Jon Small, the assistant news director and co-anchor of WABI-TV Channel 5’s 6 p.m. newcast, will replace Joe Carr as the play-by-play voice for University of Maine hockey games on Channel 5.
Carr, who is leaving his post as the University of Maine’s director of university relations to become the assistant vice president for communications and marketing at Providence College, concluded his 13-year play-by-play stint with WABI Saturday night in UMass Lowell’s 4-3 victory over Maine.
“It’s going to be a great challenge for me,” said Small. “I’ve done a lot of football and basketball but I haven’t had the chance to do a lot of hockey games.
“I’ve filled in for Joe when he was unable to do games,” added Small, who also has done high school hockey games on radio.
“The big thing about Joe Carr is he set the bar very high. He was very, very good at what he does,” said Small. “I can’t be him, I have to be myself. And, trust me, I’m going to pick his brain before he leaves.”
Small’s first hockey game will be the Maine-Vermont game at Alfond Arena in Orono on Wednesday, Jan. 4. He is also scheduled to do Maine’s games against Alabama-Huntsville on Friday, Feb. 3, and UMass on Friday, Feb. 17.
Steve Hiltz, program director for WABI, indicated that they could also add another TV game or two.
“It’s pretty exciting. I’m a huge hockey fan. I love watching college hockey and the [Boston] Bruins,” said Small, a native of Camden who began his media career working for WRKD in Rockland at age 15.
He had an extensive radio career before coming to WABI 14 years ago.
He will be working with longtime color analyst Mike Tuell.
“I’ll rely on Mike. He’s very good at what he does,” said Small, who will again be teaming up with WABI-TV sports anchors Tim Throckmorton and Prescott Rossi to broadcast the three state high school football championship games from Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland on Saturday.
Carr said he had “bittersweet” emotions calling his last Maine game on Saturday night.
“I really enjoyed being associated with the Black Bear hockey program. I have thousands of great memories being around those teams, players, coaches and fans,” said Carr, a Hermon native and Providence College graduate. “At the same time, I’m looking forward to getting started at Providence and doing some things I’ve been looking forward to there.”
He starts at Providence on Dec. 5.
He said he doesn’t have any plans to do any play-by-play “but I wouldn’t rule it out” some day.
Carr did radio play-by-play on the Providence College station, WDOM-FM, his junior and senior years (1981-82 and 1982-83). The 1982-83 Providence team, under current New Jersey Devils general manager Lou Lamoriello, reached the Frozen Four.
“I look forward to being around the Providence program as a fan and an observer,” said Carr.
Carr said he has had the pleasure of witnessing “so many exciting moments” while doing play-by-play on radio and television.
Those moments include the 1992-93 NCAA championship season, when the Black Bears went 42-1-2 and Jim Montgomery’s three third-period goals rallied Maine past Lake Superior State 5-4 in the title game; the 1994-95 Frozen Four in Providence when Dan Shermerhorn’s goal in the third overtime beat Michigan 4-3 and the 1988-89 NCAA best-of-three quarterfinal series in Orono between Maine and Providence. Maine and Providence split the first two games before Maine received a late third-period goal from Scott Pellerin and a game-winner from Martin Robitaille in the second overtime to beat Providence 4-3 and advance to the Frozen Four.
Then there was the opportunity to work with Gary Thorne during the 1986-87 season.
“What an opportunity that was. To watch him work and listen to him. It gave me an up-close perspective which was tremendously beneficial,” said Carr.
“Maine reached the Hockey East semifinals at the Boston Garden and George Gonyar and George Hale sent me down to Boston to work with Gary,” said Carr. “After the championship game was over — Boston College beat Maine 4-2 — Gary took off his headsets and said ‘I’m done. I’ve got to go back to spring training with the Mets.’”
Maine had qualified for its first NCAA Tournament berth and Carr flew to Michigan State, where he did the play-by-play for the two-games total-goals series between Maine and Michigan State won by the Spartans 11-5 (aggregate).
“I was incredibly lucky to land in that role at the beginning of Maine’s ascendancy to national prominence,” said Carr, who had worked for WABI before landing his job at the university.
Hiltz said Carr will be missed.
“I’m so happy with what Joe did for us. We will miss him greatly,” said Hiltz. “He was a great colleague over the years. I’m happy for him and his new career. I wish him luck.”