Anthony LaPanta Unites Wild Fans Like Voltron

I had a post that we were going to run Monday morning about different replacements for Dan Terhaar, the former Minnesota Wild play-by-play guy who was let go last month (and who was the impetus for "FSN Bingo" here at First Round Bust). It was pretty in-depth and discussed various play-by-play guys like Clay Matvick, Gord Miller, Jason Shaver, Dave Strader and what the team should look into for their next hire. With the news though - broken by Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and confirmed by Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune - that the team is going to hire present Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey announcer Anthony LaPanta instead, there's no reason to speculate.

Anthony LaPanta

There is, however, plenty of opportunity to dissect and analyze Minnesota's decision to hire the status quo choice and someone who fans have rallied against.

More on Anthony LaPanta after the jump...

Here's what I wrote about Anthony LaPanta in that aborted article:
[LaPanta] is the odds-on favorite to get the job only if because Fox Sports North seems to be grooming him for the job and be the face of the station. The present play-by-play voice of the Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey team - a position he took over from the popular Frank Mazzocco - is a company man through and through whether it's radio appearances or being in the studio for every sport. The only worry is if he gets the Wild job is that LaPanta has no NHL experience and after Dan Terhaar, fans may consider this a lateral move at best.
Honestly, that last sentence underestimated how upset Wild fans were with the news. Despite calling out Fox Sports North for their broadcasts before, I'm a little surprised to see the universal disgust over at both the Wild and  FSN over this move. Just look at some of these tweets.




And it goes on like this. A quick search of "LaPanta" on Twitter brings up 110 different tweets in the 12 hours since the news broke and a grand total of 0 were positive towards the fact that he will likely be the new Wild play-by-play voice.

Let that sink in - ZERO. Those tweets aren't a small sample that I'm warping to make it seem like a bigger deal. If there were any positive tweets they would be mixed in there for a full prospective but the fact is that there are none. There are none on Twitter, there are none in the Star Tribune comment section (out of 40 comments) and none on HF Boards. Hell, this is the most positive thing that could be spun that's not a straight rehash of an article:
Being a NHL announcer has to be one of the hardest jobs in sports. There's no room for error in a game that is moving at breakneck speeds and they never get a break because unlike football, downtime does not exist. Even the best announcers in hockey - guys like Doc Emerick,  Randy Hahn, Gord Miller - all have detractors. It's almost impossible to be universally loved but the opposite is something that even Joe Buck couldn't do. Minnesota fans are upset with this news and are channeling their inner "Network."

With a franchise that has missed the postseason four years in a row and promises of better days ahead through both free agency and the prospect pipeline, getting Anthony LaPanta as the new announcer goes against everything said by the Wild this offseason. The former Gophers announcer (who had his issues doing that whether being overly excited, sounding unauthentic and fake or not having chemistry with guest color guys) is more of the same with Fox Sports North, if not more, and cronyism is the last thing fans want to see.

On Friday Minnesota tweeted out a survey to its followers asking them about their thoughts and impressions of the Wild brand. It's a great survey - along with Hockey Wilderness' "answers" - but one question really stands out now asking about what car you thought the Wild brand was. In this case, they've continued to be a minivan and try to be as safe and careful as possible while driving 20 MPH in a 40 MPH zone.

Like free agency or the draft, fans want the best and when they found out that Terhaar was let go this would be a job that people would want. They might not get the Mike Goldbergs of the world anymore but the Minnesota Wild is a smart and dedicated hockey market that people want to work. This is a chance to get that person and have Minnesota and Fox Sports North preach what they're talking as the prospects/new free agents come in and usher a new era in Minnesota Wild history.

Instead, the last sentence in Michael Russo's blog is gutting.
There has been a lot of national interest in the position, but LaPanta has been the frontrunner since Day One.
According to another tweet that Russo had, he "can't name the one known [national] name because [they are] under contract with someone else." So it's not a case where no one was interested in the job.

And the sad thing is that for all the outrage, I'll take Anthony LaPanta over Dan Terhaar any day of the week. He can identify players correctly and doesn't get as lost in the game but that's like going up from a one to a two star hotel. The issue with Terhaar - other than his voice cracking - was that he misidentified players throughout the season and was so biased in favor of the Wild that at times it was comical and took away from the game. LaPanta has the same qualities with being so over-the-top it's comical and between being the easy choice, a company man and the Wild/Fox Sports North not trying to get the best of the best (NO fan will tell you that is the guy who looks to be hired) there's a failure and the State of Hockey up in arms as the unanimous disapproval clearly shows.

Whether or not you enjoy an announcer is personal preference. At a bare minimum, however, they should be able to tell a story of what's going on in the game without taking anything away and get names right.

But that's just it - the minimum, the status quo. And a small improvement remains small.

Photo Credit: Fox Sports North

2 comments:

  1. US hockey fans always have a chip on their shoulder about their sport not getting the respect it deserves, and the rumored La Panta hiring really plays on that nerve. There are only 30 of these jobs, Minnesota is one of the better hockey markets in the country, and we deserve a real, open hiring process that considers the best that are available. . . not a "inside fix" to hire a guy who is not a hockey guy at heart.

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  2. Could it be a one year deal while waiting for a "national" voice to get out of a contract?

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