Hockey analyst Darren Pang arrived at the St. Pete Times Forum earlier this past week and was handed a cue card from television producer Jon Norton. With Pang working his 10th NHL playoff game in 13 days, the crew wanted to make sure he had his bearings.
The card read: "Today is Monday, April 25, 2012, and this is Tampa."
Pang laughed and then taped it between the benches of the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins, where his prime-time seat has been while covering the postseason for Versus and NBC.
"It's been exciting, but it's been a whirlwind," said Pang, 47, who recently finished his second season analyzing Blues' games for Fox Sports Midwest.
After Monday's game in Tampa, Pang was off to Philadelphia for Tuesday's Game 7 between the Flyers and Buffalo. And with Montreal's victory over the Bruins on Tuesday, he was off to Boston for Game 7 of that series.
That would mean 12 games in 15 nights, including five nights in a row, in seven cities.
"I'm curious to see how long he can physically hold up with this kind of craziness," said Lynn Pang, Darren's wife of nearly 24 years. "He has a lot of energy. ... I keep warning him to get himself to bed, so he can use that energy during the game and not after."
After calling Blues-Nashville on April 9 for FSM, Pang caught a flight to Detroit on April 12 and has not been home since. Knowing what his itinerary would be like, he packed lightly.
"I haven't checked a bag yet," Pang said. "I put my briefcase in my rolling bag and then I've got a folding suit bag. I wear a lot of the same colors. For me, it's always black and gray this time of year. Because I'm in so many cities, nobody knows what I wore the day before."
In order to remember his hotel room number, Pang punches it into his cell phone when he checks in. "I've only been on the wrong floor a few times," he said. "Not too bad."
Pang probably didn't envision this life when his NHL career ended in 1989 after 81 games as a goaltender with the Chicago Blackhawks. After Pang suffered a torn knee ligament, a producer in Chicago, Lisa Seltzer, suggested that Pang work as an analyst for college hockey while rehabbing. He enjoyed it, but he wanted to continue playing. After Pang tore the ligament again, though, Blackhawks GM Bob Pulford convinced Pang that broadcasting might be his future in the NHL.
"He told me that I did well getting into the NHL as a small person," said Pang, who is 5-foot-5, 155 pounds. "He really encouraged me to do some Blackhawks' radio, pre- and postgame shows and also something called the Blackhawks' hotline.
"I went into the locker room and visited with players and then taped the old 'Hello again everyone, I'm Darren Pang and welcome to the Chicago Blackhawks' hotline.' Three times a day I did that. It was a service Blackhawks' fans could call in and get their updates.
"Between Pulford and Lisa Seltzer, they really made it a clear decision for me because they gave me the confidence that I could be a broadcaster. I was only 26. I had a lot of energy."
Twenty-one years later, Pang has called countless games for outlets such as ESPN, ESPN2, ABC, NBC, Versus, as well studio work for TSN in Canada. He's also covered three Olympics.
"He is real easy to work with because No. 1, he does the work," said Mike "Doc" Emrick, Pang's play-by-play partner on the national circuit. "This is a great job. We get in free. We get a good seat for the game. We get to see the best athletes in the world. And a couple of times a month, there's something in the mail for us.
"But the other side of it is, you do need to do the work, and Darren does the work. He's got his (iPad) that he carries with him, and he stays up on current events in the league. If you combine that with his energy and his ability with words, there's not a lot more that you'd want in a partner than what he brings."
Blues President and former TV broadcaster John Davidson, who met Pang early in his broadcast career, said Pang is also successful because "he builds up relationships. His relationships are not built for a sprint; they're built for a marathon. He can talk to Steve Yzerman, he can talk to Wayne Gretzky, or he can talk to a fourth-line winger who's a kid trying to make it. You can see the respect these guys have talking to him."
That respect is carried into the broadcast. During the playoffs, Pang has been interviewing coaches and players from the bench, and "the insight they give you into the game is just phenomenal," Pang said.
Most of the conversations end with the interviewee saying, "Thanks, Panger!"
That's the only time Lynn Pang gets to see her husband. As a Canadian, though, she says she's not watching the games for that reason. "Playoff hockey is my favorite time of the year," Lynn said. "It's just a bonus that I get to see my husband as well. I enjoy watching the hockey, but obviously it would be better to be watching the Blues."
The Blues may not be far off.
"(Head coach) Davis Payne called me the other day and said, 'How close are we?"' Pang said. "I said, 'Real close.' The fact is you have to get to the playoffs to see how close you are. But of all the teams that aren't in the playoffs, I think the Blues are the closest team. In fact, I would put them up against any team based on what we saw at different points of the season."
Having the Blues in the playoffs would certainly make Pang's travel schedule easier, as he would stick to his FSM duties.
"That's our family," Pang said. "No. 1, I want to thank them because they're allowing me to get out and do this. And No. 2, I can't wait for the day that we're all doing a seven-game playoff series together locally for St. Louis Blues fans."