I’ve been told the hardest part of love is learning to let go. One of the hardest parts of letting go of my job as the voice of the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League was letting go of the people who helped me thrive in that role.
Mike Mangan, a Rubino Productions cameraman with whom I worked frequently on Trib Total Media Hockey Night, passed away recently. Although I knew him as a contractor before I knew him as a coworker, it didn’t take me long to realize what a good all-around human he was.
Our paths first crossed about eight or nine years ago, when the MSA Sports Network entered into an agreement with Rubino Productions to live-stream my first radio show, The PIHL Power Play, on the MSA website. Mike was there that first night with John Rubino, my own future fearless leader, who, legend has it, sat out in our office, listened to me ramble about high school hockey stats for five minutes and said to himself, “I could build a company around this sucker…”
Little did I know.
Sam Hall, the mensch better known as Channel 4’s morning traffic reporter, worked with me a number of times at MSA on football and soccer webcasts. He was one of my favorite MSA regulars, very easygoing and solicitous, and he practiced every pointer he gave me. Leading by example, he was always asking anyone who helped him prepare for a broadcast, right up until sign-on, “What’s your name?” So I made darn sure I knew Mike’s name and remembered to thank him and John every night.
Another thing I did early in my career was make myself a sponge to workplace behavior. I paid attention to the ones whose feathers were easily ruffled by mistakes and untoward events, self-inflicted or not–the ones who subliminally, and sometimes, not so subliminally, made it all about them and not about the product. For all my faults, I promised myself I would never be that way. I paid just as much, if not more, attention to the ones who approached every broadcast, under any circumstances, with a positive, collaborative, life-is-too-short attitude.
In this respect, Mike was a model employee. He respected my artistry–and I his, of course–as well as my journalistic input. Whenever something didn’t turn out the way we wanted to, whether it was flubbing an intro or interview, or talking unwittingly before he was rolling, he was just as willing as I was to take it again. Mike never lost patience with me, and he never lost belief in our product. As he told one belligerent team official who didn’t want league-approved filming of a particular game, without batting an eye, “When [then-PIHL Commissioner] Ed Sam tells me to pack up and go home, I’ll pack up and go home.” He always put the job ahead of himself.
I helped Rubino out as an emergency sit-in for Bob Sebastian a couple times, but my first game as a permanent member of his for-hire crew was between West Allegheny and Moon at the old Airport Ice Arena. Jon Levitt, another old friend and member of the PIHL family who left us far too soon, scored the winning goal as the Indians beat the rival Tigers. “Overtime Mike,” as he would do for us many more times, captured every shift and got my good side (assuming I had one all those pounds–er, years–ago) when I interviewed the perpetually well-spoken Levitt after the game, and you’d think Mike had been doing this longer than the guys who shot the Penguins’ games.
Essentially, John would say the same about me. That was his philosophy, plain and simple: find people who love what they do, and put them in best possible position to succeed at whatever it was.
Not for nothing, he normally kept a short bench, so, in those days, I only worked with a few different cameramen during the PIHL season. At one point, oddly enough, a number of the games Mike and I worked together went to overtime. John picked up on this during one broadcast, and we all had a friendly laugh about it. He called him by his aforementioned PIHL Network nickname, which immediately stuck. It was fitting, though, honestly, because Mike, like the rest of us, was there ’til he was done.
I’ll never forget my first full season on the job, which ended with us simulcasting victories by Mars, Bishop Canevin and Upper St. Clair in Pennsylvania Cup state championship games live through multiple outlets–and yes, the last one went to overtime. Over the years I battled through head colds, lost voices and upset stomachs to call those games, mainly because I loved the work and, back then, needed it badly. Afterward, Mike said to me, “Boy, you are a warrior.” Coming from him, it meant a lot, and now, looking back on his life, it means more.
A proud veteran, John was fond of one Marine adage in particular (sorry, I hate saying “old adage,” because, when you think about it, aren’t all adages old?), which I would later adopt in civilian life: “Take care of the people who take care of you.” By shooting some of the most professional-looking hockey coverage I ever had the pleasure of narrating, Mike took care of all of us. He helped make everyone at the rink look and feel like big-leaguers.
John gave me another formative piece of advice, in the wake of my very first game, after otherwise extolling me: “Be careful with those names. For some reason, people like having [them] pronounced correctly.”
If you were a member of the PIHL community who was ever immortalized by Rubino Productions as a player, coach or what-have-you, you would do well to remember “Overtime Mike” Mangan (MAYNG’-gun).