Thursday, October 6, 2011

Winds of change bring Stuccio to Hershey

It has been 10 years since a memorable trade has been consummated by the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins organizations, and that exchange was a significant one for both clubs as the Pens shipped Jaromir Jagr and another player to the Caps for a trio of players which included former Herhsey Bear Kris Beech.

But over the summer, the clubs essentially created another transaction when Scott Stuccio was named the play-by-play voice of the Hershey Bears, replacing John Walton who was elevated to the position of the radio voice of the Washington Capitals of the NHL.

Stuccio, 38, a lifelong resident of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area who will reside in Derry Township for his initial season of calling the action for the Bears, did not have an AHL team to cheer for while he was growing up as the baby Pens did not join the league until the 1999-2000 season.

“On our cable system, we used to get the Flyers games out of Philly on PRISM and we also got the New York Rangers games out of New York on WWOR. I have three older brothers and because of WWOR showing the Rangers’ games, they all became fans of the Rangers. But I’m eight years behind my youngest brother and WWOR eventually started showing a few New York Islanders games as well. I decided to be different and root for the Islanders and ironically, the first hockey game that I ever saw in person was the Islanders and Rangers in Madison Square Garden.”

Undaunted by the prospect of having no local team to support, Stuccio, despite cell phones being years away from becoming a staple of society, became a bit of a revolutionary by rallying local neighborhood troops for some impromptu pick-up games to fill the void between games on the tube.

“We didn’t have many kids around where I lived who were into hockey, but when the Mylec company started to come out with more street hockey equipment, I started to buy it. Some friends and I would often get games going in the driveway, so I guess you can say I started hockey in our neighborhood. “

After graduating from high school, Stuccio journeyed off to Penn State University where he graduated with a degree in meteorology in 1995. He had his eye on a local job that was attractive to him, but Mother Nature had other ideas and opened up the door to the entertainment field.

“Compared to today, getting a job as a meteorologist was relatively easy back then because there were a lot of jobs open at that time. The National Weather Service still had an office at the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton airport and that’s where I wanted to go. TV was the last thing that I wanted to do, but after the big blizzard in 1996, the government shut down the airport and relocated it to Binghamton and various other places.”

Stuccio continued, “So, in the spring of 1996, I was working at the only other job I’ve ever had that wasn’t in TV and radio, at the Wilkes-Barre golf club in Bear Creek, when I was approached by some people at WYOU about the meteorologist job. Keep in mind that this was when the internet was only two years old and I have no idea how they found out my information, but somehow they did. After they twisted my arm several times to come in and try the job out in front of the weather wall, I finally went in and did it, and they liked what I did and offered me the job, and that’s where I stayed for twelve and a half years.”

During the first couple of years of his employment with WYOU, Stuccio and a few of his meteorologist buddies from Penn State took up a rather daring pursuit in the summer months and racked up a plethora of miles on the odometer by storm chasing around America’s heartland in pursuit of tornadoes, all in the name of science .

“Me and a couple of my classmates from Penn State who went to Oklahoma University to get their masters and their doctorates decided to give it a try. We were pretty confined to Oklahoma and Kansas for much of the first year that we did it, but unfortunately there was not much going on that year storm-wise, so we just basically sat around and enjoyed the summer there, which was burning hot.”

“The last year we were up in Minnesota and South Dakota for most of that time, but we ventured down through Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Kansas and a lot of Texas. We ended up driving 8,118 miles in two weeks through 21 states and saw three tornadoes.”

During the latter years of his stint at WYOU, Stuccio became involved with the WBS Penguins, first as an off-ice official, and then he eventually found his way into the broadcast booth.

“I actually started doing color when I was still at WYOU, and I was also an off-ice official for the Penguins. After doing a couple of the Penguins’ games in the color role, I started thinking to myself what it might be like to call a game myself. However, because of dabbling in the color role, I couldn’t do the off-ice official job anymore due to the possibility of bias which you are not supposed to have as an off-ice official.”

Then, his big break in hockey broadcasting came late in the 2006-2007 season when the Pens’ play-by-play man Tom Grace was sidelined with back woes, and the door was opened for Stuccio to live out a childhood fantasy, a pursuit that his TV gig prepared him well for.

“Weather is the only segment of TV news broadcast that is not scripted; it’s totally ad lib on the part of the meteorologist unless the weather person has no knowledge of the science. Otherwise, its all off the cuff and it’s filling or stretching time or getting out quickly depending on what somebody is telling you in your ear. I never thought there would be a tie in, but there is.”

“When I was a kid and we were watching the Rangers or Flyers on TV, I would often mute the sound and call the game myself; when I filled in for Tom for those games, I told myself that I could get used to this.”

When Grace left the Pens to pursue other interests at the beginning of the 2007-08 season, Stuccio assumed the play-by-play position first on an interim basis and then eventually on a full-time basis. However, Grace eventually returned to the club prior to last season, and Stuccio kept his foot in the broadcasting door by serving as Grace’s color commentator for all home games and a handful of road games. He also took on the new job of Director of Communications for the Pens which was a position that he was content to stay in had he not been named to his new position with the Bears.

“That job was a lot of fun, and it also allowed me to do color. So, I can honestly say that I would have been happy to stay there and continue to do that job because I would have still be on the air, doing color, and there was always a chance of possibly doing play-by-play again somewhere down the road.”

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