Broad Street Buzz sat down with legendary PA announcer Lou Nolan to talk about the Philadelphia Flyers and his new book, “If These Walls Could Talk.”
Lou Nolan has seen a thing or two in his 40-plus years as the Philadelphia Flyers’ public address announcer, and now he’s put them down in writing. His book If These Walls Could Talk: Stories from the Philadelphia Flyers’ Ice, Locker Room, and Press Box was released in November, and it’s just as chock full of fascinating tidbits and hilarious anecdotes as you’d imagine. With the holiday season upon us, it’d make the perfect gift for the biggest Flyer fan in your life. If that happens to be yourself, no worries- it’s never a bad time to treat yo’ self.
We recently had a chance to speak with the Flyers legend about his hockey origins, Ilya Bryzgalov, and more. Here’s our conversation, edited for length and clarity:
BSB: What drew you to the sport of hockey in the first place?
Lou Nolan: Well, when you go way back, it started in grade school. I used to enjoy watching the Original Six, and I had a classmate whose uncle was a goal judge for the Philadelphia Ramblers, which was a team in the old Eastern Hockey League. We used to go [to their stadium] Friday nights with this gent who worked for the Ramblers, and we’d run around the rink and collect broken sticks after the games, bring them home, glue them together, put our skates on, and play.
How long has this book been in the works?
Probably the better part of nine months prior to the releasing of the book, maybe even a year. Sam Carchidi and I sat down and recorded hours worth of sessions where we just talked. I told stories to him, and we talked about different teams, players, schemes, ownerships, and everything. And I must admit, I think [the book] turned out really well.
Did you find yourself remembering stories that you thought you’d forgotten?
Down through the years, I’ve given a lot of talks. When I do a talk and jot things down, I throw it in the file after I’m done. I might do bullet points, or something of that nature. And that brought me back a lot of the old stories that I had.
But even then, Sam and I chatted afterward, and once the book was in the can and I mentioned a couple things, he said, “Geez, you should’ve told me that one. That was a good one.” I don’t even remember what they were, to be honest with you, but I think we wrote them down for the next book, if there is one.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your job over the years?
The people. The people I’ve met, and the hockey players, and also the experiences I’ve had as a result of this. Some of the travel, some of the cities and games. The All-Star Games, Stanley Cups, beating the Russians, the Olympics. It all comes together.
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Tell me about your game day routine. What’s a night in the life of the Flyers’ PA announcer like?
I usually arrive two hours before the game and look at the roster, see who’s up and who’s not, and if I have all the pronunciations correct. If any of the guys aren’t on any of our pronunciation sheets, I might just go to the website of the [other] team and see how their announcers pronounce the names.
Then I’ll collect my stats and the other things that people have laid out for me, get the script of what has to happen that night, who the different people are that we have to talk about. I’ll go through that, make sure that I update who the linespeople and off-ice officials are, and make sure I’m prepared.
Then just get a bite to eat, put it all in the briefcase. At about 6 pm I start on down, passing by outside the locker room where the guys are playing basketball and soccer. Our guys do that to loosen up. I head down the hallway, go see some fans out in the chute. When the teams come out for warmups I’m there for a few high fives. Then I start around to where I sit and get settled in, and the lights go on.
You mention at one point in your book that former Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov might be your least favorite player of all time. Could you elaborate more on that?
I’ve gotten along with most everyone, but Bryz was one of the guys that had thrown me under the bus on live broadcast a couple times for various reasons, and I just didn’t appreciate it. And he was out there. Goalies, sometimes, are “different.” Bryz was as much of a spaceman as he wanted to be. We said that we should take a collection, get a can out there, fill it up with money, and send Bryz to space. That’s what I wanted to do with him [laughs].
What are your thoughts on this winless streak, and how do they improve? (Ed’s Note: This interview took place during the streak).
I think they got young quickly, partly because they wanted to, and partly because they had to. When you have a defense as young as it is, and when veterans like Andrew MacDonald and Radko Gudas are out, you’re in trouble. So stabilizing the defense is important.
Our guys haven’t been terrible. There have been a couple softies. But then again, there have been games where you see a team get 50 shots against—that’s tough.
They gotta stick with the young guys, let them make their mistakes and learn from there. I mean, Ivan Provorov’s got 120 games at the most, and he’s the number one guy [on defense]. You’ve got players there that are just looking for their first NHL goal. No excuses, but it is what it is. They’re young, and they’re gonna make those mistakes.
Back to the book for a moment- one of the few people who receives an entire chapter in the book is Ed Snider. What did he mean to you, personally?
He means hockey in Philadelphia. He means that I’ve had the opportunity to spend 50 years with this team. And I’ve had a great time, all the time, through good and through bad.
You always knew who was the boss with Ed. He stuck his neck out to get this team here. It’s astounding what Ed got done, and a nice man besides. Tough businessman, but a nice guy.
He means the world to me, still. I emceed the unveiling of his statue at the building. Emotionally it was difficult. Not as difficult as emceeing the memorial service for him, that was tough. But it was nice to see that he’s memorialized in a statue right outside the building.
Lastly, how long do you plan on staying on as the PA announcer?
Well, I’m in pretty good shape. I guess I’ll stay on there until I decide that I won’t, and that’s not now. I’m there and I’m enjoying my job, and doing a good job at it I think [laughs].
It’s fun to be down there. It’s just like going to work—sometimes you don’t feel like going, but as soon as you get in the car and you start moving, and you see all your friends there, it’s all good.
If These Walls Could Talk is available in bookstores everywhere.