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On the Mike

Colorado Avalanche announcer Mike Haynes may work on the radio, but he doesn't use this fact as an excuse to dress down. He arrives at the Pepsi Center several hours before the Avs face the Calgary Flames clad in a well-tailored suit that would do any businessman proud. When asked about his attire, he says, "It's a hockey thing."

And Haynes is a hockey guy, which makes his status among Denver sports boosters all the more surprising. Most broadcasters who come to define athletics in their cities are linked with baseball, such as Los Angeles Dodgers icon Vin Scully, or basketball, like New York Knicks yakker/serial biter Marv Albert. Hockey, in contrast, is considered to be the most minor of the four major sports, and those affiliated with it are generally accorded lesser standing as a result. Not Haynes, though. The combination of the Avs' success since their 1995 arrival and Haynes's infectious style has made him the voice of Denver sports -- the most beloved, the most imitated, the most remembered.

Sure, fans recall the words of KOA's Dave Logan when the Denver Broncos clinched their first Super Bowl, but they've memorized a slew of classic Haynes moments -- many of them scraps of the sort that sent the Avs' Steve Moore to the hospital on March 8. While Haynes's frenzied narration of the 1998 melee between Patrick Roy and Detroit Red Wings goalie Chris Osgood may be his greatest hit, the way he described the 1999 battle pitting Joe Sakic against the Chicago Blackhawks' Doug Gilmour is just as thrilling. In the latter, which tops a collection of Haynes calls accessible at www.hockeepuck.com, he whips up a whirlwind of syllables and saliva, shouting, "Another right by Sakic! Another right by Sakic! He just beat up Doug Gilmour! Super Joe just scored a goal, and then he beat up Doug Gilmour! How do you like them apples, Gilmour?"

"I give you the blow-by-blow," Haynes notes. "Most hockey announcers don't do that. If there's a fight, they'll say something like, 'Look at them go at it.' But I let you know what's really going on. 'A right! A left! Another left!'"

Haynes doesn't claim to have invented this approach. Indeed, he goes out of his way to credit others. In the case of his hyperbolized delivery, he salutes Bob Lamey, a veteran announcer currently with the Indianapolis Colts, and his father, a rabid sports aficionado who loved Lamey's work. A New York native, Haynes and his large family (three boys, three girls) moved to the Indianapolis area when he was in elementary school. There, he and his dad would attend contests featuring the minor-league Indianapolis Racers, "and the second the game was over, he would take my hand and we'd run to the car to listen to Bob's post-game show," Haynes says. "That made such an impression on me, watching how much my father enjoyed listening to this person. I thought, 'I want to do that!'"

Whenever he had the chance, young Mike would stand outside the broadcast booth watching Lamey bark -- but he didn't get up the nerve to introduce himself until he'd become a professional broadcaster. Last year, when the Broncos played the Colts, he visited his mentor and learned that one of Lamey's daughters lives in Denver. According to Haynes, "She said she listens to the Avs games, and she can't believe how much I've stolen from him!"

It took over a decade of struggling before Haynes could share these lessons with a sizable audience. After graduating from Boston's Northeastern University, he moved from one poorly compensated announcing gig after another. First it was the Baltimore Skipjacks, then the Capital District Islanders and, finally, the Utica Bulldogs of the Colonial Hockey League, which Haynes says is "the lowest hockey league there is." His spirits were even lower when, in the middle of the 1993-94 season, the Bulldogs' owner ransacked the team's treasury and vanished. He found out how bad things had gotten at a bank's drive-up window. Seconds after the teller cashed what turned out to be a bad check and sent his money to him through a tube, she asked him to return it.

Without help from Hollywood, Haynes might have given up on broadcasting -- but after he and his father went to see the movie Rudy, about a never-say-die Notre Dame student, he decided to forge ahead. His foolish optimism was rewarded when he landed a job with the minor-league Denver Grizzlies, which led to most of the good things in his life: the Avs job; his wife, whom he met on a Grizzlies-oriented cruise; their two children; and the undying affection of Avalanche followers.

Symbolic of this devotion was a wedding Haynes performed for a hockey-loving couple between periods of the Avs' March 3 contest against the Vancouver Canucks. So, too, was the reaction to a technical gaffe at the February 24 Calgary match. The broadcast, aired inside the Pepsi Center on a frequency different from that of the Fan, the official Avs station, was put on a seven-second delay in what Lou Personett, vice president of broadcasting for Kroenke Sports, called a reaction to the Janet Jackson wardrobe-malfunction incident. Unfortunately, this meant people in the arena couldn't listen to the observations of Haynes and his longtime partner, Norm Jones, in real time. Many shouted panicky gripes to the booth throughout the contest. The experiment was declared a bust later that night.

The game, a 2-0 Avs loss, was equally disappointing, giving Haynes no chance to bellow about either goals or fights. Still, it was a typically first-rate broadcast in which Haynes displayed his hockey knowledge, quick eye and excellent analytical skills, qualities that tend to be drowned out as soon as Super Joe puts the biscuit in the basket. "When the broadcast is over, I hope people go, 'I learned something,'" Haynes says, straightening a tie that his exhortations have loosened ever so slightly. "But I also hope they had fun."

Straight from the source: What a difference a month makes. A January 31 item in the Rocky Mountain News stated that Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell had ousted his longtime chief of staff, Ginnie Kontnik, a contention that was corrected (sort of) days after Campbell's spokeswoman claimed that Kontnik was merely being reassigned. In the meantime, Denver Post scribe Mike Soraghan began investigating the Kontnik matter, and his questions inspired Campbell to phone Post editor Greg Moore with complaints. Moore told Westword that the call had no impact on the subsequent decision to significantly trim the Post's article on Kontnik, but trimmed it was -- and Moore said that he or another manager would soon be talking with Soraghan about his technique ("Correction Detection," February 12). Betcha the tone of that chat went from censorious to congratulatory when Kontnik resigned just prior to a February 22 Soraghan effort; in the piece, former Campbell aide Bruce Thompson charged the chief of staff with shaking him down for a salary kickback.

A week and a half later, Campbell announced that he wouldn't run for re-election, citing a hospital trip for what turned out to be acid reflux as a factor in his decision. It's likelier that Campbell simply didn't have the belly for the ugliness to come, none of which he could hope to squelch by phoning the man in charge at a certain newspaper.

A March 2 Post profile of vocalist Sarah Brightman penned by Elana Ashanti Jefferson (a former Westword intern) contained considerably less original material than did the Soraghan scoop. All of the quotes in the preview were culled from a Q&A sent out by Brightman's public-relations firm, but they were not identified as such, leading the average reader to assume that Jefferson had interviewed Brightman. Insiders accused former Post music writer G. Brown of committing this sin, in which the line between journalism and promotion disappears. Although Brown eventually resigned, it was not over the practice of rewriting press releases, but because staffers detected plagiarism in one of his articles ("Looking Glass," November 20, 2003).

Jefferson and her editor, Ed Smith, directed inquiries about the Brightman offering to managing editor Gary Clark, whose e-mail response makes it clear that today's Post doesn't condone the use of canned promotional quotes to simulate interviews that didn't actually happen. "Elana forgot to include attribution for the Sarah Brightman Q&A into her story," he writes. "It was a mistake. All reporters understand that press materials need to be attributed."

That sounds like a change for the better.

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