BY ROB LAPLANTE – CONTRIBUTING WRITER
The Minnesota Wild recently added a new, but familiar face to the broadcast booth.
Anthony LaPanta has gone from Fox Sports North studio host (2004-present), to Gopher hockey play-by-play (2010-12) announcer. His dream job came true May 15 when the Wild announced he will be FSN’s new play-by-play broadcaster.
LaPanta said the recent flurry of FSN promotions coming in a short period of time didn’t come without him paying his dues.
A 1989 graduate of Totino-Grace High School, LaPanta went on to get his college degree in 1990 from St. John’s University in Collegeville. He landed a job out of college covering various high school sports. From there he spent 10 years as the television voice for the St. Paul Saints. It wasn’t until 2004 that FSN hired him to be a studio host for the Timberwolves, Twins, Wild and Gopher hockey pre- and post-game shows.
“If you ask my wife (Margo), this hasn’t been a quick rise to the top,” said LaPanta, who resides with his wife and four children in Shoreview. “I’m going on 20-plus years of covering sports. Prior to my job with the Gophers, I called over 1,000 games in multiple other sports.”
When LaPanta was young, he said he someday dreamed of becoming a broadcaster. As a child, he grew up idolizing the late Jack Buck, play-by-play voice of the St. Louis Cardinals. He also idolized former Minnesota North Stars broadcaster Al Shaver. Shaver spent 26 years as the radio voice of the North Stars prior to the team’s move to Dallas.
“I would go in the basement as a seven-year-old kid and get the Cardinals radio feed on the AM dial and enjoyed listening to Jack Buck call the games,” LaPanta said. “Al Shaver was the voice of the North Stars and I always loved the way he called the games. His delivery was so clean. He was excited when the team did well, but you could tell in his voice the disappointment when things went bad. He was always on his game as a broadcaster.”
Ironically, in 1990, a young and up-and-coming broadcaster named Ralph Strangis, also a Totino-Grace graduate (1979), became Shaver’s radio broadcast partner. When the team moved to Dallas in 1993, Shaver retired and Strangis took the job and has been the voice of the Stars ever since.
LaPanta said he and Strangis shared words once he found out about the vacant Wild position.
“He was another mentor for me growing up,” LaPanta said. “I called him when I first found out about the job opportunity and he said it would probably be a first to have two guys announcing for two different NHL teams that graduated from the same high school.”
LaPanta is still active with Totino-Grace, both as a father of two kids playing varsity sports and as an assistant coach for the football team.
His oldest son, AJ, will be a senior next season playing for the varsity football team. He also plays varsity basketball. His youngest son, Vinny, will be a freshman next season and is currently playing on the junior varsity baseball team. He is also the starting goaltender for the JV hockey team.
Even with his new role, LaPanta said he still plans on being an active Totino-Grace father/coach.
“I figure I may have a few more work conflicts where I may miss a few events,” LaPanta said. “But, I still plan on being an assistant for the football team, as well as making as many of my son’s games I possibly can. Remaining a part of that community will always be special to me.”
While LaPanta is currently a studio host for the Twins on FSN, he will soon help out with the Eagles annual Football Summer Camp starting June 12-15.
The NHL pre-season begins early October and the Wild’s first game of the 2012-13 season will come later that month when LaPanta makes his first official NHL broadcast.
LaPanta takes the place of seven-year veteran Dan Terhaar. He becomes just the fourth Wild play-by-play man as Matt McConnell and Mike Goldberg called the first three seasons. LaPanta will team with 11-year veteran Mike Greenlay in the television booth.
The hiring of LaPanta didn’t come without its share of criticisms and question marks from Wild fans. A lot of fans have voiced their opinions about not signing an experienced voice behind the microphone with a more credible background.
Those rants didn’t stop him from enjoying the news of his promotion. He said he hopes to someday win those doubters over by bringing in his own style and showing his dedication to his job.
“You can’t control what people say,” LaPanta said. “As a public figure, that kind of stuff just comes with the territory. It’s just a reality of the profession. What I can control is how hard I am going to work at being the best broadcaster I can possible be and to try and do it on a daily basis.”