ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF)– If you’re going to the BMO Harris Bank Center this weekend for the IceHogs’ first two home games, you’ll notice some changes in the way things look at the arena with some of the upgrades, and you’ll notice a change in the way things sound.
Chris Toltzman’s voice has boomed throughout the arena since the IceHogs’ very first game going back to their beginnings in the UHL in 1999. That’s how long he has been the public address announcer.
Now he’s dropping the mic and walking away from that job to focus on a bigger job of overseeing pretty much everything that happens on game nights as the IceHogs’ Manager of Event Presentation and Creative Services.
“The night job is managing the show that is put on around the game, the intermissions and media timeouts and pre and postgame,” said Toltzman.
He handled both that major responsibility and the announcing last season. It got to be a bit much.
“There were some times, especially during our bigger games, there’s a lot of moving parts to it, where I was not really able to manage to the level that I wanted to, and the level that we need to.”
“The goal is to keep increasing the fan experience, increasing the fun. I need to make sure that I can focus on everything, focus on the big picture. So, in a sense I’ve basically fired myself, so that I can free myself up to do other things.”
Taking Toltzman’s place as the public address announcer will be Jim Leo. He’s done announcing work for the USHL’s Chicago Steel, for the Kane County Cougars minor league baseball team, and for DePaul men’s and women’s basketball. He was hand-picked by Toltzman.
“Jim is a great guy. A great voice, and I’m really excited for him, and he’s excited for this chance too,” said Totlzman. “What I like about Jim is he’s a pro. He’s a seasoned pro, and his voice sounds it.”
It might take fans a while to adjust to not hearing Toltzman’s voice and his delivery, especially the one where he yells “Whooo!” after announcing an IceHogs’ goal.
Toltzman has always had a great connection with IceHogs’ fans for one very simple reason.
“I think anybody that ever met me in person knew that I was a fan first, and not an employee first, meaning that I was always fan-centered. I always announced with a thought of, how would a fan in the stands with a microphone, how would they do it? I wonder if that had a lot to do with my success was that I tried to be the fans’ announcer.”
NOTE: Toltzman tells me there might be a couple times this season where he will be at the microphone again as an emergency fill-in, but basically, he’s done announcing. He says it’s for the long-term benefit of the team and the fans.