Dave Mishkin called a Stanley Cup championship by the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday for the second time in his National Hockey League career as a radio play-by-play broadcaster.
Mishkin wasn’t in the radio booth for the Lightning's 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars in the series-clinching sixth game.
Actually, the former Johnstown Chiefs broadcaster wasn’t even in the NHL bubble in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
Known for his excitable delivery and sometimes shrieking goal calls, Mishkin – with color commentator Phil Esposito – described the action from a room set up for the broadcast in Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
“I was just along for the ride,” Mishkin said during a telephone interview on Tuesday. “You never know when it’s going to all fall into place. A lot has to fall into place, including everything outside the sport in this weird year.
“They had to put on this tournament,” Mishkin said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic, which interrupted the season and forced the delayed postseason to be played in "bubbles" in Toronto and Edmonton. “The fact that they were able to execute it and have it come off as well as it did is incredible. Zero positive COVID tests total in the entire time in the bubble – for everybody in the two bubbles.”
Mishkin got his start in the professional game with the 1991-92 Johnstown Chiefs in the East Coast Hockey League. The Yale University graduate spent three seasons with the Chiefs followed by eight seasons with the Hershey Bears in the American Hockey League.
Mishkin joined the NHL Lightning radio team in 2002 and was part of the 2004 Stanley Cup championship run alongside another former Chiefs staffer, Dana Heinze, who was part of the Lightning equipment staff that year. Heinze has been the head equipment manager for the Pittsburgh Penguins through three more Cup runs.
Exactly five years ago on Tuesday, Mishkin and the Lightning were in Johnstown as part of the Kraft Hockeyville USA preseason game between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Lightning at Cambria County War Memorial Arena.
Some of his radio calls of game-winning goals and other highlights have become legendary in Tampa Bay and throughout the NHL. ESPN has featured Mishkin’s calls and he is no stranger to YouTube highlights.
His call of the closing seconds of the Game 6 clincher on Monday night featured plenty of emotion, even though Mishkin was in Florida instead of Edmonton:
“Klingberg shoots. Blocked. It’s out of the zone. Into the neutral zone. Eight seconds left. Barclay Goodrow after it. Shoots wide right of the open net. Time ticks down. The Lightning win the Stanley Cup! They’ve reached the top of the mountain! They are the Stanley Cup champs!”
Mishkin said the Stanley Cup playoffs maintained the traditional level of grueling and intense competition, even though all games were played in the bubble cities with no spectators.
“I think a lot of people wondered if playoff hockey was going to be playoff hockey if you’re playing in a building with no fans,” Mishkin said. “I think the answer is, ‘Yes.’ The intensity level that was shown from the get-go was playoff hockey.”
Mishkin understood how the numbers didn’t add up for the broadcast team to be included in the bubble.
“Teams were allowed to bring 52 personnel to the bubble and that included the players,” Mishkin said. “Most teams brought 30 or 31 players. That means you’ve got 21 left and that includes coaches, trainers, equipment managers, team personnel like our travel guy and one of our PR guys. Teams brought some people with medical backgrounds. It wasn’t going to happen for the broadcasters.”
Professional sports leagues have had to get creative to play amid the coronavirus pandemic this season. The NHL joined the NBA and Major League Baseball in implementing adjusted schedules and played games in empty venues.
“They set up a room in Amalie Arena, our home rink," Mishkin said. "They set it up so they had a couple of big monitors right in front of where we were seated and they brought in a couple additional monitors that gave us different camera views.”
The Lightning went 16 seasons in between Stanley Cup championship celebrations. Nearly 30 years into a professional career that began in a small booth at the War Memorial, Mishkin truly appreciates the opportunity to reach the highest achievement in the sport of hockey.
“What’s consistent is how nerve-wracking it can be as you’re going through these series,” Mishkin said. “I understood it in 2004 and I understood it in 1997 in Hershey, too. It’s hard to get this far. That’s where the nerves come in for me. Not on the air, but it’s always between games.”
Even though he’s not on the ice, Mishkin and the team's staff experience the highs and lows of a playoff run.
“Man, you get this far and you don’t want the opportunity to slip through your fingers. It’s so hard to get back,” Mishkin said. “It’s rare to go deep every year. There is only one team that can end its season with a win in the playoffs. There is only one team standing at the end.
“When you’re broadcasting for a team that goes deep, you appreciate how hard it is and the opportunity that is there for the team. That’s what is nerve-wracking. If the team lets the opportunity slip away, you wonder if you’re going to see the team get back there again.”