Last month the Caniac Nation received news that Mike Maniscalco would not be returning this season to host the Hurricanes preview and post-game shows for 99.9 The Fan, the official radio station for the team. If you followed Twitter at all, you could see that the decision was not a popular one for many fans.
Maniscalco is very good at what he does, is a hockey fan inside and out, and most importantly knows the game. That is not an easy job, especially when the team you cover has not made the playoffs for seven years, but Mike took the time to answer every question that came his way and always treated everyone he came into contact with, with respect.
As a matter of fact, if you ever had the opportunity to meet him he would gladly talk hockey with you, anytime, anywhere. He is a great ambassador for the sport.
I had the pleasure of having dinner with him and his wife at Las Vegas when we were both covering the NHL Awards Show and Jeff Skinner won the Calder. That dinner was so enjoyable that it will remain as one of the highlights of the 10 years I have covered the team.
The good news is…Mike is back!
Actually, it’s great news because he will be hosting the popular “Canes Corner’ show where he interviews and helps the audience ask questions of members of the team and organization at the Backyard Bistro near the PNC Arena. The first one is scheduled for Tuesday night, October 11 and his guests will be none other than Ron Francis and Bill Peters.
What a way to start!
Back when Mike first came to the area and started covering the Canes, he was kind enough to participate in my “Take 10” series, in which I asked local team-related celebrities 10 questions so that fans could get to know them better.
1. What is your favorite part of covering the Hurricanes? Any favorite memories you can share?
The access to the players and getting to know the people in the uniform. Too often we just think that the players only exist on game night, but getting to see them on an almost daily basis and talking hockey with people that are playing at the highest level was something that I really enjoyed.
Also the interaction on the pregame show with the fans for home games. Meeting so many people who loved hockey and just wanted to talk about the game and the team or other things happening in the league and again it comes back to the people, getting to know so many wonderful people.
As far as memories go, I’d have to say covering the 2009 playoff run to the Eastern Conference Final. Which now is just one huge blur of last second goals, punches to the face and fantastic late nights. I would need a week to talk about that stretch. Also covering two all-star games. The first one in 2008 at Phillips Arena in Atlanta. Working for a new station with the rights to hockey team and Eric Staal won the MVP, so we had a ton of access and the weekend Raleigh became the hockey capital of the universe in 2011.
2. Who was your favorite Hurricane to interview and why?
There were several, but Jay Harrison stands out for me just because it wasn’t typical reporter/player questions and answers. He provided thoughtful answers that weren’t just cliche, but he also acknowledge when he was giving a canned response. Sometimes in sports it is hard to stray away from questions about the game or the team, but Jay could speak to a wide variety of subjects and was not afraid to give his opinion.
3. I asked you this 9 years ago but I will ask again. What can the Hurricanes do to continue to grow the game in NC?
I can provide a simpler answer now, become a consistent playoff team. A place like Raleigh needs playoff hockey on a yearly basis, give the fan base the promise of extra hockey every year, more people will become hooked. There a few atmospheres that rival playoff hockey.
4. If you were Canes GM and had a free pass from Peter Karmanos to sign or trade for any big name player, who would you bring here and why?
Connor McDavid, Watch him once, there is your answer. Also he is going to be around for at least 15 more years.
5. Who was your least favorite Hurricane to interview, or was there one?
The ones who didn’t want to talk to the media and honestly there might have only been one of them.
6. What do you think about NHL expansion and should they bring in yet another team to even things out?
I see the value of it for the owners and players, but the league did not need to add another team. With the rampant speculation of franchises moving, adding another team in a non-traditional market raises and eyebrow. I do think that Las Vegas will do well just because of the nature of that city and the amount of people who visit it yearly. Think how Florida draws when the Canadian teams play there in the winter, Vegas will have that same boost.
The owners certainly would like to add another $500 million expansion fee. I can foresee major scheduling and logistical problems if the league stays at 31 teams, for those purposes bringing in another team makes sense, but an even number makes more sense be it 32 or 30, yes that means contraction, which the NHLPA and Gary Bettman won’t let happen.
7. What was your funniest experience while covering the Canes?
I’ve had a bunch and to protect the innocent and the guilty they are best kept quiet.
I will share this: When Jussi Jokinen scored with .2 seconds left on April 21st in the playoffs of game 4 versus the Devils, I was still hosting the post game show on the concourse. I had to sprint the length of the press box to get to the elevators to get downstairs to the broadcast position. I do not move very fast, but that night, call it adrenaline, I was moving with Olympic speed. I passed a few people to get downstairs in time to start the show.
The next day five people in some fashion said, they could not be sure, but someone dressed like me passed them in the press box with blinding speed, but he was moving too fast to be me.
8. Are you really going to miss hosting The Aftermath? (MIIIIKE)
Of course. Yes,some of the questions could be much and that sleep deprivation thing with my other job, but I really never got too tired. I was able to talk hockey with John Forslund and work with the great people behind the scenes of that show, I will miss it.
9. Will the Canes make the playoffs this year?
I want to say yes, but there are still too many question marks offensively that need to be answered and the Metropolitan division is still very tough. Hope I am wrong, but I will say the team misses this year by a few points. Next season though, you can see the team is poised to be a team that makes the playoffs on a consistent basis.
10. What are you up to now and where can your fans continue to listen?
I work for IMG College, hosting College Sports Now Monday through Friday and the Nissan College Football Blitz on Saturday that runs 2-midnight, download the tunein app on your phone or ipad and listen for free. I also can be heard talking to Hurricanes players and management every now and again on Canes Corner.
I would like to thank Mike once again for taking the time to answer these questions and obviously wish him the best of success for the future. Hopefully that future will continue to have something to do with covering the Hurricanes!