Dan O’Connor remembers it like it was yesterday.
He was in Dawson Creek, working at a radio station in the Peace Country and calling junior B hockey games for the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks.
The first game he ever broadcast — for pay and not for pleasure or practice — was a 5-4 Junior Canucks victory over the Peace River Navigators.
“It was phenomenal. I could not believe that I was 21 years old and calling hockey games,” he recalled. “I couldn’t believe the euphoria, getting off the air and saying ‘I can’t believe I just got paid to call a hockey game.’
“Calling hockey games was just contagious, just this really exhilarating feeling.”
He was following a childhood dream, one he first imagined when he was five of six years old.
Broadcast legends Jim Robson, Jim Hughson and John Shorthouse were his influences and O’Connor remembers sneaking a radio into bed so he could catch the end of the Vancouver Canucks game.
When the Vancouver Giants came to Tsawwassen, O’Connor began to learn about the Western Hockey League and major junior hockey.
It helped that he attended South Delta Secondary School, having classes with some of the Giants players.
Soon he was volunteering for the team and shortly after that, the O’Connor household became a billet family for the Giants, and after graduation, he enrolled in the journalism program at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.
“Billeting — coupled with having a place to take photos and practising play-by-play — the Vancouver Giants were just a really convenient outlet for me as an aspiring broadcaster,” O’Connor said.
From Dawson Creek, O’Connor went to Saskatchewan, where he called games for the North Battleford Stars.
And in 2011, he made his way to the Western Hockey League as the director of media relations and play-by-play broadcaster for the Prince George Cougars.
“I remember when I was in Prince George, there was always that excitement when we were going to go into Vancouver and the Pacific Coliseum. It was the place I watched my first NHL game, it was the place where I really fell in love with the Western Hockey League,” O’Connor said.
“There was always that thought way back when that one day I was going to call games from the Pacific Coliseum.”
And while he won’t get to call games from the Coliseum as the home announcer, O’Connor has come full circle after accepting a job with the Giants.
What can fans expect when they tune in to listen to games?
High energy, well prepared and a balanced view of the action on the ice, O’Connor promised.
“But let’s be honest, the Vancouver Giants are my employer, they pay my salary and I am going to be happier when they score a goal then I am when the other team scores a goal,” he added.
“Now I am not going to be this over-the-top relentless suffocating homer that frustrates everyone that is tuning in. but at the same time, I am not going to really disguise the fact that when James Malm scores a goal or when Ryan Kubic makes an amazing save.
“These are the guys that I am on the bus with, these are the guys that I am talking to every day, you can’t help but be excited for them because you are around them, you know them, you have a rapport with them, it is who I work for.”