BY GEORGE RICHARDS
For more than 40 years, Jay Rokeach's booming voice has been synonymous with the University of Miami's athletic teams. Whether it's baseball, football or basketball, Rokeach has become the 'Voice of The U.'
Rokeach is about to be the voice of hockey in South Florida as well.
Rokeach has been named the Panthers newest public address announcer, replacing Mitch Phillips. Former PA announcer Bill Murphy will remain in his role as in-arena host. Rokeach called Saturday night's UM-Ohio State game in Miami Gardens and hopes to remain with the university despite a few conflicts with the Panthers.
Rokeach says he has committed himself to all 41 regular season home games, meaning there will be conflicts with his Miami duties. Rokeach says he would have to miss two UM football games as well as five men's basketball games and seven baseball games. Rokeach has been behind a microphone at UM since he was a student there in 1969. Rokeach has also worked at Miami-Dade North and has been the in-house PA announcer (press box, luxury suites) for the Dolphins the past decade.
The Panthers get their first real taste of the Miami experience on Monday as Rokeach works Florida's preseason doubleheader against Nashville. Rokeach did work a rookie league game for the Panthers last week.
“I would love to continue to do both as long as possible. I love the University of Miami and love doing Hurricanes games. It's been a big part of my life and a part of my life I cherish,'' said Rokeach, a resident of Pembroke Pines.
“But working for the Panthers is a great opportunity for me. It's a great commute and I'm excited about it. I'm going to do my best with this. It's a microphone and a sporting event. That's what I do. This is going to be a new experience but something I'm really looking forward to.''
Rokeach has worked through UM scheduling conflicts before as he was the original PA announcer for the Marlins from 1993-97. It was with the Marlins that Rokeach worked with Pete Soto, the Panthers new director of presentation and production.
Soto, who spent 12 seasons with the Carolina Hurricanes before returning to South Florida this summer, was looking for a new announcer after Lewis decided the gig wasn't for him. Soto quickly called up Rokeach to gauge his interest. Rokeach was obviously intrigued and interested.
“I came down and knew I wanted to look at different avenues. I called Jay on a whim,'' Soto said. “We decided to do it. We were willing to work around his Miami conflicts, but he's a professional and wanted to commit to us. I agree with that. What he brings is he is a natural PA announcer. He knows what makes the crowd happy and play along. He's a consummate professional. I'm very excited about this. It's great for the fans. And we have a comfort level. I have absolute trust in him.''
Rokeach readily admits he's no puckhead, but knows a little bit about the game. Rokeach says he enjoyed going to a handful of Panthers games each season and figures he will be a quick learner. Soto is not worried.
“My biggest concern is the pronunciation of the players,'' Rokeach joked. “I don't want to be responsible for a war between the USA and Canada.''