By Len Bardsley
Special to the The Times of Trenton
TRENTON, N.J. — It did not take long for Trenton Devils director of public relations and broadcaster Mike O’Brien to realize how much his job resembled that of the players in the ECHL.
The 30-year-old O’Brien, like all ECHL players, had to make it through the long day-to-day grind of the season and deal with the fatigue of travel, but be ready to shine when the puck dropped.
O’Brien experienced another similarity this week. He got called up to the American Hockey League.
Saturday night was the final game for the T-Devils’ broadcaster. Starting Monday he will begin his new duties for the Devils organization working as the public relations director for the Lowell Devils.
O’Brien was hired by the T-Devils four seasons ago, in the second year of coach Bill Armstrong’s two- year reign, taking over for Joe Zydlo.
O’Brien admitted he learned quite a bit over his four seasons working in the ECHL for the Titans and the T-Devils.
“I came in with aspirations of being a broadcaster,” O’Brien said. “I found out quick this job is not just about broadcasting, but so much more. This is where hockey happens. This is where you cut your teeth in the business. This is where you learn to be a broadcaster and public relations director.”
Like the players in the organization, O’Brien progressed and grew in his field, getting selected to broadcast the 2007 ECHL All-Star Game in Boise, Idaho.
“I would like to think I have grown as a broadcaster and a public relations director since I started four years ago,” O’Brien said.
O’Brien adapted well to handling all the responsibilities that come with the job as public relations director and broadcaster, including the less glamorous jobs such as helping carry equipment and setting up the locker room when the team arrives to a visiting rink the small hours of the morning.
“I think that was the biggest challenge,” O’Brien said. “Learning how to juggle the balls on a day-to- day basis, knowing you have a laundry list of things you need to get done every game day. At the same time you need to put together the best possible broadcast you can even on days when you might not get a chance to look at the roster until you get to the rink to set up your equipment.”
O’Brien was asked to move up to Lowell after Kevin Bartl left the position to head back to the ECHL and take the job of broadcaster and public relations director in Bakersfield.
“It really came out of no where,” O’Brien said. “I know Kevin Bartl wanted to get back into radio and get back to California.”
O’Brien won’t be doing radio for Lowell, which is a consideration he had to think about before taking the job, but he could not turn a chance to move up the ladder.
“Initially I was not sure if I was interested,” O’Brien said. “It is not the broadcasting job, just the public relations job. The more I thought about it, it is a great opportunity to move up to the AHL.”
O’Brien went through quite a few changes with the T-Devils, from the ownership and name changes to five coaches and a Kelly Cup championship ride.
The hours on the bus were tough, but the time in Trenton was well-spent for O’Brien.
“There are times, players and coaches will tell you the same thing when you are getting into Wheeling or Johnstown at 5 a.m., you wonder what in the world am I doing with my life,” said O’Brien. “You love it, though. My job at the end of the day was to talk about hockey. You can’t complain about that.”
The highlight of course was winning the Kelly Cup, in Estero, Florida. O’Brien still remembers his call when the team closed out a 4-1 victory in Game 6:
“Titans fans, you have been waiting for this moment for six years and now this moment is here.”
Mike O’Brien has waited four years for his moment to arrive and now it is here.