ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) –Callups from the Rockford IceHogs to the Chicago Blackhawks are nothing new, but the latest callup is a very unique one.
The guy getting the callup from Rockford this time is IceHogs’ play-by-play man Joseph Zakrzewski. He’ll doing play-by-play for the Blackhawks this weekend on WGN radio when they play at New Jersey Friday night and at Pittsburgh Saturday night. Like any player who gets called up to the NHL for the first time, this is a dream come true for Zakrzewski
“That’s been the dream since day one to be honest with you.”
Zakrzewski is getting his big break because longtime Blackhawks TV play-by-play man Pat Foley is scaling back his schedule of games for his final year. When Foley sits out as he will this weekend Blackhawks’ radio voice John Wiedeman slides into Foley’s seat on TV, so guest broadcasters are being brought in to fill Wiedeman’s radio seat.
Zakrzewski learned a few weeks ago that he was one of the chosen fill-ins. The first thing he did was call his fiance’.
“I called her, and I was like, ‘Hey’, in kind of a cheesy way I was like, ‘Hey, I’m getting called up to the NHL (laughter). kind of a deal.”
What Zakrzewski didn’t know was which games or how many games he would be filling in for. He certainly didn’t expect them to be right off the bat in week one. He just found out a few days ago.
“I was like, ‘Oh boy!’
Just like the players who get called up to the NHL, Zakrzewski has put in his time in the minors working on his craft. He spent six seasons in the ECHL with the South Carolina Stingrays and then two and a half seasons with the AHL’s Ontario Reign. He joined the IceHogs in 2017.
“People in this industry, you work so hard to get these opportunities and a lot of times it’s just continuing to build those relationships with players and coaches and staff because you never know when that opportunity might arrive,” said Zakrzewski.
Zakrzewski will have an analyst beside him when the does the Blackhawks’ games. That person for this weekend is still to be determined. Zakrzewski doesn’t forsee any issues developing a rapport with that person.
“I know just with my history of working with color commentators over the years and my broadcast style I just try to be as conversational and engaging as possible. I think it’ll be pretty easy.”
So how nervous will Zakrzewski be Friday night?
“I’ll be nervous] because the lights are going to be brighter. The video board is going to be bigger. There’s going to be a lot of bells and whistles that you don’t get to see in a lot of placse, but one bit of advice that actually Mr. Wiedeman gave me is like at the end of the day it’s the same game you saw how many times? The same sheet of ice. At the end of the day you can kind of drown all that other stuff out. That’s the advice I’m taking to heart right now.”
NOTE: Zakrzewski doesn’t know if he’ll be doing more Blackhawks’ games than the two he’ll do this weekend. That’s still to be determined.