Charisma is the first quality that enters my mind when Kraken radio broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh enters the room. He’s full of positive energy.
“Fitz” or “Fitzy”, the previous is more common, is a month-and-a-half into his 3rd NHL season broadcasting the Seattle Kraken games after jumping up two levels from the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones in 2021.
“His energy is natural, he loves being around people, talking with people, and talking hockey with anybody,” Fitz’s former Kraken broadcast partner Dave Tomlinson said. “His energy is so infectious that it causes anyone that’s around him to perk up, and that’s one of the things that I really enjoyed from day one.”
Tomlinson has since moved up the road to a TV commentating job with the Vancouver Canucks, replaced this season by Vancouver native and former Seattle Thunderbirds junior player Al Kinisky.
The Fitzhugh-Kinisky pairing came together very close to the start of this season, as did the one with Tomlinson during the beginning of the Kraken’s inaugural campaign.
“It was a forced marriage, him and I, because he had the job and I got the job afterwards and we really did our first broadcast together for the first Kraken home game against Vancouver,” Tomlinson said. “Never had worked together, never did a demo or anything other than a 45-minute phone call. Jumped in the booth and it was seamless and it continued to be that way all the way through.”
The Kraken’s radio broadcast team for two seasons; Dave Tomlinson and Everett Fitzhugh.
Seamless in part because Fitzhugh’s enthusiasm carries the day; a passion that exists for good reason.
A Kraken Road Less Travelled
Fitzhugh is a product of his environment growing up in Detroit.
“I think it’s huge,” Fitzhugh stated. “Growing up, I mean hockey is everywhere. I remember going to school, half my class played hockey somewhere. It also didn’t hurt that the Red Wings were winning back to back Stanley Cups and they were making history in the process, 25 straight years in the playoffs. They had four Cups and five trips to the Final by the time I was a junior in college. I think it definitely helped. I started becoming a real sports obsessed kid.”
It was easy to get swept up by the Red Wings in the mid-1990’s, a time that saw Detroit and the Colorado Avalanche carrying on the most intense rivalry in all of sports. They were two powerhouses literally fighting it out for superiority.
All the while, Fitzhugh really only played organized baseball as a kid, with a dash of basketball thrown in.
He didn’t play hockey, nor did he skate, but growing up near the Canadian border he was able to add to his exposure by watching “Hockey Night in Canada” on Saturday evenings.
“I was an (Edmonton) Oilers fan as a kid because they had two black players on the team, Mike Grier and Georges Laraque, and then they added Anson Carter as well. So I was watching hockey on the CBC and every time the Oilers were on you’d see people who looked like you, and it was kind of rare back then. So if I had to pick, my favorite team growing up were the Oilers, but obviously, just having the Red Wings influence and being in Detroit, I mean, that was a huge, huge factor.”
Two Detroit Lions fans, yours truly and Fitzy, doing a Kraken pregame hit for this website in 2022.
In sixth grade Fitzhugh moved from the city of Detroit to Ann Arbor, the home of the Michigan Wolverines NCAA hockey program and that of USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program.
Thoroughly indoctrinated and surrounded by the hockey vibe, Fitzhugh graduated from Ann Arbor Pioneer High School and headed down Interstate-75 to northern Ohio and Bowling Green University. The Falcons hockey program was well entrenched, having won a national championship in 1984, and having pucks on campus simply provided another opportunity in the broadcasting department.
His efforts there led to play-by-play gigs in American junior hockey and then to the minors.
“For me the guy brings great juice,” stated Matt Thomas, the head coach in Cincinnati during Fitzhugh’s tenure. “He walked into a room and brought up the energy level. On the personal side, if you got an opportunity to meet him, he’s a guy that loved life. Big smile, super engaging and a terrific guy.”
The Cyclones hired Thomas after Fitzhugh already worked for the team. The broadcaster was there to help the new coach and his family unload their trailer.
“First guy we met,” Thomas remembered. “Great person and the fans loved him. The thing that separates him from others is he can talk to anyone and make them feel a part of it. All different kinds of people, fans, management, people in the media.”
“And a great mini-sticks player,” Thomas’s son Gavin added from the back seat of the coach’s car.
Fitzhugh broadcasting at Climate Pledge Arena.
Fitzhugh has never met his birth parents. They were teenagers when they put him up for adoption in Detroit. That’s all he knows.
“So I was adopted, only child of a single mom,” Fitzhugh said. “My mom adopted me at three months, no siblings, just me. She’s the middle of three, a younger brother and an older brother, so I have two uncles.
His mother was a juvenile probation officer in Detroit (Wayne County) who actually moved into a job running an adoptions department.
Given this background, it’s even more remarkable that young Everett’s path led him to becoming the first black play-by-play man in NHL history and one of the few African American broadcasters involved in the sport.
“There was a guy named Mike Lockert that used to broadcast for Notre Dame,” Fitzhugh remembered. “When I was in school at Bowling Green “Locks” was at Notre Dame and I met him. Unfortunately he passed away in 2009. tragically died. He was 50 years old, super young. He was an awesome guy and him and I, we did a little bit of research at the time, and we found out that we were the only two black hockey broadcasters. He did play-by-play, I was a color commentator then.”
About the time Fitzhugh ascended to the big show, other black broadcasters were gaining traction in the sport, one with the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
“Here’s this young guy in Detroit who loved hockey, but didn’t really know how to relate to the game because there weren’t a lot of people of color in the game,” Kraken TV play-by-play man John Forslund reflected. “Now he’s taken that passion to a professional level and exudes it on the air and delivers a passionate call, presentation, for the Seattle Kraken. It think he’s got a really bright future, I think he’s going to continue to grow with the team and the community.”
“Beyond what he represents in diversity, he is a fantastic talent who works hard at his trade and loves the game,” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke told us via text. “What more could you want!”
“You want to show kids, women, historically marginalized, underrepresented people who may want to get into this that they can do it,” Fitzhugh said. “You want to show them that even though there’s going to be the negative comments, you’ve gotta push through it because you deserve to be here, you’ve earned the right to be here, and now we’re gonna make the most of it.”
((Editor’s Note: Everett and Shelly’s son Wes turned 18-months-old today))
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