It was Jan. 7 and PNC Arena in Raleigh was jammed. The Flyers, a divisional opponent, were in town for what was a four-point swing game. Even though it was the start of the second half of the season, everyone was watching the standings intently. Each night you were fighting for your life, and the implications of a single loss seemed to plummet you out of a playoff spot.
That night’s game went to overtime and both teams had great chances. During one moment when the Canes almost scored, I looked over to my right and the Canes’ color commentator Tripp Tracy was white knuckled and dialed in to every single moment – Teuvo Teravainen fired a one-timer and just missed, Tripp nearly leapt out of his chair. Eventually, Carolina wins the game on a Dougie Hamilton goal, and Tripp and I – along with the sellout crowd – are overcome with excitement. But even so, Tripp goes on to break down the play, analyze what exactly took place and maintain an even keel on air. It was seamless and, more than anything, it was really fun.
That’s what I explain to people when they ask me what it’s like to work with Tripp Tracy. Above all else, it’s totally entertaining and I know I’m going to learn something.
When Tripp walks into a room, if he’s not laughing and joking with someone, at the very least he’s got a smile on his face. I don’t think he’s programmed to have a bad day. He comes to the arena with alacrity and I think that’s why his commentary is so optimistic in nature. He’s serious about his job without taking himself too seriously. He can also be very blunt and that comes from the genuine love of the organization he’s been a part of for over two decades. He truly wants the Hurricanes to succeed, and not for any other reason than the overall success of each player and the team as a whole. He truly loves his job and wants everyone involved to have a good time even when things don’t always go well on the ice or even in the booth.
We were in New Jersey last year and during an intermission segment I spoke over his segue, so we talked over each other for about a second. On TV, you probably don’t notice. But when you’re in the booth, you try very hard to make sure those moments are smooth. After we went to commercial break, I apologized and Tripp, without hesitation, said, “Don’t even worry about it.” He was sincere and never thought about it again. He was a gentleman and he moved on with a smile. For someone like me, Tripp’s words meant a great deal.
After calling my first Canes win in 2018 against Ottawa, we were on the postgame show – keep in mind, that’s live TV – when Tripp gets up out of his seat and leaves the room ever so briefly. I had no clue what was going on, but the sudden panic of being alone on TV was pretty much exactly what Garth went through in Wayne’s World 2 when Wayne walked out of the studio and left Garth all alone on the set.
Tripp got right back to his seat after what felt like 10 minutes and handed me a signed puck from Justin Faulk congratulating me on my first NHL win. Tripp set that up without telling me and then proceeded to make me emotional on television. He didn’t have to do that, but I get the sense that was he genuinely proud of me and felt this was an ample way to show that. I am not a memorabilia guy and I save almost nothing with few exceptions. But that puck isn’t going anywhere. It was a kind and thoughtful gesture by a guy who wants to make sure everyone feels appreciated. After we called a game last season, he took time to phone me on my drive back home. I’ll never forget what he said – “That wasn’t just a good broadcast from a call-up guy, that was a great NHL broadcast.” He didn’t have to take time to do that, but he did. For a guy with over twenty years of TV experience, he always made me feel as if we were on the same level. It’s a lesson to anyone in humility.
For all the stress that comes with being a part of the NHL, however ephemeral, Tripp was there next to me making sure it went smoothly and guiding me along the way with a smile and a little suggestion about how we can make it work together. There probably isn’t a guy in the league with a bigger Rolodex. Everyone from Scotty Bowman to Sidney Crosby are counted among his friends. Yet, a few times a year, he makes a guy from the AHL feel like he belongs standing next to him. I learn something new every time we work together, but more than that, I know he’s got my back. He’s an eternal optimist with a jovial disposition. You couldn’t ask for a better colleague.