The Hockey Hall of Fame is welcoming seven new members into its prestigious halls on Monday, November 9, 2015; and giving out its two yearly media awards. Join us here at Last Word On Sports as we take an in depth look at the new inductees and award winners. We continue the series with one of the best radio play by play men in the business: Nick Nickson.
Los Angeles Kings fans have been blessed for 35 seasons to have had Nick Nickson calling their games on radio and TV. Those of us lucky enough to listen to him on a regular basis understand why he’s this year’s Foster Hewitt Award recipient.
Nickson, a New York native, graduated from Ithaca College. While there, Nickson did play-by-play of hockey, football, baseball and basketball games for the school’s radio station, and also served as Sports Director. In 1975, after graduating, Nickson worked as a disc jockey at two different radio stations in Rochester, NY before starting his professional career in hockey broadcasting.
2015 HHOF Award Winner Profile: Nick Nickson
The AHL’s Rochester Americans were the first professional hockey team Nickson would broadcast for, starting in 1975. After spending two seasons there, Nickson moved to another AHL team, the New Haven Nighthawks, in 1977. He would remain with the Nighthawks for four seasons before leaving for the Los Angeles Kings in 1981.
In 1981 Nickson joined another Hall of Fame announcer, Bob Miller, in the Kings’ broadcast booth. There, the duo would call both TV and radio games together for nine seasons.
Two years later, in 1983, Nickson joined another Los Angeles team, the Dodgers, as their Public Address announcer. Nickson spent six seasons with the Dodgers, calling the National League Championship Series and the 1988 World Series. For Los Angeles natives, that World Series was one of the most iconic moments in the city’s sports history, thanks in large part to Kirk Gibson’s infamous home run in game one.
MOVE TO FULL-TIME RADIO
With the arrival of Wayne Gretzky to the Kings in 1988, and the growth of hockey in Southern California, the Kings decided to split up their broadcasting team to provide more coverage. Miller would do the play-by-play on TV, and Nickson took over the radio duties.
Nickson has worked with several color commentators since taking over the radio position for the Kings. Notably, former NHL player and NBC commentator Brian Engblom shared the booth with Nickson from 1991-95. Nickson was also joined by one of the first female color commentators when Cammi Granato spent a season with him in 1998-99.
Since 1999, Nickson has been sharing the booth with former Kings forward Daryl Evans. Nickson and Evans have provided not only great commentary, but have a chemistry that has endeared them to Kings fans.
Nickson’s not always the most flashy play-by-play announcer, but this steady and quick style have always helped fans to feel the intense nature of a hockey game while listening to him. His general knowledge of the game and his good nature have made his call-in post game shows a must listen for fans leaving Staples Center each game.
The Kings have been blessed to have several great broadcasters in their history. Nickson becomes the third person in the team’s history to be awarded the Foster Hewitt, joining Bob Miller (2000) and original Kings play-by-play announcer Jiggs McDonald (1990).
Nickson was previously inducted into the Southern California Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2009, and in 2011 the city of Rochester, New York inducted him into the Frontier Field Walk of Fame (media) for his lifetime of work. The Kings also named their broadcast booth at Staple Center the Nick Nickson Broadcast Center.
Along with his work for the Kings, Nickson has previously done play-by-play for NHL Radio Network, covering regular season and playoff games. He’s also helped in writing and editing the Kings media guide, maintaining the Kings Radio Network, helping the Kings Communications department, and is involved with charity work through the Kings Care Foundation. He contributes to the Kings Alumni Association and writes stories for both the Kings and the NHL
The Foster Hewitt Award is voted on by the NHL Broadcasters Assn and will be presented to Nickson this afternoon at the HHOF luncheon. Tuesday night the Kings will be wearing throwback vintage jerseys and will be honoring Nickson before their game. This is the only game that the Kings will be wearing those jerseys this season.
Play-by-play announcers have always held a special place in the hearts of fans, as they’re the ones telling the story of the game, and nowhere is that storyteller more important than on radio, where their voice is all you have to go by. We Kings fans have felt for years that Nickson should have already been in the Hall of Fame for what he’s provided to us, It’s well known that hockey in Los Angeles wasn’t always as big as it is now. 25 years ago, it was hard to find games on your TV at times, leaving Kings fans to resort to the radio to follow along with games. For those of us who remember those times, we’re eternally grateful to Nick Nickson for providing fans with exciting and descriptive play-by-play for so many years.
On a personal note, as a kid I remember falling asleep with a radio in my bed listening to the Kings’ postgame shows with Nickson. Occasionally my parents would let me call into the show to see if I could ask Nickson a question. The first time I got through I asked the most dumbest question ever. “What’s +/- and how does it work?” Nickson, as professional as ever, proceeded to explain to me how if a player was on the ice when their team scored they got a plus, and if the other team scored you got a negative. His patience with me on that call, an others I made to him at times are something I’ve always cherished and I want to personally thank him for providing me with a lot of great memories.