As the world came to a halt in the spring of 2020, UNO hockey broadcaster Terry Leahy was in Denver with the Maverick hockey team preparing for the playoffs.
When he landed in Denver on a Wednesday evening, he heard almost immediately about what was going on in the world around him. First, he heard about Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson having COVID. Shortly after, he heard that the NBA planned on shutting down.
“The dominoes started falling, and it became obvious the NCHC had to shut down,” Leahy said.
The bad news continued into the next morning with conference basketball ending before the NHL finally announced its closure.
“There was no choice,” Leahy said. “Safety was critical. Trev Alberts, Coach Gabinet, Mike Kemp, and all the others in the hockey conference I’m sure moved decisively as a matter of safety.”
The last domino had fallen, and Leahy and the Mavericks headed back home to Omaha. While spending time in limbo until the start of the delayed season, Leahy has had plenty of time to reflect on his years with Maverick hockey.
“The 2000 run to Detroit and the conference semis and the finals stand out. It featured the vaunted, ‘Tuesday Night Play-In Game,’ when our fans made so much noise. The beloved Civic Auditorium is gone, but that vacant lot downtown still shakes from that night,” he said.
Leahy is looking forward to the return to play, especially now that games will be on home ice for the Mavericks.
“As an Omahan I am certainly excited it’s at Baxter. I have lived in that neighborhood my whole life and never tire of driving by that beautiful barn at 64th Ave. and Center,” he said.
Leahy notes that he thinks highly of the NCHC model. The pod/bubble had success in the NHL and NBA, and he knows that there is a tremendous amount of work going into making it all happen
The NHL bubble had as few personnel in the hub cities as possible. Many broadcasters worked remotely, commentating from a feed that was broadcasted to them from the bubble. The broadcasting plans for Leahy and his partners are still being worked out, but throughout the summer, all options have been discussed between him and his partners. Whatever the protocol, Leahy and his partners are ready for any plan.
With COVID cases still high in Nebraska, Leahy is concerned, but confident that the NCHC and UNO administration will have tight protocols in place to make sure everyone is safe. As for concerns regarding broadcasting and the technological side of the return, Leahy says this: “As far as carrying out a broadcast, we will make it work.”
Rest assured Maverick fans, whatever comes about with this return to play, Leahy and his partners will make sure you can cheer on your Maverick hockey team.
There are many things to look forward to in this return. For Leahy, the sounds of the hockey rink are what he looks forward to the most.
“One thing that made the NHL playoff work from a broadcast standpoint without crowds was just the sounds of this great game: skates, pucks hitting the glass, boards, and metal,” he said.
He adds that he’ll miss contact with the fans and student-athletes, but he looks forward to the day when we can all return to normal.
“It’s been a strange October and November without college hockey, which mirrors this crazy year which started with the Mavs in Maine,” Leahy said Seems like years ago. I am looking forward to the start.”
It’s time to grab your face paint and jersey, Maverick fans. If Dec. 1 isn’t already circled on your calendars, it’s time to do it. Leahy and his partners return to the air in order to bring play by play action as the Mavericks take the ice against Colorado College.