By Christine Troyke
Gwinnett Daily Post
DULUTH, Ga. – Chris Peace is the public address announcer for the Gwinnett Gladiators’ hockey team and has been since the ECHL franchise relocated from Mobile, Ala., five years ago. Peace, in his 14th season of professional hockey, is also the Gladiators director of marketing.
He has nearly 20 years of experience as a sports marketing consultant and PA announcer. He is a freelance film/video producer and is the voice in many television and radio commercials.
Peace is also a former television news anchor, sportscaster and disc jockey.
Peace spoke with staff writer Christine Troyke – only half the time in seriousness – about the voice, music and working for NASA in this installment of “Getting to know ….”
CT: Obviously this medium is not the one people will most recognize you from. It seems a shame to waste those silky smooth pipes on print media, but there’s nothing we can do about that.
CP: (covering his mouth with his hand) Luke, I am your father. Come with me to the dark side.
CT: It’s James Earl Jones everyone.
CP: This is CNN.
CT: So were you a high-schooler with this voice?
CP: Yeah. At 13 years old, I woke up and said (in his regular bass voice), ‘Mom, where are the Cheerios?” She said, “Who the hell is this on my house?”
CT: Aahhhh, there’s a strange man in my house!
CP: Actually, it was sort of later in life, it was Marlboros and Jack Daniels the put me there.
(Sobering) But actually, it is funny because when you get a voice, when you get known for having a deep voice at an early age, it’s a two-pronged thing. Back then, that’s what disc jockeys sounded like. It was always that sort of perception in radio. Over the year’s it’s changed totally. Now you listen to disc jockeys, or radio personalities, there’s no requirement for a deep voice anymore.
But for my era, coming up in the 70s and 80s, it was kind of predestined if you had a deep voice.
Plus I grew up in Malibu, that area of California. For example, one of my boyhood friends was Bob Denver’s son, Pat. So he was always encouraging me. My first girlfriend was Teresa Eubanks, daughter of Bob Eubanks of the “Newlywed Game.” So you grow up in that environment, what are you going to do? You’re going to go into radio or TV or some sort of entertainment business. Especially when you’ve got a voice like this.
CT: Man, you can’t make this stuff up can you?
CP: It’s bizarre.
CT: How many places have you lived over the years?
CP: (Chuckling) Let’s see. I’m from California, born and raised. I spent years in Alabama. Went to Florida State University. Went to Montana.
CT: Where in Montana?
CP: Big Sky. Just south of Bozeman, right between Bozeman and Yellowstone.
CT: Pretty place.
CP: Oh, yeah. It’s where I’m going eventually. It’s kind of a strange thing, you go somewhere and go, “This is where I belong.” Being adopted, I don’t really know my heritage. But I know it has to do something with an Alpine environment, the rarefied air kind of thing. I can’t stand heat.
CT: Um, interesting that you’re in Atlanta. Hot-lanta.
CP: I love snow and winter. I must have some Swedish blood.
CT: So after Montana?
CP: Tennessee. Technically, when I went to work for Rockwell International, the aerospace contractor, I lived in Florida for about two years.
I lived in Boise for a little while. Then I lived in Shreveport, Louisiana, for a little while.
So what are we up to eight, nine states?
CT: How do you decide on the music that gets played during the games? Are there certain standbys for certain situations that you just have to use?
CP: We have 3,780-something songs available. With technology now, it’s all PC based and it’s a mouse click away. The frustrating thing is there’s only a certain amount that can fit on one screen.
For example, every goal, obviously, we have to play Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2.” Then the fans have their own chant to it and it’s become another tradition here.
CT: What is it that they say?
CP: This is how amazing technology is (reaching for his laptop). “Goal!!!! Gladiators!!!!” And we hit the (computer generated) horn because we don’t have a real horn. It sure would be nice to have a real horn … if there’s any marine contractors out there that would like to provide one. (Starting the song) now the fans are going crazy (chanting), “We’re going to beat the hell out of you! You! You! You! You!”
CT: Isn’t that a Kansas City Chiefs thing?
CP: We’ve adopted it. And for our use, it’s, “We’re going to beat the H-E-double-hockey-sticks out of you.”
But the way it’s designed is I have all these different screens, each screen has about 20 or 40 (audio choices).
I’m lucky in one sense that I do have a photographic memory. It was the only way I got through school. I’m one of those people that just got lucky and that’s again what gives me an edge, that’s how I manage a game in terms of what I have to do with PA and music.
The psychology of a hockey home crowd kind of changed over the years. It used to be that the announcer was totally neutral. Somewhere along the way, now it’s almost a prerequisite that you have to be a, quote-unquote, cheerleader.
We’ve done some mathematics here and we have a significant home edge. The home-ice advantage here is amazing. Two years ago we won 30 out of 36 or something. It was insane.
(For the record, it was 29 wins, four regulation losses and three shootout losses.)
It’s one thing to have the talent on the ice and have guys that perform. You’ve got to have an excellent team. But it’s the other intangibles that give you an intimidating home venue. And by golly, we’ve gotten to that point.
CT: I’ve always been really impressed with the pregame video intros. You do those, combining the video highlights with a theme song, usually two a year, right?
CP: We try to do two with some sort of theme for the playoffs.
CT: How do you come up with those? Was it something you had done somewhere else and thought it could be done here?
CP: The one thing that was unique about Atlanta, I’ve got to give credit to NightGlass Media, because we’ve got access to national-level editors at a reasonable price that a minor-league team can afford. That partnership has really paid dividends in terms of the quality that we’re putting in on these videos.
So it’s a combination of that and my 25 years in radio that gives me contacts in the music industry. For example, Saliva’s “Ladies and Gentlemen,” we knew about that almost a year before anybody else did because of my relationship with a record rep who said, hey, you’ve got to hear this.
CT: That’s been my second favorite so far.
CP: We technically got rights to use it before anybody else.
The combination of being able to take that to those kind of editors and come up with an idea that says, this is what I want to see, this is what I’d like to do and then have them execute at that level … people need to realize what they’re seeing is top of the line, award-winning stuff.
Because of the talent access here in Atlanta, it’s not typical for a minor league team to have that quality.
CT: What’s the most difficult part of your job on a game day?
CP: Actually, it’s getting the ice to where it really has that … wait a minute, that’s not my job.
It’s getting all those merchandise items and displays … no, wait, that’s not it either.
It’s working with the radio station … no, that’s not my job.
Actually, making sure that all the trash cans do have liners in them.
CT: Moving on.
CP: Well, if I take it seriously …
CT: Why would you want to do that?
CP: To put the spotlight on my colleagues, co-workers, there’s this feeling among fans and everybody that doesn’t do this for a living that basically you have it made. The game time is 7:35 so I guess they figure, hey, about 6 o’clock, they come in and get ready for a game. Then they work for three hours and that’s their job.
Let me tell you something, the hours that go in by everybody on this staff, to get ready for a game (are incredible). It’s 9 in the morning to maybe 11, 12 at night.
What people forget is how much pre-time is invested when you work with a team like this. And the fact that you don’t take the week off. If you have a Friday, Saturday, Sunday game schedule like we did for “Pink in the Rink,” nobody’s getting a day off, they’re going seven-days a week.
CT: So what kind of music do you listen to personally?
CP: (Dead pan) Personally I like showtunes and ABBA.
CP: If I was to do a best of the Peace-man, it would have Merle Haggard, little bit of Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” and also I’m very, very partial to the Wiggles. And every once in a while I like to throw in a little Marilyn Manson.
No, my personal tastes, again because I did a syndicated classic country show for years, that got in my blood. But I’m an old rock and roll disc jockey.
It runs the gamut. To say eclectic, no, I’m crazy eclectic. You can’t do what I do for a living, you can’t be in this business without having a wide range.
The only thing I won’t listen to is, uh, nothing. I love it all.
CT: What other sports have you been involved with?
CP: (More sarcasm) Championship curling. I’ve done that.
CT: Is that right before the Olympic level?
CP: No, that’s Junior Olympics.
I’ve also done competition tiddlywinks.
CP: (Getting serious at last) Baseball at all levels. Basketball – I even got to do a Lakers game. Backup PA.
CT: Was that in the Magic era?
CP: No. It was right after I got married and we moved back out there. It was ’94, ’95.
Obviously hockey. Let’s see. Auto racing. Particularly out at Bakersfield. I did that for years. Then the Craftsman Truck Series started and I became the spokesman for it. That was a fun experience.
Boxing. Lately, I’ve gotten in to the ultimate fighting scene. Done a lot of that of that stuff, particularly the mixed martial arts stuff that’s going on around the South. It’s amazing how many gigs I end up doing like that where it’s small towns outside of Knoxville or in Alabama. And I’ve got 800 or 1,000 people just going nutty for this. And it’s bloody. I mean, it’s snap, there goes his arm, OK, that match is over.
CT: OK …
CP: Wait a minute, I’m not done. Arena football. Beach volleyball.
CT: That job must suck.
CP: Oh, it was terrible. Especially for a pasty white Casper the friendly PA announcer like me. Do they make SPF 3000?
CT: Yes. I have some.
CP: It’s like I almost wonder what I haven’t done. I did a couple of ski events.
CT: You’ve also been a TV news anchor? When and where was that?
CP: Geez, several places. I paid my dues in Huntsville, Ala.
But I’ve been around. I’ve done news, sports and weather. I even did lifestyles for a while on the noon show.
CT: I’m not sure if I believe this – you worked for NASA?
CP: Oh yeah. Actually I worked for Rockwell International, an aerospace company that no longer exists. But Rockwell had a long heritage of basically providing the propulsion elements.
I got involved in the shuttle program. Of all things they called it public affairs, but that’s technically marketing and public relations for NASA.
I was in the launch control center during the 51L Challenger disaster.
So you can imagine what my life was like for that year and a half, two years after that.
We even got to the point, it was such a bad time in terms of NASA and everything else, that what we found out real quick was all these engineers had absolutely no ability to talk to the press on camera and they looked like fools.
So my job for a while, particularly because I was in television news and trained in that, my job for almost a year was to coach these guys on how to talk with the media.
It was like Dan Quayle. People used to tell me, that knew him personally, he’s not an idiot. He’s an extraordinary intelligent man. But you stick a camera on him and he flips into some sort of zone.
Again, most of my responsibility was to do archival or public relations kind of films and engineering kind of films that were briefing films for Congress. It was back in the day of 16 millimeter, right before the transition to video. It was a pretty interesting period.
CT: What was your first car?
CP: It was a ’72 AMC Matador. I stole it. (Not really.)
Oh, my first car actually, that I bought, was a ’72 Buick Centurion with a 455 under the hood. It was a tank.
CT: Do you have favorite movies? Gladiator?
CP: I’m a big John Wayne fan so anything with the Duke in it. Westerns in general. In fact that’s on my bucket list, if I have to become an extra in the background, I will be in a Western film.
CT: Cat or dog?
CT: Hotdog or hamburger?
CP: Hmmm. Burger. Burger with double, no, triple meat, cheese, onions and no bun. Three patties. Two function as the bun.
The fun thing is to go to Krystal late night and say, “I’d like a sack full.” “Would you like cheese on those?” “No, hold the cheese and hold the bun.” The pause is always just hilarious.
CT: Drive or fly?
CT: Beach or mountain?
CP: Mountain. I actually would one day like to go to a ski resort at the beach. I can’t seem to find that. It’s just so difficult to find a lake that does downhill.
CT: Unless it’s drained.
CP: That’s not a lake. It’s a pond. They’ve renamed it, officially, Pond Lanier. I live on it. Geez, what a mess.
I used to be able to go out my door, 300 yards, and go fishing. Now it’s like 4,284 yards.
CT: What are you talking about? We don’t have any problems. People are going to be able water their lawns this summer. It was only in November the governor was praying for rain. But now we don’t need to worry about it. Lanier is only in a, what, 15 foot deficit still.
CP: Well global warming is going to kill us all in the next six months anyway.
CT: Fish or cut bait?
CP: Fish. I’m huge into trout fishing. It’s one of the reasons I live here.