TULSA, Okla. – Fans of the Tulsa Oilers may recognize Zack Reynolds from his time in the color commentary seat over the last few years, but they will soon come to know him as the voice that leads them through another season of hockey in Green Country.
Reynolds is entering his fifth season working for Tulsa, but this will be his first as Director of Broadcasting and Media Relations. The North Texas native took over for John Peterson after the reining broadcaster of the year was hired away by the Kalamazoo Wings this summer. The Sin Bin recently sat down with Reynolds to pull back the curtain and take an in-depth look at the journey that led him to this point, and the expectations he has for his first season with the headset.
The Sin Bin: How did you first get into hockey as a kid?
Zack Reynolds: The way I started getting into hockey is kind of funny. So my dad — well, both of my parents — are from England. My dad came here before you could watch soccer on TV, so he started watching hockey because it wasn’t super similar, but there’s a goal and there are goalies. He became pretty interested in that and picked it up, so we had it on in the house a decent amount as a kid. It was just something that caught my eye.
It kind of all came to a point when I was about six and the Dallas Stars made it to the 1999 Stanley Cup Final and won in triple overtime. I was very impressionable when I was a kid and there were obviously tons of great players on that team. You had Mike Modano who was skating so fast and had his jersey flap going, and it was aesthetically pleasing as a kid, so I got into it.
TSB: How did that initial interest develop into the passion and knowledge you have now?
ZR: We ended up moving to a different part of Dallas, and once we moved, I started playing hockey just as a way to get into things and find my way. I was just playing hockey and soccer, and I just really took to hockey. It was my favorite thing. It was really the only thing I cared about at times.Like, I probably could have been focusing a little bit more on school, but I was just daydreaming about either playing hockey or watching hockey. It just became something that I became obsessed with young, and while I wasn’t the greatest player, I had a knack for remembering stats and remembering how games went and I just enjoyed talking to people about it. I liked to talk to people who didn’t know a lot about it and kind of explaining it.
TSB: Did you always know you wanted to pursue broadcasting as a career?
ZR: At one point, I was thinking that everybody that did broadcasting had played professionally or in college or something. It was kind of disheartening and I thought it wasn’t a career path I could take, so I looked into a few other things. Near the end of my senior year, I found out…oh no, you can definitely work in sports if you haven’t played collegiately or professionally, and there are plenty of ways to do it. I decided to try and find a college that had a pretty comprehensive program that would do sports, and I also wasn’t sure if I wanted to work as a veterinarian either, so I was picking schools that had both and I ended up at Oklahoma State.
TSB: How did you decide what to focus on at OSU?
ZR- By the end of my first semester, I realized I was super bad at math and there was no way I was going to be a vet, so I was like: ‘Whelp, sports sounds pretty good, and I’m doing well in these English classes,’ so I stuck with that. I got really interested in the PR side of things more so than broadcasting.
I didn’t take any of the formal broadcasting classes at OSU that strictly focused on sports broadcasting alone. I took some classes that touched on it and worked with it, but most of the ones I did were on the PR side of things. I was kinda scared of if I didn’t end up with a sports job what was I going to do. I at least had a fallback with PR, but I really really really wanted to work in sports.
TSB: How did you become involved with the Oilers?
ZR: The Oilers were the closest team because the [Oklahoma City] Barons stopped existing while I was in college. I didn’t see any internships or anything posted, so I emailed our old director of broadcasting and media relations, Rob Loeber. I’m still so surprised he took me as an intern, because the first email I sent to him I mixed his first name and last name in the intro and it said “Mr. Roebler”. For whatever reason, he decided to bring me on…probably because he needed help and somebody hadn’t reached out, and so I got lucky in that regard.
I was working with Rebecca Lane as well in our media department. Rob left halfway through the year, and so I started to take on more media relations responsibilities even as an intern, just because Rebecca was obviously kinda stretched thin being the only one doing everything. That’s the way it happened; that kinda got my foot in the door, and then Rebecca hounded our general manager Taylor Hall to hire me after college. I wasn’t coming to the office a lot because I was in Stillwater. I was really just coming to the BOK Center for games and staying up top, so Taylor didn’t really know who I was. Luckily Rebecca just hounded, hounded, hounded him until he hired me.
TSB: How did working with John Peterson help prepare you for your new role?
ZR: He had obviously already had experience at the pro level, and as we know is a super-talented broadcaster, so I just tried to hang around with him as much as I could and kinda pick up what he was doing and learn from him. Each game, he would just try and help me learn a new thing here, a new thing there, and figure out how it works start to finish. He wanted to make sure that if he ever did leave for another job in another city, I would have a shot at getting the job. Which was really awesome, because otherwise, without him and Rebecca, I probably would just be sitting somewhere in some PR firm doing something I semi-enjoy but don’t love, so I was really lucky that they took the time to help me get what I wanted to do.
TSB: How are you feeling going into your first season in the play-by-play seat?
ZR: Definitely really excited to get going. Luckily, I learned from JP and from Rob. They’re both award-winning guys, and they both did the job in slightly different ways, so I’ve kinda got two schools of ways to do things as well. I’m lucky that I already know the fan base here and that I already know hockey in Tulsa; I know the history of it. It’s just one of those things where we’re familiar with what’s going on here, but it’s also kind of a new experience overall. So, it’s a weird kind of territory, but I’m excited.
It’s been good to know that a lot of fans have reached out to say they’re excited because, obviously, it’s a little nerve-wracking following up JP. He just won broadcaster of the year and PR guy of the year, so they’re big shoes to fill. But I also think people understand that it’s my first crack at it and, obviously, it’s not going to be perfect. But, I’m going to do the best that I can week-in and week-out, and there’s definitely going to be rapid improvement throughout the year with everything. It’s pick and choose from things and kinda make my own path.
TSB: Is there anything you are looking to bring to the broadcast to make it your own?
ZR: I think at first I’ll probably be a little vanilla with it, but I think people remember from my color that I like to make analogies. I know people know a ton about hockey in Tulsa that’s for sure; we’ve had hockey here for 90 years and our fan base is up there in knowledge for sure. As far as the playing side of it, I know it’s a pretty small fraction of our fan base that has ever played at an organized level. Not that I’ve played at a high level. I mean, I’ve played high school hockey, barely organized, but I like to make analogies for people to understand a little bit better and kinda compare things to other sports people have played. I like to explain equipment things on the broadcast, or maybe why guys have done things a certain way.
Over the years, people probably remember in color I like to talk about maybe how guys take their shot or why they shoot it wide in a certain situation. Maybe they’re doing it on purpose to use the endboards, or maybe it’s because they really only had one option to release the puck from their stick and they were just hoping it hit the net and if it goes wide, that’s okay. That’s something people can continue to expect. I don’t have a goal catchphrase like some people have, but that’ll be I think maybe something that potentially comes in time. Overall, people can expect the same amount of me on the broadcast that they’ve had over the last few years with a little more energy now that I’m doing play-by-play.
TSB- Are there any road trips you are looking forward to during your first season traveling with the team?
ZR: I’m excited to go to Wheeling, West Virginia, purely because I’ve never been to Wheeling. It’s a team we haven’t seen before, and it’s exciting to get to go to their barn. Early in the season, we go to Kalamazoo, as well. I’m excited to see JP and kinda catch up when I’m there, and hopefully, get a few pointers and catch my breath early in the year. I’ve also heard really good things about Boise. Everybody I know that’s worked in this league says get ready to go to Boise. Boise’s awesome; it’s a great place, they take care of you while you’re there, and it’s just a really cool city overall.
I’ve got a pretty favorable schedule, to be honest. We go on a lot of different trips, but I think the longest time we’re out at one time is like six days, which is not bad at all. I think the furthest east we go is Wheeling — I think, could be wrong. I was second place in the geography bee in sixth grade so you’d think I would know that. (Author’s Note: He was right. No word yet if geography lessons will become a feature of the broadcasts, but this reporter certainly hopes so!)
Reynolds will have the call as the Oilers begin their quest for a second straight Mountain Division crown on Friday, October 11, when they host the Kansas City Mavericks at 7:05 p.m. CT inside the BOK Center in Tulsa. Opening weekend continues with a 7:05 p.m. CT showdown against the Allen Americans on Saturday the 12th, and a 4:05 p.m. CT Sunday matinee against the Rapid City Rush.