Most play-by-play announcers spend years toiling away in the minors, calling games in sparsely populated ballparks and arenas with the lofty goal of someday making it to the pros. But like the majority of the athletes they cover, many of these sportscasters will never reach the big leagues, even for the proverbial “cup of coffee.”
Alex Faust, the Los Angeles Kings new play-by-play telecaster for Fox Sports West, is the exception to the rule. At just 28, he is now the NHL’s youngest announcer.
“This is 100 percent surreal,” said Faust, SSH’12, who will call his first regular season Kings game on Saturday night in San Jose. After the franchise announced his hiring in June, he tweeted, “Opportunity of a lifetime, without a doubt.”
Faust will take over for Bob Miller, a legendary sportscaster who retired in April after calling Kings games for the past 44 years. The rookie and the retired star recently met to talk hockey over coffee, during which Miller imparted some sage advice to Faust: “Don’t come on too strong.”
“I can’t duplicate the impact Bob’s had on the game, but I can put a different spin on it,” said Faust, who will work alongside color analyst Jim Fox, a high-scoring Kings forward from 1980 to 1990. He’ll try to avoid catchphrases. “I don’t do shtick, I don’t do anything pre-planned,” he said of his announcing style. “I like to call plays somewhat off the cuff.”
‘There is no substitute for real-world experience’
Faust grew up in Brooklyn, New York. He liked baseball, rooting for the Yankees and playing the sport into his teens, but hockey didn’t pique his interest until he enrolled at Northeastern and started calling the game for the university’s student-run radio station WRBB. “There was no adrenaline rush quite like calling college hockey,” recalled Faust, who served as the play-by-play broadcaster for the men’s hockey team during his final two years at Northeastern. He had a soft spot for broadcasting hockey from high above the ice level in Matthews Arena, a grand edifice, he said, “with a lot of soul.”
He cut his teeth calling Northeastern baseball games on the tin roof overlooking Parsons Field in Brookline, Massachusetts. His first play-by-play call, in April 2008, was streamed live on GoNUxstream, which was then known as GoNU.TV. “It was a bare bones, two camera operation, but I remember having so much fun,” he recalled. “I knew I wanted to work in broadcasting, but getting the opportunity to call live games really sold me,” he added. “There is no substitute for real world experience, and I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to hone my craft at Northeastern.”
After graduating in 2012 with a combined degree in economics and political science, Faust did not go into sportscasting full time. Instead he worked as a data analyst for the accounting firm PwC while moonlighting as a broadcaster for a number of local, regional, and national networks. Although he had won the Jim Nantz Award in his junior year at Northeastern—an honor bestowed upon the nation’s best collegiate sports broadcaster—he did not yet believe that he had the chops to make it to the top of the profession. “It was a passion project,” he explained. “I enjoyed it so much, but I had no grand illusion that I could turn it into a full-time career.”
And yet he kept plugging away, filling his resumé with top-flight assignments. In his spare time, he called college hockey, football, and basketball for NESN, NBCSN, ESPNU, Fox Sports, and Westwood One Radio. He was known as the voice of the Northeastern men’s basketball team from 2013 to 2016—and he even called the university’s 2015 NCAA Tournament appearance for GoNUxstream. But it wasn’t until March 27, 2017, that he got his big break, calling his first NHL game for NBCSN. It was a late-season matchup between the Tampa Bay Lighting and the Chicago Blackhawks, and his call of Lighting forward Yanni Gourde’s game-winning goal in overtime reportedly “brought chills” to the spine of one Kings executive who had reviewed his demo reel. “Here come the Lightning,” Faust exclaimed, after a poke check freed up the puck for Gourde, who skated into Chicago’s offensive zone and ripped a snapshot over the glove hand of Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. “Yanni Gourde scooores!”
Chasing the dream
Faust racked up so much freelance work in 2016 that he decided to quit his job at PwC to pursue broadcasting full time. His last day at the accounting firm was Sept. 30, 2016—exactly one year before he called his first pre-season game for the Kings last weekend. “I started to believe that I could take it to the next level,” he explained of his decision to chase his dream. “I met so many people who told me, ‘You’re good at this, you’re going to do big things.’” The Kings—including President Luc Robitaille, who played 19 seasons in the NHL—were particularly impressed. “We had many great, qualified candidates,” Robitaille told NHL.com, “but, ultimately, we kept coming back to Alex.”
Faust, for his part, has worked tirelessly to hone his play-by-play style. Over the past few years, he’s loosed up a little bit, become less mechanical in his delivery. “When you’re on air, you want to be perfect,” said Faust, who counts Mike Emrick, Ian Eagle, and John Forslund among his favorite play-by-play announcers. “But I’ve tried hard to become less serious and have more fun.”
He is prepared for Saturday in San Jose, ready to drop the puck on the next stage of his career. But he wouldn’t be in this position now had it not been for his play-by-play experience at Northeastern. “Northeastern Athletics is a large part of who I am and where I am today,” he said.