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The ice is right for Lindquist in Worcester, ECHL

For Eric Lindquist, the ice is right with Worcester Railers HC
Broadcaster Eric Lindquist meshes well with the Worcester Railers HC team's unique, Europe-inspired approach to sports marketing. (Photo courtesy of Eric Lindquist)

Eric Lindquist likes to be a full-fledged human on the job. He is not the mere eyes and ears of the Worcester Railers HC. And he will certainly not settle for the limitations of being a disembodied voice from above.

No, the Massachusetts- and California-seasoned sportscaster must move about his workspace, taking his audience with him. Families on hand and in the Railers network lean on him as a pivotal infotainer.

“There are 20 sets of parents listening to their sons play,” he told Pucks and Recreation. “It’s a long season, and calling X’s and O’s game in and game out can get a little tiresome and stale.”

So he animates the real-time chronicles the easy way — by living the game-night experience himself. During media timeouts at the DCU Center, while the ice-level laborers slug down sports drinks, he sneaks slurps of small talk in the stands.

At intermission, he savors longer helpings of the same while stretching his legs on the concourse. When the Railers score, he can and will reach out for high-fives with perfect strangers. And even amidst the action, he will kindle laugh-out-loud chatter with broadcast partner Tom Matthews.

Sometimes, before any of that, he dons another metaphorical hat while guests are asked to doff their lids. He ventures from his perch within the seating bowl and enters the spotlight to perform the national anthem.

It is a welcome reversion for a man who prefers making his money and memories in an interactive manner. As the adage goes, caring means sharing. Depending on the setting and situation, Lindquist cares with creativity. He shares his experience and enthusiasm where appropriate — home — and divvies the details like a tourism guru on the road.

“I’m a fan, bottom line,” he said. “I want to be able to share what a hot dog tastes like in a visiting arena. What it’s like in the press box. What the fans are like. Where to get lunch in a certain city.

“I might not be the smoothest when it comes to play-by-play, but I think people recognize my energy.”

His five employers in his minor-league broadcasting career should expect nothing less. After all, Lindquist has obtained the most pizzazz on his resume by competing on game shows defined by contagious energy.

As a young teen, Lindquist fulfilled a dream by appearing on Wheel of Fortune, where he won a whopping $60,000. Later, while working at a Los Angeles sports agency, he won The Price Is Right’s Showcase Showdown. In all, his various stints in Southern California yielded 11 onstage game- or reality-show appearances.

“That’s generally the first thing anybody wants to talk about,” he said of subsequent sportscasting job interviews. “It’s kind of helped me in a strange way to be able to do what I’m doing.”

He could easily say the reverse as well. A North Andover, Mass., native who got his start as a student-broadcaster at Northeastern University, Lindquist calls a sport that requires swiveling heads and open-ended expectation. Anything can take a twist before or during game time (or show time). Accordingly, anyone’s agenda for the day can be altered on the fly.

Lindquist’s initial post-college dabbling in L.A. coincided with the birth and boom of reality TV. With his Showcase Showdown victory, he had cemented his name on the scene at and around CBS Television City. He was part of the pipeline that game-show and reality-show agents go picking at in a pinch.

“Like any other business, everyone sort of knows everyone,” Lindquist explained.

Odds are Lindquist’s affinity for sports made his name jump to precipitate one of his stranger improvisational experiences. While his penchant for pucks has defined his career, he admits he knows little about ball games. (Although he later did broadcast Lowell Spinners baseball for a time.)

Yet one morning, a representative from a dating show called to inquire about serving as a stand-in.

“‘But you have to pretend you know how to play tennis,’” Lindquist remembers being told. “I don’t think I picked up a racket once in my life,” he added with a chuckle.

Nonetheless, he got to the studio, got into uniform and got into character.

And when he was not letting cameras and makeup fall on him, Lindquist granted others a flicker of fame. When his tenure in sports agency “didn’t work out,” he tried working as a casting director for Fox reality programs.

The itch for ice, however, eventually resurged. When the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters dangled his first chance to return to the Bay State and broadcasting, Lindquist bit.

He has since made two more end-to-end moves each way. Before the Railers, he called the ECHL’s Long Beach Ice Dogs (2006-07) and AHL’s Worcester Sharks (2007-15) and San Jose Barracuda (2015-17).

The one season in Long Beach coincided with Bob Barker’s 35th and final year of hosting The Price Is Right. The coincidence made for a rare and timely joining of Lindquist’s passions.

As a team-building exercise, he led a 45-minute journey back to his old glorious haunts at CBS Television City. Leading scorer Ash Goldie even answered the coveted “Come on down!” call, though he did not advance beyond the podium.

For Eric Lindquist, the ice is right with Worcester Railers HC

Lindquist’s involvement will sometimes extend to pulling double duty as the national-anthem vocalist. (Photo courtesy of Eric Lindquist/Rich LeBlanc)

Back out east, Lindquist occasionally experiments with game-show-inspired activities to keep players loose or humanize them before the fans. He has variously drawn inspiration from the defunct Three’s A Crowd and the time-honored Family Feud.

Of the latter, he recounted, “That didn’t work too well. Guys were cheating.”

Otherwise, in the past 14 years, he has at least put his formal game-show involvement on hold. With that said, he is always open to an eventual stint on Big Brother, Survivor or The Amazing Race.

For now, he expectedly watches from the living room with more-informed-than-average eyes. Just don’t expect him to revisit the grounds he has already covered.

Since Barker retired, Lindquist has eschewed The Price Is Right. When reached by Pucks and Rec, he hinted at giving Wheel the same treatment when Pat Sajak and Vanna White pass their torch. He fears the flavor of the shows may take a turn for the ’80s Coca-Cola formula after that much upheaval.

“I kind of like the old-school mentality,” he said, adding that he has a similar view of his beloved sport.

“I’ve always been a big fan of the hockey fight and the physical aspect of the sport. Not tradition, but things in the way that I enjoyed it or how I remember it.

“I’m not saying I don’t want change, but I grew up in the mid-’90s with Bob Probert, Tie Domi, Lyndon Byers, Chris Nilan. That’s what got me into hockey. I want to get back to how I grew up with it.”

As it happens, per hockeyfights.com, the Railers have engaged in 28 fisticuffs through their first 39 games. This past weekend, leading pugilist Yanick Turcotte engaged Wheeling counterpart Jeremy Beirnes twice in as many days.

Conversely, at that same mark in their schedule last season, the Barracuda had logged 18 fights. In 2015-16, San Jose recorded 22 scraps in its first 39 outings.

The ECHL yields generally chippier action than the league immediately above it. That aspect has ample company in befitting Lindquist’s move back to Worcester this past summer.

Railers HC foretold its advent in 2016, one year after the San Jose Sharks moved their AHL affiliate from Worcester to their own building. Effective a year later, Worcester’s first Double-A hockey franchise followed a self-proclaimed “cue from the European sporting club model.”

“Worcester Railers HC is introducing a new way to be part of professional hockey in North America,” says the de facto mission statement. It has already followed through by engraving the names of season-ticket holders on the backs of their respective seats. It has also spread its own name around the neighborhood without hesitation.

One block up the street from the DCU Center sits the Railers Tavern. A half-mile in the other direction will take you to the Fidelity Bank Worcester Ice Center. Opened one month before the club’s debut, the two-sheet facility also houses a restaurant, a café and a training center.

Two Division III college programs, two youth programs and Worcester Academy have all started calling the Ice Center home. There remains the question of whether the Division I Holy Cross men’s team will ultimately hop over. The added ice also allows Railers personnel to introduce beginners to the pleasures of leisure skating.

“We do have that sense that we want everyone to be a part of what’s going on,” Lindquist said.

As an outspoken, outgoing middle man between the team and fan base, Linquist suits that system. He jumped at the chance to return to Worcester after two fish-half-out-of-water campaigns with the Barracuda.

With the Railers, the 12,239-seat DCU Center wedges its radio booth between its seating bowls. As an NHL facility indefinitely sheltering the organization’s child club, San Jose isolated Linquist above its entire 17,562-spectator space.

But naturally, being a minor-league club, it never filled that cavernous coliseum. The largest audience the Barracuda drew in Lindquist’s lonely SAP Center tenure was 7,664.

“I was sitting all the way up in the ceiling, and I didn’t feel as close to the fans, the players and the action,” he recalled. “I wasn’t in my comfort zone.”

And so that Bay Area fling may be the 38-year-old’s only career stop in a major-league mansion. His return to the Double-A league after a decade in Triple-A is a step down in technical terms only.

Linqduist’s eye-catching game-show track record speaks to his poise before substantial, major-level audiences. But his success formula there of “don’t take it too seriously and don’t take yourself too seriously” also reaffirms his mutual fit with Railers HC and its “eccentric” European marketing model.

“I enjoy doing it at the ECHL level. I’ve have more fun this year,” he said. “Sometimes you kind of have more freedom in minor-league sports to have more personality.”

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Al Daniel

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