FROZEN ROYALTY EXCLUSIVE: Alex Faust, the Los Angeles Kings new television play-by-play voice, spoke with Frozen Royalty about his first season behind the microphone. Final installment of a two-part series.
LOS ANGELES — Across the board, feedback regarding Alex Faust, the Los Angeles Kings first-year television play-by-play voice, was overwhelmingly positive. Indeed, as reported in Part 1 of this series, feedback from the Kings and from Fox Sports West was that he should keep doing what he was doing, and it appears that he has gained wide acceptance and support from Kings fans.
Despite that, nothing is perfect, especially for a first-year broadcaster in the National Hockey League, and even more so for one who works in one of the NHL’s largest markets.
One challenge was having to learn on the fly what would work on a broadcast and what wouldn’t.
“There was understanding the strengths and limitations of what you can do on TV,” said the 29-year-old native of Brooklyn, New York. “I came in with the idea that I was going to sell advanced stats on TV, push that heavily and make that a big part of the show. But I had to pump the brakes on that. I still wanted to make it a feature of the show, but over the course of the season, I realized that that’s really difficult to bake into a bite-sized portion for a TV audience.”
“What I realized, too, was that when the Kings were winning their two Stanley Cups, puck possession was the be-all-end-all and the teams that mastered that wound up winning,” he added. “Whether it was exciting hockey or not is up to interpretation. But the teams that mastered that won, like Boston, and to some extent, Chicago, and of course, the Kings. Over the last year or so, we’ve heard about the game getting faster and more skilled. How do you put that into a data point? There’s also a much greater emphasis in front offices on shot quality that’s a lot more challenging to get public data from that you could put into a show but also make it into a 15-second clip that we could have as part of a TV broadcast.”
“Once I realized how difficult that was going to be, I decided that I wasn’t going to force it. There were instances where I kind of wanted to add it to the show but we didn’t wind up using it all that much and it was probably a good thing that it wound up on the cutting room floor.”
Another challenge was being completely new to the organization after not following the Kings at all back home.
“One thing that was lacking for me was historical context [with other NHL franchises] because I didn’t have any and I didn’t have any historical context with the Kings, either, because I hadn’t been watching Kings hockey regularly prior to this year,” he explained. “I watched during their Cup runs, but otherwise, I had no reason to before now and I’m not going to lie to anyone. I’m not going to sell myself as having been some sort of devotee to this team when I wasn’t.”
“People are going to see through that, so why put yourself in a position to get burned when you can take your time, pick and choose your stories, give appropriate context when it arrives and now that I have a little bit of a base to work with, I can refer back to stories from this year,” he elaborated. “Then, I can dive a little bit into the history books as we go. It’s not an overnight process, I don’t want it to be and it would be disingenuous if I tried.”
Building relationships with Kings fans is something that the legendary Voice of the Kings (now retired) Bob Miller was, and still is, a master at. That was going to be a challenge for the new guy and still is, to some extent. But Faust appears to be making solid inroads in that area, and he shared a story to illustrate that.
“We were on our charter from Winnipeg to Colorado,” he recalled. “We wound up going through the commercial part of the terminal because you go through your screening on the Canadian side before you come back to the United States. You don’t have to get screened twice. We wound up going past several different gates to get to ours and we wound up passing by a flight that had a lot of Kings fans who were going from arena to arena, following us.”
“We talked to a couple of fans who were on a flight to Minneapolis, which would then go on to Denver,” he added. “They were literally one gate over from us. These fans took a couple of different road trips during the year. I saw them in New York and then I saw them on this trip. It’s kind of neat to see familiar faces as the year goes along and I’m sure that as the years pass, seeing the same people, game after game, because Kings fans are incredibly loyal.”
“There is a core group of incredibly loyal fans, some of whom have told me that they’ve been season ticket holders since 1982 or 1977. They were there when the Miracle on Manchester happened, or when Wayne Gretzky scored [the goal that broke Gordie Howe’s all-time goals record of 801 goals]. I’m just astounded at that because I was never a season ticket holder for any team while growing up and after going to college. Yeah, I picked up season tickets for Northeastern University hockey. But I didn’t go to every game. I didn’t have a college football team. So that, for me, is another area I have not experienced, so it’s great for me to meet people and hear those stories.”
The one challenge that Faust seemed to focus on a bit more than others was getting better at capturing the moment appropriately during a broadcast.
“Capturing the moment—I think every broadcaster wants that to be their hallmark, in one way, shape or form,” he observed. “Some do it better than others. Something as simple as when a big goal is scored, to have something memorable to latch onto because we’re not radio.”
“I always thought [Kings Hall of Fame radio play-by-play announcer] Nick Nickson’s championship-winning call in 2014 was perfect. ‘Royalty reigns again in the NHL,’” he added. “You don’t have to have a line like that every single night, but it helps. It helps you latch onto that moment.”
“Knowing that we’re in a video-centric world, people are going to play clips over and over. If you can attach something to a moment it lets you stand out in this industry a lot more, But it can’t be contrived and that’s key. There are a lot of broadcasters who I think do a poor job at having that be part of their repertoire. They force it in there. If it’s not there, if you’re not feeling it, if the moment doesn’t call for it, let it be.”
As the saying goes, people are often their own worst critics, and especially in terms of his comments on needing to be better at capturing the moment, given that Faust was in his rookie season as an NHL broadcaster, isn’t he being at least a little bit unfair to himself?
Faust bristled, just a bit, at that notion.
“I don’t think I’m being unfair [to myself],” he stressed. “It shouldn’t matter how old you are or how much experience you have. If you can do it, go out and do it. So I viewed this first year like, ‘All right. I want to be one of the best play-by-play guys in the NHL.’ It wasn’t enough to be here and make it. I wanted to be one of the best in the league.”
“I wanted to prove myself on a national level and that’s not saying that I want to run away and join NBC and do that as a career because I want to be here,” he added. “It’s incredible being part of a team and having that experience to go back on. I wouldn’t do it another way. But you still want to prove yourself. There’s still another level and whether or not I take more national work is immaterial as long as I feel that I’ve proven myself nationally.”
“It’s validation, to be sure, when you’re brought on at that level, especially in the post-season. That’s absolutely validation. I want to prove to myself that I can be among the best in the league. I feel like, if you set the bar at a point where you can clear it and higher than you’re at right now, it forces you to push yourself.”
As for negative feedback aimed at Faust, it seemed that very little of it was constructive or otherwise worthy of consideration, and he indicated that he got caught up in that, just a bit.
“There were bits and pieces [of constructive criticism] and you do read social media just to get kind of a vibe about what people are thinking,” he noted. “I made the mistake of amplifying some opinions on social media where some wanted me to be more of a homer and others wanted me to be less of a homer and they were watching the same game. But inevitably, I want to be interactive. This is the 21st century and technically speaking, I guess I’m a millennial, although I don’t think of myself as one—I know what dial-up Internet was like.”
“I want to be interactive, but at the same time, I don’t need to respond to everything,” he added. “If someone has a question pertaining to something we said on the air, rules interpretations or something that happened on the ice that wasn’t made clear—[former Kings right wing and current television color commentator] Jim Fox does a really good job with that. He will go out of his way to answer questions about technical stuff—X’s and O’s—that’s really helpful and he brings that into the show in a non-intrusive way that’s also super-helpful.”
Faust is already preparing for next season and one way he’s doing that is through his work on a summer research project.
“Something I still want to do, and this is a project I’m working on this summer, is catalog the Kings’ struggles with conceding the first goal in a game,” he said. “There are no easy resources to chart the time a goal is scored during a game, so I’m looking at score sheets from games and putting the information into a big spreadsheet that will, at least inform, to begin the season, where the coaching staff is making tweaks. That was one of the first things [head coach] John Stevens said in his post-season, end of the year press conference. That was an area where they needed to get better. That’s something we could chart—how they’re approaching that.”
Unlike Miller, who didn’t really want to work national or regional broadcasts, Faust worked several NBCSN broadcasts this season. He also worked college basketball games for the Pac-12 Network and he has worked several Tennis Channel broadcasts, all of which he said, before the season began, that he wanted to do, schedule permitting.
“I want to keep my toes in several different sports,” he said. “It just helps me to be a well-rounded broadcaster if I do different sports, face different challenges. The way I view it, when you’re a kid, don’t specialize in one sport. You won’t be a well-rounded athlete, right? You’d be more prone to injury.”
“I might be more prone to bad habits if I’m only doing hockey, where if I work with a crew during a Pac-12 Network broadcast that maybe doesn’t have as many resources as an NBCSN or a Fox Sports West broadcast, maybe I’ll use our big [broadcast] truck as a crutch and if we ever run into an issue, I won’t be able to handle something and that’s not to say that all these other productions are low-budget,” he added. “Certainly, it’s not like doing a webcast for Division 3 college sports. But it allows me to continue to be versatile, to continue to round out my skill set and just have a little bit of fun.”
“It’s still fun for me to do a couple of college basketball games. Maybe a college football game here or there. Over the summer, tennis. I like to play it, I enjoy watching it, and now, I get to call it and [the Tennis Channel] is local. It’s an easy thing to fill in my schedule and it’s something I want to get better at. I have another career goal to strive for with the Tennis Channel. Maybe one day, I’ll get to do a Grand Slam [tournament] with them. That would be cool. It’s still not going to be my full-time job, because that’s hockey. That’s my passion. But this is something fun to do over the summer.”
Switching gears, as reported earlier, Faust hails from Brooklyn, New York. He earned his Bachelor’s degree from Northeastern University and has lived in Boston, Massachusetts. He had visited the Los Angeles area to work for the Tennis Channel, but for all intents and purposes, he is new to Southern California, having moved to the area just a couple of weeks short of one year ago.
Although he’s learning the area and getting more comfortable, he indicated that you can’t call him a local yet.
“I’m not close to feeling like a local,” he noted. “I think a lot of people who move here feel that way, too because it’s so easy to be a transplant here in L.A. You can find your own niche. You can be in a neighborhood that has all the amenities that you want. It’s a unique climate that, unless you’re living inland, or in the desert, during the summer, it’s not that harsh, so I don’t think of myself as a local yet.”
“I still don’t understand the fascination with car chases on TV,” he added. “I’m not eating much Kale. I don’t do the green machines. All kidding aside, for better or worse, my identity will always be in New York. That’s where I grew up. That’s where my parents still live. That’s who I am and it’s hard to leave that. To a certain extent, New England is [the other area he identifies with]. My grandmother lived in New Hampshire. My family vacationed in Cape Cod for 15-20 years. I lived in Boston for nine years, so New England is a large part of me. Until I get to the point where I’ve been in L.A. for 10-15 years, it’s going to be hard to call myself an Angeleno.”
“Of any place to live, it’s easy to be comfortable in Los Angeles. It might be crowded on the freeway and the rent might be high, but of all the places to be in the NHL, this is the least harsh climate that you could have. The lifestyle is nice. You have a world-class airport that’ll shuttle you wherever you want to go on the planet. It’s not hard to be a part of it. There’s so many people who come from all over the world to live here that it’s not like my story is any different.”
Having found a couple of essentials from back home nearby has made life here a bit easier for Faust.
“I found good bagels,” he said. “I found good [Brooklyn-style] pizza. I have to see if there’s anyone nearby who does good clam chowder. But I can have that when I’m in Boston. I don’t have to have it here.”
In case you missed it, be sure to read Part 1 of this series, Alex Faust On His First Season Behind The Microphone With The LA Kings.
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings television play-by-play announcer Alex Faust, shown here greeting a fan during Tip-A-King 2018 on March 5, 2018, in Microsoft Square at L.A. Live. Photo: Gann Matsuda/FrozenRoyalty.net.
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