By Jeremy Berger
News Journal Correspondent
Pensacola News Journal
PENSACOLA, Fla. – Ice Pilots fans have absorbed some painful losses this season, but Pensacola’s biggest loss might have occurred on a day when the minor-league hockey team didn’t play a game.
Paul Chestnutt, radio voice of the Ice Pilots, submitted his resignation Thursday. He hopes to remain the Ice Pilots’ announcer for another two weeks, culminating a 10-year run with the club.
A 21-year broadcasting veteran, Chestnutt has been the only radio announcer in team history and has called 752 Ice Pilots games going into Friday’s game at Florida. He has missed only two games in Ice Pilots history, both for the birth of his son, Matthew, on Oct. 18, 2002.
Matthew has cerebral palsy, and Chestnutt wants to spend more time with him.
“This isn’t a spur-of-the-moment thing,” Chestnutt said. “My little boy is 3. He’s in a wheelchair now. Last Monday, he started special school, and I was on the road. It’s tough for me. I want to spend more time with my family. I need to spend more time with my little boy. I want to spend holidays with him. On Thanksgiving this past year, we were in Greenville.”
Making the decision was extremely difficult but necessary, Chestnutt said.
“I’m torn,” he added. “It’s nothing against the organization. It’s not about wins and losses.
“The Ice Pilots have basically been my life the last 10 years. I’ve put a lot of time and effort into this organization. I met my wife with the Ice Pilots. Fans were at my wedding. I enjoy what I do, but this is my little boy. You can’t get that time missed back. The time is right.”
Chestnutt helped define Ice Pilots hockey during the team’s glory years in the late 1990s. His trademark phrase “He shoots and scooooores!” became and remains a fixture in Pensacola hockey culture.
A section of fans chants the phrase following every Ice Pilots goal. During Pensacola’s heydey, fan-made signs bearing the slogan could be seen throughout the building while “He shoots and scooores!” t-shirts were being worn.
While Chestnutt is leaving the Ice Pilots, Pensacola sports fans shouldn’t fret too long without his voice on the radio. Chestnutt hopes to return to the Pensacola airwaves sometime in the near future.
“I love this community,” Chestnutt said. “I’d love to get a regular job and then at some point get a talk show going or get involved in local high school sports.”