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Sullivan retires as voice of MSU men's hockey after a memorable 24-year run | Local sports

Sullivan retires as voice of MSU men's hockey after a memorable 24-year run |  Local sports
Sullivan retires as voice of MSU men's hockey after a memorable 24-year run |  Local sports

 


Mike Sullivan knew calling Division I college hockey games would be a challenge when he took a job broadcasting men's hockey at Minnesota State in 2000.

He had called high school hockey in Albert Lea and Austin and also had some experience in the United States Hockey League, but the pace of the WCHA would be different.

He enjoyed the leap and the preparation it took to succeed.

I immediately said: when should I start? That's an exciting opportunity, Sullivan said. It was exciting to have the opportunity to be part of something that was about to grow.

Indeed, the program has grown exponentially over the past two decades, and Sullivan has been behind the microphone for almost the entire program.

After 24 years and 914 MSU games, he will retire from his role as sports director at KTOE AM 1420 at the end of this month. He called 504 consecutive games prior to the 2013-14 season.

He just had a knack for bringing the game to life. The real trick of a great play-by-play person is to make you feel like you're almost there. It's like watching the game right next to them, MSU athletic director Kevin Buisman said. Sully could certainly deliver in that area. He made you feel like you were part of the action.

It's hard to pick a most memorable call because there are so many.

However, broadcast partner John Maiers and Buisman each pointed to the same play and call when asked to choose: Ryan Sandelin's game-winning overtime goal in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Tournament against Quinnipiac.

The state of Minnesota scores! The Mavericks score! They're going to get the game winner and the curse of the opening round of the NCAA Tournament is over!

MSU was winless in the national tournament in the Division I era at the time of the win, including some heartbreaking losses in previous seasons. Sandelin's goal was a turning point, as MSU defeated Minnesota the next day to reach the Frozen Four.

The following year, the Mavericks won three NCAA tournament games en route to the national championship game.

Sandelin's goal came during a scrum in front of the net, and Sullivan wasn't in a great spot to call it, with an assigned position on the other side of the rink. But it was also one of the first calls he mentioned when asked about his favorites.

It was kind of a crazy call, but I think it summed up the emotion of the Maverick fans and everyone involved with the program, Sullivan said. Finally this weight has been lifted from our shoulders.

Sullivan earned his reputation as one of the best play-by-play broadcasters in sports through hard work.

Maiers pointed out that what makes hockey so difficult is a combination of the fast pace and the involvement of so many players on the other team.

Sullivan worked tirelessly each week to learn MSU's opponents. He interviewed the opposing coach and discussed all the game notes and information that became available.

He also had his own database of information about what opponents and players had done against MSU in previous games and seasons and any plays that would be relevant during the game.

His preparation was probably unsurpassed by anyone I know, Maiers said. Apparently the home team knew a lot. Then he would study and know the other team. … He had handwritten notes that he would bring up when the Mavericks played that particular team.

Added Sullivan: You should spend as many hours preparing as you do the actual event itself.

Sullivan hopes to spend more time with his family and take a few vacations with the extra time. It was difficult to get away from being a hockey broadcaster in the winter, but now he gets that opportunity.

It will be strange not to be there when MSU opens its season against Michigan in October, but Sullivan will continue to follow the team closely. If there ever is a need for a fill, it's safe to say this is a pretty good option.

It was an amazing ride, I will miss it. I think anyone who loved what he or she does, in any form of work, will miss it when you don't have it anymore, Sullivan said. If my replacement gets sick and they're here in town and need someone to step in there… yeah, I'd probably do it.

Follow Kevin Dudley on X @dudley7kevin.

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