Top 10 Current FPHL Broadcasters


Top 10 Current FPHL Broadcasters

By Aaron Flaherty

January 20, 2020


Under Review has recently been approached by a handful of fans via direct message to rank the play-by-play voices of the Federal Prospects Hockey League and seeing as the league has grown to 10 teams, most traveling broadcasters this season, it seems like the halfway point of the season is an opportune time to publish our list of the best voices in the league.

 Please keep in mind, this is not like Bus League Hockey’s list of the top streams in the league, this is a judgment on the informational and entertainment elements of a broadcasts as it pertains to the 10 talented individuals on the mic in the league.

 Also, while these are in ranked order, all 10 of these folks are really good at what they do. Most of them have responsibilities outside of what goes on-air and the preparation that goes into these calls is done in large part off the clock.


 

10- JEFF BARRETT (Watertown Wolves)

 

Barrett understands the game of hockey at a palatable level, and he seems to be well-versed in talking about the Wolves, but opponents are sort of out of luck (unless you’re Columbus who has turned into last season’s Wolves-reincarnate). This lack of supporting material for a viewing audience that is typically full of fans from the visiting team is disappointing and, in extreme cases, can cause a lack in credibility.

In Jeff’s defense, as you’ll find with many of these broadcasters, he’s a nice fit for a smaller-market, regionalized team like Watertown. He knows his Wolves and for the radio audience, that certainly pays dividends. Jeff is a nice, middle-of-the-road, small-market broadcaster, who is a nice fit for Watertown, but may have difficulty outside of New York.



9- JON KLIMENT (Elmira Enforcers)


Since the beginning of Robbie Nichols’ time with the FPHL, Jon Kliment has been the voice of the Enforcers. Kliment is also the voice of the local summer collegiate baseball team, the Pioneers. However, outside of Elmira, it’s difficult to see Kliment’s place in the field.

 Kliment is outstanding in Enforcers storytelling, sometimes too much so. Simply-- he’s a homer. And while each broadcaster on this list will have their moments of favoring their team, Kliment’s moments may outnumber all the others combined. While he can call the action decently, it’s impossible to overlook his pokes and jabs at other organizations and sometimes the league itself. That’s not good from the standpoint of professionalism.



8- NATE WILLIAMSON Danville Dashers


Working in his home state of Illinois, Williamson is a jack-of-all-trades with the Dashers. Last season he was the team’s color commentator and has slid into the play-by-play job this season. Nate does a nice job of following action and describes the play in an easy-to-follow way, but at times seems sticatto and lacking flow in his calls. He knows the Dashers well and has a working knowledge of opponents that improves as the weekend goes along. 

While Williamson has some talent from his journalism degree from Illinois, at teams he seems nonchalant in his play-by-play. His color commentator, Dennis Michaelson, doesn’t make matters any better for Williamson either. Michaelson’s interjections are a mixed bag of good takes and information combined with poorly timed “oohs” and “ahs.” Williamson does nicely for Danville, but it’s a difficult-to-listen-to interaction with his counterpart.



7- JEREMY SKIBA (Port Huron Prowlers)

 

Skiba deserves a lot of credit for his recent foray into goaltending, serving as an emergency backup and fifth-string goalie for the Prowlers while he called the game from the bench. Skiba has done a lot of work in a lot of sports over what is a relatively young career.

What sets Skiba apart is that he sounds different from what you would normally hear in Michigan. He’s a talented storyteller who adds a New York-flavor to a Port Huron home game. Skiba shoots straight, but could vary his vocabulary to increase the entertainment. He still is highly-talented and based on his resume has a future in sports. While it could be in broadcasting, his multi-faceted toolbox could also move him other directions around the game—that alone is a desirable characteristic.



6- ANGELO VELLOTA (Mentor Ice Breakers)

 

When listening to Velotta, it’s impossible to believe he’s only in his first year of calling hockey. Velotta is a writer by trade, covering local sports around the Mentor area, and a graduate of nearby Bowling Green State University.

Vellota sounds like he reports, clean, concise and well-prepared. He is not polished fully yet, but he knows the game and his knack for storytelling gives his calls an enigmatic charm that is likeable and easy to listen to. You may hear him fumble with opponents from time-to-time, but as the consummate professional, Vellota is well-read, consistently prepared and engaging for both Ice Breaker fans and the rest of the league alike.



5- ZAK DEBEAUSSAERT (Columbus River Dragons)

 

Last year’s FPHL Broadcaster of the Year moved south with his general manager and a handful of other staff members to start the Columbus River Dragons. For DeBeaussaert to make that leap and to create a successful broadcast in a matter of months is a noteworthy feat.

DeBeaussaert is a Michigan-native who has circulated around collegiate hockey in the area and has even served a play-by-play voice of the ACHA National Tournament. He also has a background in radio management. DeBeaussaert is a strong voice, who may have the strongest vocabulary in the list. While at times bombastic, he is well-prepared for each team who plays vs. Columbus and is entertaining to listen too. Sometimes he is loud and, at worst, borderline obnoxious, but stifles those moments quickly to regain an inflection-laden broadcast that makes for an intriguing listen.

 

 

4- TERRY FICORELLI (Battle Creek Rumble Bees)

 

“Fic” is the longest-tenured broadcaster in the league this season having called everything from junior hockey to NHL preseason games. He is also the oldest man on the list. An old-school broadcaster, Ficorelli is straightforward and professional, with a polished sound and is tremendous in his elocution.

The thing for Ficorelli is while the sound is polished, he is older and on the back end of an award-winning career. The team he works for doesn’t make matters any easier. Much to his credit, he is jovial albeit less lively that he has been in his former days. He remains one of the best in this league and some would say in minor league hockey. If experience is the best teacher, Ficorelli is the sensei.



3- GARY SCHOFIELD (Delaware Thunder)

  

Arguably the most surprising of all FPHL broadcasters is Gary Schofield. Gary has been in radio and sports for a handful of years in his professional career, but has never done hockey before joining the Thunder broadcast staff. However, you’d never know it.

Schofield has a soothing baritone sound that resonates deeply and describes plays with astounding variation in his wording and consistent accuracy. He balances excitement and level-headedness beautifully with a slight tinge of an accent that adds just the right amount of flavor to a masterfully crafted call. As is in any case with a new team and new voice, it’s hard to have extra stories to tell, but nonetheless, Schofield along with his color commentator Mike Basile create an entertaining narrative that is a treat for viewers in Delaware. 



2- CASEY BRYANT (Danbury Hat Tricks)


Listening to Casey is like listening to a performance of vocal talent, not surprising considering he was a theatre minor at Marist College. Bryant puts on a show, and it’s top-rated. Bryant is a former employee of MSG networks and has served as the voice of the Marist College hockey team since 2015. 

Casey is entertaining and informative, with a strong command of phrasing and a talent for telling good stories. When you’ve had the years of work in places like Bryant has, it’s no wonder that he is one of the best in the FPHL and certainly will receive chances to move into higher leagues in the near future if he so chooses. Bryant is a great fit for Danbury and the Hat Tricks are lucky to have him. 



1- DREW BLEVINS (Carolina Thunderbirds)

 

When you first listen to Blevins, the first thing you have to turn your head to is his age—24. Twenty-four. While Blevins is fresh-faced to the world of professional hockey, years of work with the N.C. State Wolfpack and the Carolina Eagles have allowed him to hone-in a unique and special sound. 

Blevins adds spice to each of his calls, and while he is at times bombastic, there is an enigmatic charm to his stories, tidbits and even the occasional history lesson (no we’re serious, if sports doesn’t work out, he could write an encyclopedia). He is evidently well-prepared with information about every team in the FPHL and is armed with a great voice, talent and passion for what his does. His rapport with color commentator Kelly Curl is second-to-none and Blevins puts on a tremendous show every night.

 

While this list is in ranked order, it’s worth mentioning again that the content of these broadcasters is world’s better top-to-bottom than compared to what it has been in years past. All of these individuals are certainly worthy of their professional status and “the Fed” is lucky to have them all.