FAIRBANKS — A total of 1,050 games and 900,000 miles traveled.
They’re two standout statistics of Bruce Cech’s 30 years as the radio voice of the University of Alaska Fairbanks hockey team.
The 2017-18 season, however, seems to have been the last one in which Cech described the flow, shots, penalties and goals of the Nanooks of the NCAA Division I Western Collegiate Hockey Association.
The 61-year-old native of Saginaw, Michigan, announced Tuesday he’s stepping down as the radio voice of Nanooks hockey, citing business reasons.
Last Frontier Media Active decided not to carry Nanooks hockey games this coming season on its ESPN Radio Fairbanks station, which is simulcast on 820 AM and 107.9 FM.
“The radio station is a business and they said that basically the cost of doing business ... we couldn’t do it this year,’’ Cech said during a phone interview.
“It’s been pulling strings every year to make it happen; I also have to go out and raise money to make this come together.”
For the last three seasons, Cech had to raise money to travel for road games with the Nanooks. Before then, the station had a trade in-kind arrangement with UAF. The university received advertising on the station in exchange for the university paying for Cech’s airfare and lodging for Nanooks road trips.
Cech said he raised $9,000 last year, with donations coming from individuals, business and unions, including his, United Food Commercial Workers No. 1496. Cech has worked at Safeway on College Road for 20 years, and he’s currently its fuel station manager.
Cech still works with Last Frontier Media Active, providing sports reports five days a week and doing play-by-play of high school football, hockey and baseball games on ESPN Radio Fairbanks.
Cech said that the UAF athletic department has given him an option of doing play-by-play for the video streaming of UAF’s home hockey games at the Carlson Center.
Cech said he has to contemplate the offer.
“I’m honestly a radio guy first and I’m really hurt by the fact that we can’t do the radio,’’ said Cech. “Honestly, I respect Perry Walley’s decision. He’s my boss at the radio station and like I said, it’s business. The numbers don’t add up and we can’t do it.
“Now do I want to do the video stream only? It’s a different audience, and normally when we did the radio, we’d just give them the audio and it happened.
“Now it’s just going to be home games only; I’m going to miss the traveling part. I don’t know if I can give a hundred-percent effort to be quite honest, not doing home and away (games) ... It’s something I’ve got to sit down and figure out.
“After you’ve done this for 30 years ... to be just a home-game player (play-by-play announcer) is kind of tough.”
Cech, during the last 30 years, saw things at Nanooks hockey road games that a Nanooks hockey fan sitting in the Carlson Center probably wouldn’t see.
For example, he said, “You go to Ferris State (in Big Rapids, Michigan) and the first thing that sticks out is the student section behind the Nanooks goaltender. They harass the goalie all season long.”
He cited, too, a Minnesota State program that draws big crowds to its home games and has “gotten better and better every year under head coach Mike Hastings.”
“You look at Michigan Tech, a rejuvenated program under Joey Shawhan, who took over for Mel Pearson, who’s now at Michigan. They continue to be successful; Michigan Tech’s got one heck of a hockey program that dates back to the '50s and '60s. They love their hockey in the UP (Upper Peninsula of Michigan), but it’s not the easiest place to get to for teams, referees and even fans. They’re very knowledgeable there and there’s a lot of hockey history up in Houghton, Michigan (hometown of Michigan Tech).
“Then you go to Alabama (Huntsville), hockey hotbed of the South and you see a UAH team that’s getting better every year (with) Mike Corbett (head coach), now joined by Lance West (former Nanooks assistant coach and interim head coach). That a team’s going to be reckoned with, although they’ve got a lot of young guys this year.”
Huntsville, Alabama, also is about 130 miles south of Nashville, Tennessee, home of the NHL’s Predators, the Stanley Cup runners-up in 2017.
He pointed out Bowling Green’s success after the WCHA program in northwestern Ohio nearly folded a few years ago.
“Thanks to alumni and boosters, they kept it going and now they’re at the top of the standings year in and year out for the WCHA,’’ Cech said.
If he’s not involved in calling play-by-play for Nanooks hockey, Cech said it would be even harder for him to sit in the stands at the Carlson Center to watch a Nanooks home game.
“I’ve never really sat in the stands for 30 years,’’ he said.
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.