“Pantheeeers…” is the cry heard around the BB&T Center every time the Florida Panthers score, and the crowd always responds, in unison: “GOAL!” What may not be known is the man who is the one announcing the goal, or announcing that there’s a power play or the three stars of the game.
Andrew Imber, born in South Florida, has been hooked onto the Panthers -and broadcasting from a young age. Before Saturday’s clash with the Arizona Coyotes, I got the chance to sit down with the Panthers’ Public Address Announcer to hear about his journey to where he is now.
1. So first, I wanted to ask you about your backstory. I’ve heard about it a few times… your lisp, growing up, you had a lot of passion for the sport. I just want to ask on behalf of the fans who don’t know, what struggles did you go through to get to where you’re at right now?
"“Well, that was basically about everything you said. You start out in speech therapy and you never even dream about doing anything in broadcasting. I spent hours and hours of just reading books, and there was snacks and stuff in kids therapy helping me overcome the lisp. And you know, I think with video games when I was growing up, I was always the goofy guy who was announcing the games, pretending I was on ESPN if we were playing FIFA, if we were playing Madden, I was always the guy announcing in the background, those were really the small parts of the origin story.“It really got serious in high school. I went to the school paper, we didn’t have any school radio, so I went to the paper, I did sports writing, I was lucky enough to do some pretty cool articles. I interviewed Sean Burnett… who actually went to my high school, so we had a cool connection there. I got to win a couple of awards for sports writing, it was a pretty cool start.“I got to college, Florida Atlantic University, and I thought I wanted to continue with the paper, so I went to the University Press, did some work for them there, but, Owl Radio was open, and they were like ‘Hey, anyone can host their own radio show,’ and I was like ‘This is awesome! I might as well try that.’ And I joined Owl Radio, had my own talk show for my entire career at FAU and I started with the FAU hockey team, did play-by-play, did public address, and that’s where I got my passion for it.”"
2. So at FAU, you did play-by-play and public address, how did you decide that P.A. is what you wanted to do?
"“Basically, I started to talk to announcers. I was very fortunate that I got a couple of contacts, I talked to Randy Moller, I got to meet Doc Emrick… I got to e-mail Jim Hughson, Joe Beninati for Washington while I was an intern here and I asked a lot of them about the lifestyle. From what they told me, they told me about a lot of travel, a lot of nights, a lot of weekends.“It was really the determination that I liked being at home, I like having other things and other lives of work. When I thought about being on the road for nine months of the year, potentially, it wasn’t the lifestyle for me. Do P.A., stay at home, have other lines of work, and honestly I think my voice was a little more tailor-made for a stadium than for the radio.”"
3. So, when you ultimately decided to do P.A., and when you heard about the opportunity (with the Panthers), I’m curious, when you auditioned, what exactly did they expect from you?
"“They basically tested all parts of the game. The very beginnings were basics, like starting lineups, welcoming the team to the ice, but when they narrowed it down, to more of the finals, that’s where we legitimately got into all parts of the game. They tested road and home penalty calls, advertisements, like Coca-Cola, everything you can think of, welcoming fans, they wanted to make sure you can do all parts of the game.”"
4. Obviously you’re from South Florida, you’ve followed this team since the beginning, how much do you love working here?
"“Born and raised here, honestly, it’s a dream come true to come to here, to come to games and enjoy it as a fan to come here. I went to games at the Miami Arena in the inaugural season, so I’ve been a fan forever, but when you make that determination to want to be apart of the franchise, it’s almost bittersweet coming to the games at that point.“I was a fan who loved being here, but I wanted to do [public address], I wanted to be the voice causing goosebumps to fans during a big moment. To deal with that for as long as I did, and at times think it was impossible because you would hear [bad] things… and think that nothing’s going to change. When the opportunity did open up, it’s just a dream. I don’t take it for granted, it’s awesome.”"
5. You talked about how you wanted it to be your voice here; I want to talk about your voice, and your style. First, when you “invented” it last season for Jason Demers, the “swag call,” then starting it with Nick Bjugstad this season:
"“It was actually Brian Campbell first, then Demers, then Bjugstad to start this year from a fan vote, and then we gave it to Jamie McGinn.”"
6. How did you come up with it?
"“It actually is not mine, I’m a guy who likes to take influence from everything, don’t copy, but you can take interesting influences. I go to different sports and listen to the announcers and hear how everybody calls the game.“In the NBA, the Portland Trail Blazers have a really long-term announcer, [Mark Mason], and during the starting lineups back in the day, he had a swagger style of bringing in one individual player onto the court, and back then it was Robin Lopez… and I just said ‘You know what? This sounds really, really cool, can I bring that to the NHL?’ And I don’t think any other NHL announcer does it. I take influence around, so that’s the origin of that, and I wanted to make it my own, and to put my own touch on it.”"
7. Agreed, it’s so different, especially with the NBA, but how did you decide to do P.A. the way you do it today though?
"“I think it was just being myself… you can’t be anybody else, and there are so many different announcers and that’s what you love about it. When you go to your home stadium, that’s your experience. Go to a game in Florida, it’s a totally different from a game in Arizona, completely different when you go to a game in San Jose. Each stadium has its own presence, and as the voice of it, you’re a huge part of this experience.“For me, it was never about putting on a show, it was never about stealing styles and everything, it was just about being me, speaking clearly and deeply on the mic, which isn’t exactly how I talk in everyday talk, but it’s close. It was never about putting on a fake voice, it was about being me, settling into the position, and honestly, it comes with the experience. As you go and grow, you’ll find that you’ll find your voice… best thing is to be you.”"
8. One more thing that I’ve seen lately that is unique is the socks. What did you decide to go with tonight?
"(*Laughter*) “One of my best friends got me… socks for making American Ninja Warrior back in the day, and I never wore them. I had some other friends who wore novelty socks and I said ‘you know what, I’ve worn black socks the entire time I’ve been working for the Panthers. It’s boring, let me change it up.’ I got a couple other socks, I think the very first ones I got were ninja socks with the ninja stars, and I wore them and we won a couple of games in a row and thought they were lucky.“I think we won two in a row with the ninja socks, then we lost and I tried these angler socks we got online, saw what happened, and we won seven straight with them. So, I thought it was a cool thing of novelty socks bringing extra luck, so that’s where that came.”"
9. Who is your favorite name to say when someone scores? Also, who’s your favorite name throughout the years?
"“I kind of like Colton Sceviour, I just really enjoy saying it. Of course I love the swagger over the years, I always come back to that. I’ve always liked Vincent Trocheck, the little emphasis on the ‘Tro’… those are probably my favorites over the years.”"
Big thanks to Ander Imber for taking the time out of his day to stop and answer our questions!