The Day-to-Day of Play-by-Play: a Q&A with Dallas Stars’ Broadcaster Josh Bogorad
Josh sat down with DBD to talk about life, social media, and his first year as the Stars’ play-by-play broadcaster
Josh Bogorad was a new face to some Stars fans when he took over play-by-play broadcasting duties before last season, but he’s far from new to the booth—or to hockey in Texas, having spent seven years calling games for the CHL’s Corpus Christi IceRays from 2003 to 2010.
Still, it was an adjustment for Stars fans seeing a fourth play-by-play broadcaster in five seasons after a broadcast that had been anchored by the same duo for nearly two decades. Bogorad joined the Stars in 2013 as a radio host before moving to the TV studio desk, but after some juggling of duties after Dave Strader’s passing, Bogorad was eventually tabbed to take over the play-by-play role in 2018 when Daryl Reaugh moved back to color commentary.
And after a year listening to Bogorad’s work, it sounds like the Stars got it right. And little wonder, when you look at his resume. Bogorad had a four-year run as the top broadcaster in the league from 2007-11, three of which were spent in Corpus Christi before he and his wife moved to Alaska in 2010 to call games for the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. Bogorad has called almost a thousand hockey games in his career—a career that started when he talked his way into a job as a Los Angeles Kings correspondent for an LA radio station at just 16 years old. (You can hear the details of that story and more in this lengthy podcast.)
It’s never easy following one of the greats, and Bogorad had the unenviable task of following the play-by-play work of Ralph Strangis, Strader, and Reaugh. But after listening to Josh’s work for a whole season, fans have plenty of reason to hope that the booth, like the team on the ice, might be ready for some prolonged stability and excellence once again.
Back in late August, Josh agreed to sit down with DBD for an interview (after shuttling one of his two young boys from school). He discussed some of the unlikely things a minor league broadcaster gets asked to do, how to manage social media, his chemistry with Razor, and much more in our conversation, which you can read below.
DBD (Robert): How would you describe hockey in Dallas, Texas being unique, or at least different from some of the other places you’ve worked, like Alaska or Corpus Christi?
Josh Bogorad: The way I would describe it is how surprisingly educated and passionate a large group can be. What the fanbase knows, what they feel, what they study…they care about this team. I remember, I was in the minor leagues in the Central Hockey League in Corpus Christi, and they were an expansion team before I got there. They told me this story from the late nineties about how at second intermission, they had to line the exits to push people back in, because the crowd, used to the two halves of football and basketball games, thought it was time to go home.
And I know that’s not Dallas—but to think that you could take a town like that and then have a sustainable hockey team is just awesome. Dallas is a much larger market, a larger city; it’s a terrific sports town. And I think to see how far it’s come in one generation…the way I would describe it is surprisingly outstanding.
The 25th anniversary is something I consider myself very fortunate to have been a part of. It’s this incredible look back at the successes and the struggles, but more than that, the growth of the game. Seeing the USA hockey numbers grow, and seeing things like the Winter Classic, and seeing a spotlight shine in a way that maybe wasn’t possible three decades ago. And now you even hear Houston’s name pop up once in a while, too. I just think it’s really special, and personally, having spent the majority of my life in non-traditional hockey markets, and having spent the majority of my professional hockey broadcasting career in Texas…I love it. I love talking to fans, seeing the passion, and in the playoffs, having national broadcasters and media members come up to me and saying how they knew it was gonna be crazy in Nashville, but they were floored by what it was like in American Airlines Center. It’s surprisingly outstanding to the rest of the world, and I love that.
I read that one of the things that you do is you’ll listen back to yourself. You’re not big on listening to other broadcasters, trying to copy them, but that you’ll listen to your own work and try to get better. What sticks out about your first year in the NHL—of course, you’ve done probably 1,000 games of play-by-play in your career, but now that you’re in the bigs—what did you notice when you listen back to some of your calls? Did anything stick out that you were pleasantly surprised by, or anything that you hadn’t noticed before?
Josh: It’s a good question. [Ed. note: Personally, I’d say this was a really convoluted attempt at a question, but Josh was being nice.]
I don’t know that there’s one thing that sticks out. When I got the job, I felt like I was prepared for the job, having done it for a long time prior to getting here. At the same time, I fully understood that I was being introduced to a fanbase that didn’t know that about me, and couldn’t be expected to know that about me. But early in my career, I was always really focused on developing my call into something that I wanted. I feel like you can always get better, and I’ll always try to get better.
Some of it was familiarity with the crew, as well as not having done it in a long time, and trying to make sure there wasn’t any noticeable rust. But I think what I was happy about was once I started doing it, literally in that first game against Arizona, it quickly felt familiar. So I’m trying not to adjust too much of what I do, but I do focus on little things. If I hear something that I like, maybe figuring out a way you can do something like that without repeating it exactly. Or, if I hear something that makes me cringe, making sure I attempt to never say that again. *laughs*
So yeah, I really don’t think it was too much of a “go back and study and try to alter things,” because I went through a large portion of that early in my career. And then once I got here, it became about just making sure I kept working on what got me here.
You mentioned working with the crew. What was it like? I know Razor (Daryl Reaugh) said that around game 25 he felt like the two of you were starting to really click. Can you describe the experience of being in sync with someone at that level, with the energy of those games? What was that experience like from, say, game 25 on?
It fell into place really quickly from my perspective. It was so easy on the air, because Razor is so good at what he does. I think I said that it was probably more of an adjustment for him than it was for me, because I’ve listened to every word of the Stars’ broadcast for the last five years, having been a part of it in a different role. But even before that, as a hockey fan and a broadcaster climbing the ranks, the Stars’ broadcast is one I would listen to pretty regularly. So I’ve heard Razor so much more than he had heard me, that I knew what Razor was capable of, and what he brought to the table. It was my job to make sure I didn’t screw it up. *laughs*
I think the comment I didn’t expect to get that I got from a lot of people was, “It looks like you two have been working together for years.” And I think that’s a testament to how good Razor is; how prepared he is, and how much we both care about the broadcast. Some of that is natural and organic, and some of that is really just respecting the broadcast, and paying attention to the other guy. So it was probably an easier transition than I expected it to be, if you’re asking what the process was like. It just felt really fluid and natural, and obviously that’s what you hope for.
You talked about how prepared Razor was. When you’re preparing for a broadcast, what does that look like for you? In addition to—you guys will mention on the broadcast sometimes, like “Dotcom” and some of those people who give you ample help in putting all the research together, of course it’s a whole team. But what are some of the things you personally find yourself doing to prepare yourself for the next couple games on the schedule?
For me personally, what it looks like is, I have a scoresheet in front of me, and then I’ve got what’s called a spotting board in front of me, and I build one for every single game. And it’s just littered with a ton of information that you research well before a game. Some of it involves memorization, obviously, and others are notes that may apply. And I’ve got these massive boards that I put together, and they’re filled with a ton of info, some general, some specific. That’s a lot of my game prep, and then obviously there are game notes that are provided as well. So those are the three things I have in front of me: the game notes, my spotting board, and my scorebook that has additional information.
I mean, it’s a lot of prep work, and most of it never sees the light of day. I’ve likened it to studying for a test, how every single game is like its own test, and you don’t know what questions you’re going to be asked, so you have to study for everything. I feel like that’s probably the best way to describe it, because you can have these plans, and certainly you’ll be able to follow some of that format, but then five minutes in, something happens and it’s completely different, and you need to be ready on the fly for whatever player grabs the spotlight, or whatever event takes center stage. So the prep is extensive, including learning about teams, rivalries, and history. It’s pretty all-encompassing.
I can imagine it was probably a little bit of a transition for you, your wife, and your boys, with you going back in the play-by-play booth, going back on the road after being in the studio with a lot less traveling. How have they supported you, and what has that looked like for them? How have you all adjusted to being on the road for half of the year?
It’s been the biggest change of all of this. My wife is incredible. She’s amazing. I met her when I was a play-by-play broadcaster very early in my career, so for a long time, it was the only life that we knew. Then the transition to hosting was a big change, and it happened to coincide with our family growing, so this is really the first year that my kids ever had to experience road trips.
It’s an adjustment, but they’re amazing. The three of them are incredible. My wife has been through this entire journey with me, and she knew this was always a possibility. We both hoped that something like this would eventually come, but that doesn’t mean it was without obstacles. She’s incredible, the boys were awesome, and I feel really fortunate that I get to do this in a day and age where technology can close the gap so much. Whether it’s Facetiming with my kids on the road, or doing things that can make it seem like I’m not gone when I am.
I could wear it out and say it over and over again, but she’s amazing. None of this would have happened without her, and then once it did happen, none of it would be okay without her, because she turned into a super mom, and a super wife when my schedule didn’t allow me to be there. I think we made it work, and it wound up being a really special year for all of us.
What was the moment like when you found out that you got the job? Do you remember who told you, where you were when you found out last year?
Yeah, I remember every second of it, and I will for the rest of my life. I don’t even know if the specifics would translate, because personally, it was such a winding road to get there. But generally, the word I’ve used a lot for so many different elements of the last year is surreal. Because it’s really insanely rare to want to do one thing for your entire life, and have the goal be so specific. There are 31 of these jobs in the world. And the numbers would tell you that it’s practically an impossibility, and I still kept chasing after it—maybe foolishly sometimes. So with one specific goal that you’re looking for, when you spend your entire life chasing it, you envision that moment happening so many times. Countless times, countless ways that it could play out. And when it does, you almost start to wonder if it’s really happening.
Of course, it doesn’t play out in any of the ways that you thought it would, and it’s crazy that you spent all this time guessing and then it doesn’t work out like that at all. But when it did, getting to tell my wife...I mean, I couldn’t get to her quickly enough to tell her. Telling her was really, really incredible, because she’s lived practically every minute of this. And then getting to tell my brother, who’s my best friend. And then my parents, who’ve watched me have this dream since being a really young kid, and who’ve seen all these steps to get there. Those three interactions—telling my wife, calling my parents, and calling my brother—those were three of the absolute coolest things that will ever happen in my life.
You’ve talked a lot about your gratitude for where you are now. Where do you find that gratitude popping up in surprising places in your life? When does that gratitude really show up now?
I don’t think it stops. I think it’s an ongoing process. I think that initially, when it happens, the outpouring of support that I got, and then people who reached out to me, some who I hadn’t talked to in a really long time, colleagues that I came up through the ranks with, friends I’d lost touch with. It’s an endless list, because there are so many people who played such a big role in getting me here. I don’t know that there’s a time when it becomes more prevalent, but I am just incredibly appreciative of everyone along the way who helped me out, who gave me a shot, who believed in me. And I don’t see that ever stopping. I don’t ever want to stop being grateful for the way everything has played out.
You’ve mentioned before that you’ve done a lot of things in the past, especially in Corpus Christi, that weren’t really part of the whole plan, that weren’t in your job description. But you’ve also talked about how some of those experiences ended up being really helpful later on as part of your repertoire. What’s one of those things where you found yourself looking back, saying “Wow, I’m so glad I did this random thing”?
So, I had just gotten the job in Corpus Christi. I had just moved out there, first week on the job, and the general manager calls me in and says, “Okay, we’re restructuring everything, and we need someone to head up the ice girls department, and we need you to put together open tryouts, and basically help pick this year’s dance team.”
And I’m like, you’ve gotta be kidding me. And the reason I bring that one up is because it was the first one, and it couldn’t have been more off my job description.
It was just this series of things later on, too. “Oh, we have to change websites and email servers. Josh, you’ve been here longest, go find out how that works, and now you’re in charge of the company email.” I mean, it literally didn’t matter if it was dancers, or email, or broadcast contracts because we were changing flagship stations, or literally booking our schedule because there was literally no one else doing it.
Some of these obviously played a larger role than others, but it was truly from my first week with that job where you were doing things like that. The office staff is so small at the minor leagues, and anybody who’s been there can probably appreciate that. It’s work by committee, and you don’t know when it’s gonna be your turn to do something. Whether it was in communications or public relations or team services or player immigration, recruiting players, travel...I literally planned the travel for our team in Alaska (Alaska Aces), and I was responsible for all the hotels, and the planes, and the buses. So it’s this endless list of all these other things you do while focusing on the one that you care about most.
And then it was, “Okay, Josh has proven he can handle that task. We have ‘fill-in-the-blank’ task, have Josh do it.” And then you just wind up doing all these things, and the next thing you know, you’re in a job interview at another team, and the hiring director asks you if you’ve ever done ‘fill-in-the-blank’, and you can respond, “As a matter of fact, I have. And not only have I done that, but if you need X,Y, or Z, I can do that, too.”
I think when you’re coming up through the ranks of the minors like I did, making yourself as valuable as possible is key to opening different doors of opportunity. And with those doors came increased broadcast exposure, TV contracts, other things that I never could have foreseen when they were asking me to build a new website in the mid-2000s for a minor league hockey team. So that’s what I mean by that. It was a lot of different jobs rolled into one, and I tell young broadcasters who reach out to me for advice that on the air, off the air, do as much as you can, whatever you can. Because you never know when the perfect job you’re looking for is going to require you to have done this seemingly random, unrelated task that you never would have predicted would come in handy.
Who is someone in the Dallas organization that you think is criminally underappreciated? I’m sure there are a lot of people, but who’s someone you couldn’t live without, and a lot of people maybe don’t realize it?
That’s a really difficult question.
Yeah. *laughs* Especially because if you name one person, then everyone else might feel left out.
It will sound like such a cop-out answer, but there really are so many people who don’t get the credit that they deserve. From a telecast standpoint, the crew we work with is top-notch. Everywhere we go—and I literally mean this—every single stop we make in the NHL, I’ve had members of the other team’s crew, other broadcasters tell me how fortunate I am that I get to work with the crew that we have. I think we’ve got the best producer in the league, I think we’ve got the best director in the league. I know we’ve got the best color commentator in the league.
Our associate producers, I mean, they get called off to other jobs. Locally, nationally, even globally when the Olympics come around. The biggest shows want these people, and that’s not a coincidence.
On the TV side alone, our producer, Mike Leary, our director, Mark Vittorio. You’ve maybe heard their names, but they don’t get enough credit. John Sponsler, associate producer. Doug Foster, who you referred to as “Dotcom” earlier. They don’t get enough credit for how hard they work and what they do.
Then you’ve got the front office, and there are so many people that are just like that. You see what they do from a community standpoint, and how hard people work, whether it’s Christa Melia and Chelsea Livingston with the work they do with the foundation. Or guys like Matt Bowman or Daniel Venegas, and what they do with tickets and customer service. Or Dan Stuchal, who’s been a jack of all trades. Tom Holy, Ben Fromstein, and Joe Calvillo who win numerous Dick Dillman awards because of the PR and communication staff they put together.
You asked me a question earlier about how I would describe hockey in Dallas, hockey in Texas. And I think a big reason why this is such a successful franchise, such a successful endeavor, is because of the people on the staff. When I go to other cities and people rave about our communication staff, you know that it’s not that way everywhere. When they rave about our behind-the-scenes telecast, it’s because it’s not that way everywhere. And when you see the work that our foundation does, and you see it get applauded league-wide, it’s because it’s not that way everywhere. Same with our season ticket numbers jumping.
And we haven’t even mentioned the work that our in-arena production staff does, and they as a whole get a ton of credit, but they individually don’t get the credit they deserve. Whether it was Jason Danby before, or Kevin Harp now, or Cody Eastwood and Jeff Toates, who oversee the incredible digital content this team puts out now…I said it’s a cop-out answer because I probably gave you a dozen names right there, but it’s really not. This organization is run so ridiculously well, and every single one of them is under-appreciated.
What is something that you learned during your time in the studio that, now that you’ve back in the play-by-play chair, that you’ve found helpful? That question wasn’t worded very well.
Well, it didn’t help me in my role now, but I did learn as a studio host that Brent Severyn could probably kick anybody’s butt. *laughs*
I think it was a good behind-the-scenes introduction to the aforementioned crew, how they work, and what goes into how they put a show together. It helped me to make sure I was matching their level of preparation and professionalism, and to see what a well-oiled machine it was.
I got to familiarize myself with the broadcast and the way they like to do things. You watch the games differently than when you’re a play-by-play broadcaster, although I don’t know that it directly aided me in doing play-by-play now.
Probably the biggest help was just getting a closer look at the crew and the broadcast, things like timing and their specific flow. You realize how many decisions go into what you eventually see on your screen, because a choice has to made about what you want to show the viewer right then, and not every team shows you the same stuff.
How was your experience, being on a regional and even national stage with your work, nowadays when everyone gets feedback on social media? How do you integrate both getting feedback from the fans watching the broadcast and being true to the craft you developed that got you here?
I think you have to have confidence in yourself and what you do. You have to believe that there’s a reason you’re in that position in the first place.
So much of broadcasting, in my opinion, is familiarity. It’s passionate, and it’s certainly subjective. Early in my career, I sent a sample of some of my broadcasts to a couple different people to get their opinion. And two people listened to the exact same clip. One of them wrote back, “I like your call, but it sounds like you’re holding back a little bit. There’s another level I’m sure you can find.” And then another person said, “Your call’s pretty good, but sometimes it feels like you’re forcing it a little bit.” And it literally was the exact same clip.
And I think it was a really important thing for me to hear, because I realized that people are gonna hear what they hear, and the fact is that they’re all gonna hear something different from what I hear—and none of them are wrong. They just hear what they hear. And then you inject the passion into it when people are elated, when good things are happening, or they’re bummed out when bad things are happening.
I love talking to hockey fans, talking to Stars fans. At games, at practices, I really enjoy chatting with them. The passion we talked about earlier is infectious, and I still feel like a sports fan at heart, and I have been my entire life. That’s why I so badly wanted to get into this industry.
So I don’t mind any of it. I feel very fortunate that I felt welcomed with open arms by the fanbase, and I’m aware that nobody bats a thousand. But I feel like these days, with social media being what it is, the response from the fanbase was really incredibly positive. If I could say thank-you to every one of them personally, I would. Because I know the lineage of Stars broadcasters. And as a hockey fan, and as a professional broadcaster, I know the unimaginable company that I’m in, which goes back to the gratitude we talked about earlier. I mean, that’s storybook stuff.
I can’t really change anyone’s opinion, and I’m not trying to. But overall, I’m really appreciative of the way that I was received. And when criticism comes, I can always go back to that demo reel I sent out a lifetime ago, and remember that everyone’s going to hear something different, and be okay with it.
I think when you’re dealing with something so subjective-
-and at the apex of people’s emotions…
Right. You just have to take that approach. It’s just the nature of the industry. I’m not seeking out positive or negative feedback. But like I said, I really enjoy chatting with the fans. I want to hear from them. But, I mean, you could play world-renowned calls from broadcasters and get a hundred different takes on them.
I think a comment that I got a lot throughout the year from a lot of different people was, “I didn’t know what to expect when they hired you, but I’ve really enjoyed listening to you.” And I’m appreciative of that on another level, because I know that it’s not always easy to give an unknown person a chance. And as many games as I’ve called in my career, I have full perspective and recognition that I was an unknown to the majority of the Dallas Stars market. And that’s totally fair. But to the people who went in with an open mind, even if they maybe felt reserved about doing so, it was nice to hear that from a lot of people. I appreciate people’s willingness to listen and to give me a chance.
All I hope to do going forward is to make people happy when they’re watching and listening to a Stars game.
Finally, what’s something that you would want readers of Defending Big D to know about you?
That’s always a tough question for me, because despite the fact that I talk for a living, I don’t necessarily love talking about myself. I’d much rather talk about Tyler Seguin’s shot, or the way Miro skates.
But for the Defending Big D community, I’ll say this: moving here six years ago, and quickly trying to indoctrinate myself with the Stars community, Defending Big D played a pretty large role in that. I’ve read a lot, and I’ve gotten the chance to meet people like yourself in person. I’m a big fan of the work the website puts out. I think there are really talented people there, and I’m fully aware that it’s a labor of love. But I think at it’s core, that’s the most passionate that it can get.
So I think that I would just like them to know that, whether it was as the new guy in town, or the radio studio host, or on the TV desk, or now as the play-by-play broadcaster of the team, that we never for a second take for granted their passion, how much they care. I hope they realize—and I think they do—the impact that they have, and how much we appreciate what they do.
[By mutual agreement, some of the above dialogue was lightly edited for clarity and length]