By Angela Busch
Naples Daily News
ESTERO, Fla. – About a year after seven-year Florida Everblades coach Gerry Fleming announced he was leaving the franchise, another big change has come for the Blades.
Five-year broadcaster Kevin Reiter is giving up the airwaves to become the the Blades’ new director of marketing, the team announced on Monday. Reiter will be replaced by John Curtis, who called games for the ECHL’s Reading (Pa.) Royals from 2001-2005.
Since then, Curtis had been working as alternate governor for a potential ECHL team in Myrtle Beach, which had relocated from the former Pee Dee Pride of Florence, S.C. During that time, Curtis wasn’t a full-time broadcaster but did call occasional games for the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers and the Bossier-Shreveport (La.) Mudbugs of the Central Hockey League.
One of Curtis’ most memorable moments as a broadcaster for the Royals happened at then-TECO Arena, when Reading lost to the Blades 3-2 in Game 5 of the Conference finals in the 2004 ECHL playoffs.
“It’s ironic how it worked out, and I feel really lucky to have landed here in Florida,” Curtis said. “It might take me a period to really get rolling again, but (broadcasting) is sort of like riding a bike. You never forget how to do it.”
Reiter’s decision to leave the booth after 11 years — his career started in minor-league baseball — comes nine months after he and his wife, Elizabeth, had their first child, Patrick.
“It was hard this year to be away from (Patrick), and it only would’ve gotten harder,” Reiter said on Monday, adding that Blades general manager Craig Brush had originally mentioned the marketing position to him late in the 2007-08 season.
“At that time I wasn’t quite ready to stop (broadcasting), but once we rolled around to the start of the (2008-09) season, that’s when (my wife and I) knew for sure,” Reiter said.
Elizabeth Reiter is starting graduate school at Florida Gulf Coast University next fall, and it would’ve been tough on the family if Kevin continued to travel to road games with the Blades.
For five years, though, Reiter did just that — experiencing every up and down of the past five seasons with the Blades players and coaches, even riding the team bus and attending team dinners.
“The biggest thing I’ll miss is just the camaraderie with the players and the coaches. Everybody is kind of going through the same grind,” Reiter said.
Some of his best memories come from his first season with the Blades, in 2004-05, when Florida advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals for the second year in a row. Reiter still remembers calling the game-winning goal in overtime against Charlotte that sent the Blades to their second Kelly Cup Finals.
“Brad Church down the left side, takes a shot,” Reiter says and, in remembering, sounds a lot like the broadcaster who made that call on May 13, 2005, as Damian Surma scored the 1-0 winner that became one of the biggest goals in Blades history.
Now, just like Surma’s goal, Reiter’s voice will also become a part of Blades history — except for the Blades’ TV games next season, when Curtis does the TV broadcast and Reiter does the radio play-by-play.