The ‘next man up’ mentality is what allowed the Penguins to battle through the injuries and illness they faced throughout the course of the regular season and earn a spot in the playoffs. They’ve had to continue to embrace that mindset not just on the ice, but off the ice as well.
Paul Steigerwald and Colby Armstrong were called up to the booth for Game 4 at PPG Paints Arena and Game 5 at Madison Square Garden to sub in on the Penguins Radio Network broadcast for Josh Getzoff and Phil Bourque, who were unavailable due to league COVID protocol.
Steigerwald typically hosts the Penguins Live pregame show with Armstrong, who then moves over to the AT&T SportsNet broadcast from puck drop on. Brian Metzer joins Steigerwald for postgame while also handling intermissions, so he moved up to serve as host alongside Penguins team reporter Michelle Crechiolo.
“We have this next man up mentality with the Penguins because of how we’ve seen the team do it over the years,” Steigerwald said. “I think we have a great team of people who are all willing to chip in and do whatever they need to do to get the job done.”
Being back in the booth was familiar territory for Steigerwald. In the 1985-86 season, he started out as a color commentator alongside legendary play-by-play voice Mike Lange on the Penguins radio broadcasts. Steigerwald was named the team’s radio play-by-play broadcaster in 1999, and seven years later, he moved over to that same role on television, one he would occupy until 2017.
“It was really a thrill for me because it was like turning back the clock. I felt like I was going back to the times where I really enjoyed my job the most,” Steigerwald said. “Especially having the opportunity to go to New York was really cool, because I’ve always enjoyed doing games at Madison Square Garden. Just the atmosphere of being in New York City for a big game like that was really kind of a bonus. It’s not something you think you’re ever going to get a chance to do again, so I really did relish it. ”
There wasn’t much of an adjustment from a standpoint preparation. The biggest adjustment back in the booth for Steigerwald was getting used to the pace of the game again, which has picked up speed since the last time he called play-by-play in 2017.
“My eyes aren’t as good as they were when I was younger,” Steigerwald said with a laugh. “I just wanted to make sure that I did all the things you’re supposed to do with the format, sponsorships, and all the technical aspects of doing the game. But it was a real thrill. It was an honor to get a chance. to do Penguins hockey on the radio again, and fun to be part of meaningful hockey. It was just great to be able to call two games of such magnitude. ”
The chemistry between Steigerwald and Armstrong instantly clicked because of their time spent together doing pregame shows. And Armstrong, a former Penguins player, had recently gotten some experience in the radio booth after filling in for Bourque earlier this season, which also helped.
“I think it would have been a lot more difficult for us to do the games like we did if we weren’t already doing pregame shows,” Steigerwald said. “We’re so immersed in Penguins hockey because of the other responsibilities that we have. Stepping into call a game was a lot easier than it would have been if we weren’t involved in the broadcast already.”
When working in a team sport like this, the mindset on the hockey side when it comes to adversity permeates to everybody in the organization. And because of the resilience surrounding the Penguins as a whole, the successful last-minute rearranging in the radio booth was a perfect example of that.
“I thought Michelle and Metz did a great job on the pregame and postgame shows,” Stiegerwald said. “It just shows you that everybody really cares, and I’m just glad that I got a chance to do some hockey. Now Josh and Phil can jump back in there.”