Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart, Island Sports News
September 28, 2013, Victoria, BC (ISN) – To the many veteran sports fans in Victoria, especially those of the Victoria Royals, the Victoria Grizzlies and the Victoria Shamrocks, the above phrase means only one thing – that it is time for Victoria’s iconic public address announcer, Cliff LeQuesne, to do his job…
A 40-year veteran of radio broadcasting and public announcing, Cliff’s unmistakeable, resonating, bass voice has become a staple at Save-on-Foods Memorial Centre and Bear Mountain Arena.
LeQuesne recently sat down with Christian Stewart and Scott Harrigan of Island Sports News to talk about his career and what it is like to be the public address system voice of the Royals.
How did you get your start in the PA announcing world?
I started out way back by reading the announcements over the PA system in school. Then once I got older, I landed a job at CFAX in the control room – button pusher and knob turner kind of work – and gradually worked my way up, until one day I ended up going on the air for a newscast. Turns out that it was a mistake. I wasn’t supposed to go on air that day and the boss let me know about that, but it all turned out OK and I was able to go from there.
Did you have any PA Announcing or sports casting idols when you were growing up?
One of my long time favourite announcers has been the Vancouver Canucks announcer John Ashbridge. He has a great voice and great delivery and is a true professional with an amazing sense of humour. He has been in that job since 1987 and like me, in radio for the past 40 years or so, and is one person I have grown up admiring for what he does.
What teams have you been an announcer for?
I’ve been fortunate to have been in the announcer’s seat for many local Victoria teams including the old WHL Cougars, the Salsa and Grizzlies of the BCHL, the Salmon Kings (ECHL) and now the Royals (WHL) and in the summer, the Victoria Shamrocks (WLA Lacrosse). I also subbed in a couple of times for the Victoria Seals (Golden League Baseball) when they were here and was the PA announcer for the 2007 FIFA U-20 World Cup at Royal Athletic Park.
What have been some highlights of your announcing career to date?
One of the biggest was announcing the games at the old Memorial Arena when the Victoria Salsa went on to win the BCHL and Fred Page Cup titles in 2000-2001. The atmosphere in the building was simply electric. Also the first game that the ECHL Salmon Kings – Victoria’s first pro hockey team – played at Bear Mountain Arena. I also had the opportunity to head over to Vancouver and announce for a couple of Vancouver Ravens professional lacrosse games in, at that time, GM Place. Just to be in that environment and hear my voice on the incredible sound system they have there was very cool. I also think it’s pretty neat – although it shows my age – that I’m announcing players for the Royals now, like Trent Lofthouse, whose fathers I introduced back in the days of the old WHL Cougars.
Any particular comical moments or embarrassments that you can think of?
You know, one of the things I pride myself on is my preparation for each game, so fortunately, my live slip-ups have been minimal. I think there was one time when the Salmon Kings were playing the Utah Grizzlies that I may have said “Victoria Grizzlies goal scored by…,” and one time, in the middle of the summer, at a Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse game that I said. “Make sure you visit the Grizzlies souvenir booth during tonight’s game..,” but other than that, things have gone well.
When he is not working the PA systems at Royals’, Grizzlies’ or Shamrocks’ games, you’ll find Cliff LeQuesne at his day job as co-host of “The Q” radio’s morning show.
You mentioned your preparation…what goes into preparing for a game?
Obviously a key thing for me is the proper pronunciation of a player’s name, so I will be sure to get a copy of the WHL’s phonetic player list, which they have, and review that prior to each game. If I can’t get it for a team, or there is a new player, I’ll be sure to double check with a team manager or coach. I’ll get to the rink about an hour before the start and get set up an do an equipment and sound check, review all my team lists and game scripts – there are a number of sponsor and other announcements that I need to make throughout the course of a game – and then double and triple check the starting line-ups so that the names that I am announcing are actually the players that will be on the ice and posted up on the big screen.
I note at the start of each Royals game, there is a 3-4 minute general welcome and information announcement…is that recorded, since it is pretty much the same wording each night?
No. I like to read that live each night, simply because it serves as a bit of warm-up for me and to some degree, a check to ensure that everything is working A-OK.
Tell me about the “in-game” action and announcing. What happens up in the booth during games?
Everything I announce is scripted to some degree and I don’t go “live” without our game producer letting me know it is OK to do so. I have to coordinate my announcements with breaks in the action and such, but also with music and promotional activities. We also have to read various ad spots and other announcements over the course of the evening. It is all very well scripted and very well produced and I think the Royals are one of the most professional teams I have worked with in that regard.
What about when a goal or penalty has to be announced?
Obviously the referee passes that information on to the scorekeeper in the box and then he will pass it along to the official scorekeeper, who works right next to me, for verification and then announcement. I like to then get that announcement out to the crowd as fast as possible. Sometimes it is challenging to do, especially when two or three goals are scored in rapid succession and the crowd suddenly erupts in the middle of the first announcement.
Your voice is very characteristic, especially over a PA system, but you sound much different when I talk to you in person or hear you on the radio…why is that?
That’s a great question and I hear that all the time from people. I think the key difference is projection. There is a certain amount of projection one has to do when announcing and thus subtle differences in the accents and inflections that you have to put on words and phrases when you announce. For example, if I were to announce goals in the conversational manner in which we are speaking right now, it simply would not come across well over a PA system in an arena full of people. And when I talk about projecting, I don’t mean yelling. Some people mistake those two and when that happens, it can make for an uncomfortable experience for the fans. The same with announcers who go “over the top” trying to really emphasize a player’s name. Sometimes they take it too far. I like to find that nice balance, generally keeping things simple, but adding in some emphasis or excitement when it is needed, for example when a home team scores a big game winning goal in overtime or similar.
How do you know if you’ve had a good night announcing?
I like to think of my job as being very similar to that of a hockey referee. If no one really notices the referee during a game, then he has usually called a good game and controlled it well. Same with me. If no one really notices me and the announcements simply blend in seamlessly to the overall game experience, I know I’ve done a good job. And you can be sure that if I do make a mistake, just like fans do with the referees, someone will point it out to me very quickly!
What is the toughest part of your job?
Probably the toughest thing is the long days that I sometimes have to put in. My radio work as co-host with Ed Bain of The Q’s Morning Show means that I am up every weekday at 4:00am. On game day night’s, with post game wrap-ups and shows that I often do, I won’t leave the arena until well after 10:00pm and sometimes 11:00pm. If I was not such a good napper, I just couldn’t do that. I need to nap before a game so that I can be sharp and focused for what I need to do. Napping is GOOD!
Radio personality by day and iconic public address announcer by night, Cliff LeQuesne’s recognizable voice can be heard at every Victoria Royals’ home game.
You have been doing this – both the announcing and your radio work – for well over 40 years now…what keeps you coming back to the rinks?
It has been a real honour to be able to announce at the games. It is definitely a highlight of my career. It is also a passion and a love for the game and the sports that I announce, and a love for the community and a strong community focus that I have had for many years. It is my opportunity to contribute to that and give back in my own special way.
If the Vancouver Canucks and Rogers Arena came calling tomorrow, would Victoria have heard the last of your golden voice?
I think it would be very cool to be the back-up announcer to John Ashbridge of the Canucks and to work again at a facility like Rogers Arena. I think I would entertain that option if it came along!
Editor’s Note: We note that Cliff said “back-up” announcer, which leads us to believe that the Royals, Grizzlies and Shamrocks will be hearing Cliff’s deep, booming voice over their PA systems for many years to come!
Be sure to visit Island Sports News (www.islandsportsnews.net) for comprehensive news and game action photography from the Victoria Royals 2013-2014 season.