By John Hollis
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
DULUTH, Ga. – Nobody can ever say Dustin Bixby doesn’t love what he does.
How else could you explain why one man would gladly embrace the idea of wearing so many hats for the Gwinnett Gladiators?
The 26-year-old has his hand in just about every aspect of the ECHL hockey team’s communications, ranging from radio play-by-play to media relations to program and Web site design.
The pay isn’t great, and the hours can be arduous during the season, but he makes do.
“I’ve got the same dream as those guys on the ice,” said Bixby, whose official title of director of broadcasting and media relations hardly reveals all he does. “That’s to make it to the NHL someday. It’s about paying your dues to make it to the NHL.”
Now in his fifth season of professional hockey, Bixby plays an invaluable role in the Gladiators’ success, even if an unsuspecting public doesn’t always appreciate it.
In addition to announcing games on the radio and Internet, he’s also in charge of the billboards at Gwinnett Arena, press releases, updating the team’s Web site, taking care of video boards at games, working with the marketing department on advertising plans and handling programs, schedules and team publications.
The heavy load can be frustrating at times.
“You definitely get stretched thin sometimes,” Bixby said, “and it gets tough because you’re trying to make sure everything gets done and gets done as it should get done. You’ve got to be good at budgeting your time and very good at prioritizing what needs to get done. But sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done.”
But Bixby’s diligence hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“He’s really, really good at what he does,” Gladiators coach Jeff Pyle said. “It’s a tireless, thankless job, but I don’t know if he understands how important he is to this organization.
“If he were a player, he could play on my team anytime.”
Bixby grew up a fan of the Buffalo Sabres, often listening to their games on radio. When able to attend in person, he’d often pretend he was the team’s radio announcer and do play-by-play to himself.
Recognizing the limits of his own hockey abilities while in college at the University of Delaware, Bixby gave up on playing the game he loved and began calling the Blue Hens’ games on the radio.
After graduation, he sent a demo CD to the Mobile Mysticks, who hired him for his first job in July 2001. That organization later suspended operations for a year before reorganizing and moving to Gwinnett as the Gladiators.
Bixby’s current responsibilities often lead to seven-day work weeks during the season, making it tough to enjoy much of a regular life outside of the job.
But he believes it to be a sacrifice well worth it.
“I feel lucky to have the job I have here,” he said, noting the small number of professional play-by-play jobs available. “I really enjoy what I do. It’s just fun for me and really comes as second nature now.”