hi to Bob. They can still get his autograph and a picture with him. He’s still here.”
But even with Bob fulfilling the role of a Kings ambassador, Faust still has to reach out to, communicate with, and otherwise connect with the fans, something that this reporter viewed as his greatest challenge going into the job.
“In some ways [it still is],” he noted. “It’s still new. It’s still weird for me to sign autographs. I still think, ‘Why would anybody want my autograph?’ But then you realize that people actually want my autograph, so it was weird, at first. But I enjoy it and I know that it’s part of the job, too, and not to downplay it as a mandatory thing that I’m compelled to do, because I enjoy interacting with the fans.”
“Part of it, too, is that we are the connection to the team,” he added. “Off ice, we are the face of the franchise. I don’t like using that term, but we’re what you see on [an almost] daily basis. We serve as the narration for the full season of hockey. It’s strange, given my background, not being with the team from the start, but I’ve enjoyed it a lot because you do see familiar faces as the season goes along.”
In Part 2 of this two-part story, Faust continues to talk about interacting with fans, about some of the criticism he received over the course of the season, learning about the limitations of what can be done on a telecast, things he needs to improve on and a lot more. Check it out in LA Kings Alex Faust: &ldquyo;It Wasn’t Enough To Be Here and Make It. I Want To Be One of the Best”.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings television play-by-play announcer Alex Faust. Photo: Juan Ocampo, courtesy Los Angeles Kings.
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