Savannah, GA – When a city full of fans go to their local arena to soak in the glory of an ice hockey game, they usually have certain people on their minds. As a fan base, people typically become vastly aware of the impact the players and coaches have on their favorite teams. People can pick apart what these skaters and bench bosses bring to the game of hockey and to the fan experience on game days. Win or lose it is highly obvious that these athletes, and their respective coaching staffs, are out on that sheet of ice giving everything they have to not only win the game, but to create an experience in their home arena that is worthy of the fans coming to see them on game days.
They are not the only people giving it everything they have on game days to elevate the fan experience, however. In fact, behind the scenes is a plethora of individuals whose entire goal is to make sure the fan experience in the arena matches, if not exceeds, the on-ice product. In my experience covering minor league hockey, I have wanted to be able to use my platform to help shine a light on some of those individuals and give the fans of Savannah hockey a brief glimpse into the world of the people working tirelessly behind the scenes to always make sure the Savannah Ghost Pirates’ game day experience continues to be one of the best in the ECHL.
In this two-part series I was able to sit down with a few of those people and speak to them about who they are as people inside and outside the realm of hockey. We were able to delve into their day-to-day work behind the scenes, as well as look at the futures they are hoping to build not only for themselves but for Savannah as well. In today’s article we speak with two of the interns who have been working behind the scenes in Savannah’s inaugural season, and next week I will have a similar article where I was able to sit down with one of the Ghost Pirates’ operation assistants, who also happens to be the game day arena DJ for the Savannah Ghost Pirates (and sometimes the Jacksonville Icemen).
Liam Gotimer, a native of Long Island, graduated from college at SUNY-Oswego before making his way down the coast and finding himself here in Savannah, Georgia as the very first broadcasting and media intern for the Ghost Pirates. When I was able to sit down with Liam, I found every facet of his story fascinating, from his extreme broadcasting preparations to his award-winning play by play call of a collegiate game and everything in between. I even got to learn how a kid who grew up in Long Island found himself rooting for the New York Rangers.
**Liam Gotimer was named the new broadcaster for the Atlanta Gladiators on 1/19/2023. This interview was conducted prior to that announcement.
Something I have always wondered is how people like yourself begin their journey towards working in the sports market. In your own case, what was it that first set you onto this path into the world of sports?
You know, I would probably say the sport of hockey. When I was younger, like 10 years old, I was a big basketball fan, but when I hit 13 to 14 years old the New York Rangers were going through their 2011-2012 season and I fell in love instantly. The Rangers were great during those years (1st in the Eastern Conference), and the fact that they were got me invested. Not just in hockey either, the Rangers got me invested in sports as a whole.
You mentioned the Rangers; outside of the Ghost Pirates is that your sports team of choice, and do you have any more? Also, correct me if I am wrong, but you are from Long Island. How does someone from Long Island end up a Rangers’ fan?
My main two sports are hockey and baseball; I am a big New York Mets fan as well. If I had to pick, I would say hockey is 1A for me while baseball is 1B. By all accounts I am all New York actually, so Rangers, Mets, Knicks, and Jets. Which has meant it has not been easy sledding for me, but New York is where my heart is at.
As for the Rangers, it’s interesting because I am specifically from Long Island so most people I talk to wonder why I am not an Islanders’ fan. My dad grew up a Rangers’ fan though, and his dad grew up a Rangers’ fan. It has been in the family, and it keeps on going with our family.
Being a Mets and Rangers fan as well as a broadcast guy, if you had an opportunity sent down to yourself where you could either call a game at Madison Square Garden for the Rangers or Citi Field for the Mets, which one of those two would you want to do?
A Rangers’ broadcast at Madison Square Garden, no question. The Mets would not be a bad second choice; don’t get me wrong. But most of my play-by-play experience up to this point has been with hockey. I have learned some baseball as well, but I could not pass up an opportunity to call for the Rangers in Madison Square Garden. That would be a dream.
How does a New York Guy like yourself end up down here in Savannah then? How did you find yourself getting this opportunity with the team?
The team reached out to me and asked if I was interested in coming down to Savannah on an internship opportunity. I had just graduated from college, and my mentality had always been to start at the ground level and work your way up. Show them why you would be a valuable asset at that next level. I asked if they had anything in my field, the broadcasting and media department. They informed me that there was, and that I would have the potential to learn under the director of broadcasting (Cristiano Simonetta). The rest was history.
How is that relationship with Cristiano?
He is just outstanding, on every single level. He maintains professionalism every single time you see him, and calls games in an excellent way. You know I sit back and I listen to other broadcasters in the ECHL, other levels of hockey as well. I think to myself, “Who is going to potentially be calling national level games one day”? Cristiano comes to the top of that list for me; I do not think I could have learned under anybody better. Seriously, he is that good.
What exactly does the life of a broadcast and media intern look like? What is the day-to-day for Liam in that role?
Essentially, I am Cristiano’s right-hand man. Anything that he needs assistance with on game days I am there for. Mainly it’s managing the press badges, media outlets that come through Enmarket, I handle team food and ticket sheets, I make sure that everyone from the on-ice officials to the away team locker room and broadcasters have all the materials they need prior to game time. That is pretty much my role on a game day, but outside of that I will help in any area of the organization. It is not just broadcasting; if sales needs assistance or if in-game presentation needs a hand, I will help them as well.
Also, I do a lot of remote work. I help create content, voice over different promotional materials, and I have even had the chance to work on my own craft in a way as well. I have my own broadcast set up that I do for myself, it does not go out anywhere, it is just something that I can listen back to and assess how I did. I will compare my version of the game to Cristiano’s and see the different ways I can get better through there.
Another fun thing I get to do is live tweet the games. If you see a Ghost Pirates’ goal or a gif come across your timeline, anything to do with the games, that is me.
That is an impressive resume you are building there. If I was able to give you a looking glass to peer into future Liam 15-20 years down the road, where do you think that Liam would be at, and separately would you say the time you are spending now with Savannah would help you reach that point?
I hope I am able to live out my dream, and my dream is something we touched on earlier. Maybe not specifically with the Rangers, but to be calling games at the National level one day. As crazy as that may sound, and trust me it sounds crazy to me too. Sometimes I have to realize, even at an intern level, I made it. I am here. I may not be a director of broadcasting yet, but I am in the world of professional hockey. At the end of the day the fact of the matter is that if you get your foot in the door there is potential to work your way up. It’s really gone from a dream over the past 8-12 months to something that is incredibly attainable, even if it does take 15-20 years. I am with a professional hockey organization. I think without a doubt my time with Savannah has already benefited me, and I really had no doubts from the very start that it would. Certainly, I had moments prior to the start of the season because we were not at the game day level yet. We were not seeing the players on the ice, it was all discussion at this point. We did not have anything tangible to the team yet, but once the game day really began and once we got immersed in that experience it clicked for me. The number of things I am able to do here is incredible.
Touching back on your broadcasting a bit, something I have always been curious about is how exactly play-by-play guys are able to keep up with a sport as fast paced as hockey. What can you attribute to not getting lost following the action on the ice?
I think it’s an innate ability to understand the game at what I like to call a molecular level. You need to understand the game within the game, and it also comes down to that and preparation. I mean, for myself, how I prepare for games is pretty crazy. When I was in college I told myself I would never be in a place to put on a headset, and not know someone’s name. So the way I would prepare is I literally wrote out the starting lineups over and over and over and over, and by the time I am done I have probably written about 120 pages worth. That way when I put on a headset I know, and all it comes down to is just describing the game I already understand at a deeper level.
You mention your time collegiately calling games; when I was doing my research to sit down with you I found out that you actually had a college call from an Oswego at Brockport game that won the NYSBA (New York State Broadcasters Association) award for “Outstanding Sports Coverage”. Do you want to talk about that a little bit?
Super proud to announce that @Jakejohnson1025’s and my call of Oswego State @ Brockport has won an NYSBA award for “Outstanding Sports Coverage”.
Fun fact, this was the first full game of play-by-play I’ve ever done.
Comebacks are possible.
Here’s a snippet of the call⬇️ pic.twitter.com/q3EYHVIKi1
— Liam_Gotimer (@gotimer_liam) June 1, 2022
Well a fun fact about that game; it was in November of 2021 and that was the first ever 60-minute game I had the opportunity to call. The only previous game I had done was a tryout game. I only had 1 period of play-by-play experience prior to that night in Brockport. I was actually sick too that night. When listening to my clip on Twitter you know that I was very fast paced. I didn’t really slow down for a second. Boom! Boom! Boom! I have to describe everything that is going on. But I think when I listen to someone like Cristiano, or if I listen to the Maine broadcaster, the Iowa broadcaster, or any other broadcaster around the ECHL, that is what separates them from what I was able to do at a D3 level. They are so methodical; if you listen to Cristiano he slows down his voice. There is no rush in his voice; he knows what he is going to say at any given point. For me, as good as that clip may or may not have been, I need to be able to slow it down. I have to remember I am not just calling games for radio; I would be calling it for FloHockey on the TV side. So I have to balance that fine line of calling a game on TV and calling a game on radio. It is definitely something I have to work on, but in my practice sessions it has been something I found myself getting better at.
To me, broadcasting is such an important role in the world of sports; having somewhere to turn wherever you are and being able to catch up with your favorite team is huge. What does the art of broadcast mean to you, especially in the world of hockey?
To me, a broadcaster dictates the fan experience, and I think whether you listen to someone who is more methodical or someone who likes to be more fast paced, they bring with them the appropriate broadcast for their area. Just touching on how Savannah is influenced by our broadcast, I think it is so critical to not only have a broadcaster that can call a game at a high level, but that can also break down the game at a high level. I mean Cristiano has done so many things behind the scenes that you do not see on FloSports or hear on Mixlr. He has helped in our “learn to understand hockey” videos that we show during games. That way when Savannah fans come to Enmarket who may not know what an offsides is or why an icing play was whistled down, now they do, because of the effort this team as a whole, and our broadcast and media team, has put into helping the city better understand the game.
Liam, you have got to be a part of what I have coined as the Savannah hockey movement. You have been a part of building a brand new expansion franchise in a city that has fully embraced the Savannah hockey culture. I was wondering if you could talk for a moment about what your most memorable moments in this inaugural season have been, and what being a part of this movement has meant for you personally?
I’ll answer the second part of the question first; being part of the inaugural season like you said is something that is very unique. It is an opportunity for somebody straight out of college that does not come for a lot of people. I understand that I am very blessed; I am humbled that I am in this place and with this team. During the first year it’s just been so much fun, and if I were to intern for a team that was already established I think it would have been a little bit different. The fact that it was a new ownership group and a team really set a precedent for the interns here, and I think that whoever the next broadcast and media intern is going to be, they are going to be in a really good spot. As for my favorite moment I would have to say Spencer Naas scoring that first goal at home in Enmarket Arena against the Swamp Rabbits. Nothing compares to that; there was so much anticipation. For someone who just got here in August the anticipation was crazy for me; I couldn’t imagine for all these front office people or even the interns who had been here from the very beginning to finally see that come to fruition. Not only did we understand that was a special night for us, but that it was a pivotal and game changing night for the history of Savannah hockey.
I came down to Savannah for the Ghost Pirates, and the Ghost Pirates’ first game was everything I could have imagined. I was there at 7am that morning, all the interns were, and you know what we were doing? We were putting t-shirts on all the seats. Let me tell you; it was excruciating to get up that early in the morning, sure. However, when we sat back and looked at the arena, looking out onto that sea of green, it was worth it. Then a number of hours later when we saw a sold-out crowd come to a brand new Enmarket Arena waving those towels, it felt like a playoff atmosphere, and more than just an ECHL playoff atmosphere.
You have got to see a lot of players come through these doors here at Enmarket Arena. I was wondering if you had any player that just stands out above all else as your favorite to watch out on that ice, and what makes it so special for you to watch them?
Before I give my real answer I want to give an honorable mention to Isaiah Saville. I don’t think you can talk to any Ghost Pirates’ fan who would not spit out Saville’s name to that question within the first one or two answers. He has just been absolutely spectacular and is a serious talent who is going to make an impact for years to come in the sport of hockey.
For me, I think the impact has to be off the ice as well and one of the nicest guys in that locker room, someone who always makes a point to speak to the interns. He always makes sure that we feel appreciated, that our work feels appreciated, is Marshall Moise. What happened to Moise in that Jacksonville game was really tough to watch. You get emotional when any player falls injured like that, but for someone who is not only such a talented two-way player on the ice, but also such a good person off the ice, it was tough to see. I hope he gets a full recovery, and I hope he gets back soon.
Liam, thank you so much for your time sitting down with me today. Before we head out, I was wondering if you were to strip away everything sports-related from you today, what would you like the people out there to know about yourself as a person?
Acceptance. I think I am a very accepting person. I think people that have experienced hardships in the past can know the right way to treat others, and that’s really what makes me Liam. What makes me Liam is not that I am a broadcaster; it is that I approach every situation with kindness and acceptance. You know that’s really been my M.O., and it will continue to be that way as I progress through both my life and career.
After speaking with Liam he asked that I share one more note on his behalf. As we sat in that coffee shop wrapping up our conversation, he wanted to make sure I did not leave without him touching on the other interns and staff members around him. He touted the many talented individuals inside that Savannah organization and informed me that without all of them working their butts off every day behind the scenes the Savannah game day experience would not run as smoothly as it has. In our final moments there together, his main focus was making sure the credit was given to everyone around him in that organization. For me, that spoke volumes about the character of Liam, and the type of people the Ghost Pirates bring into their organization.
Emma Fannin, who hails from the Northwestern Ohio town of Findlay, is not only a current SCAD senior majoring in graphic design, but she is also the Savannah Ghost Pirates’ graphic design intern. When I got the opportunity to sit down with Emma, I was fascinated with how she approaches the world of hockey. For Emma, the sport of hockey revolves around the fans first, and she is doing her part as well to make sure the fans in Savannah are in for a first-class treatment every single time they come to a game.
From our previous discussions you informed me that you really are not the biggest sports person, but hockey was always different for you. I have to ask, how did you find yourself wanting to join the world of hockey, and where do you think hockey succeeded where other sports fell flat on someone like you?
Yeah, I was a band and art kid when I was in high school, but I always liked hockey. It started when my little brother got into hockey at a young age. My family started going to a couple of Toledo Walleye games and then we started going to Columbus Blue Jacket games as well. For me, the fan aspect seemed to draw me into the sport. I felt like I could follow the game on the ice, and the fans were always having such a good time.
I mean don’t get me wrong, as much as I hate to say it, I do love a good hockey fight too, but there really is nothing quite like hockey fans. Columbus has one of the better fan bases in the NHL, in my opinion, and I always remember when we went to Walleye games the team always had a ton of ways to interact with their fans in the arena.
That was actually something I brought up when I interviewed for my internship, how I really wanted to help engage with our fans in Savannah.
Speaking of Savannah, how did you find yourself down here in southeast Georgia and getting this opportunity with the Ghost Pirates?
I think most people would say they just wanted to get out of Ohio, but for me that was not the case. I actually love Ohio, but when I was looking at art schools, I realized none of the ones near me in Ohio had the same opportunities as SCAD. I don’t mean to be a walking SCAD advert, but you definitely get what you pay for here.
I mean my opportunity with the Ghost Pirates came from SCAD as well. I have a professor who has a ton of connections, I believe he even won 2 Emmys for his time at ESPN, and he introduced me to individuals within the Ghost Pirates’ organization which eventually led to my interview with the team.
You know, prior to us sitting down, you informed me you are a self-diagnosed bookworm and it got me thinking. I don’t know if you are aware, but Logan Couture of the San Jose Sharks runs a book club for his team. Then I have heard that Jet Greaves of the AHL’s Cleveland Monsters is part of their book club, and as a Seattle Kraken fan myself, I am very aware of Yanni Gourde’s love of a good Colleen Hoover book. Which makes me curious, if anyone in the Ghost Pirates’ organization ran a book club, who do you think it would be and why?
Honestly, it should be me. I am going to have to go find out which of our players and staff members are readers now.
If I was to pick a player, though, I feel like it would have to be a wild card player. Honestly if you told me Darian Skeoch ran one, I would not be surprised. Because he is such an intimidating and scary player on the ice, but then during warmups he is one of the first players to be giving pucks and sticks to kids and he is such a nice guy off the ice.
For some reason, though, I keep coming back to Jordan Papirny too; I think that would be my final answer. I do not know why, but he just comes across to me as a book guy.
Transitioning back to the hockey side of things; I would love to get more in depth with your role as the graphic design intern with the team. What is a day-to-day in that world like?
I mean it is kind of cut and dry. I make graphics for the team. A lot of the time I work on different things like fan cams for the in-game jumbotron, but also I have got to do things like design our broadcasting logo when we were first starting out. On all of our videos that people see where we are interviewing players or such, that little GPTV (Ghost Pirates TV) logo in the corner that accompanies our standard logo was mine. Then on days when I am not doing graphics stuff I will help out in the office, or the merch store.
Also, on game days, I assist with our GPTV crew. I run the tagboard, which is part of our jumbotron. So that is like where all of our dance and smile cams or our social media board go. That is the area I focus on.
To me, graphic design always seems like thankless work. We all see the work you and the graphic designers do on either social media or on game day items like the jumbotron, yet we never stop to think about the work that goes into that. Can you help shine a light on that process for us?
My personal process is usually to panic for a second, and then sit down and actually start coming up with ideas. Take our GPTV logo for example. We took some inspiration from the likes of the NHL network logo, but then we made it ours. We formed it into the shape of a tombstone to match our overall theme, especially since our ice is called the graveyard, but yeah there truly is not a linear process. A lot of the time I will get my ideas from feedback, and then once I have that idea, I think about every direction I can take it until it finally matches the vibe we are looking for.
Then with some of our stuff, like in-game presentation material for fan cams, I can do that more on the fly, but even something as simple as a bar with some words on it is loved by the fans. It is a fantastic way for us to reach out and engage with our fans. They love that stuff and interact with it, which is honestly all the thanks I could ever want.
For example, I just made a jumping cam. It is one of my more basic fan cams; it just says “Jumping Cam: Everybody better be jumping”. We used it at our hockey classic recently, and the fans ate it up. They loved it; we put the cam on anyone and everyone in the arena was on their feet jumping up and down.
That engagement with the fans is what it is all about for me; seeing them interact in that way is all the thanks I could ever want.
You mentioned your GPTV logo resembling a tombstone; with your designs do you have a preference on which route you go with the team’s theme? Are you more of a Ghost or Pirate person, or is it 50/50 for you?
Personally, I prefer the ghost. Which I can admit may just be because Danny Phantom was my favorite show as a child, but I feel like with the haunted or ghost theme I am able to pull more ideas from it.
Also, Savannah is one of the top most-haunted cities in America. That has to count for something.
You have been able to be a part of something extremely unique in this team. Being able to see it in its inaugural season has to be something extremely special for you. Would you care to share your most memorable moments this season so far, and what being part of this inaugural season has meant for you?
On a more professional note, my most memorable moment was when I first joined and was inquiring to see if we had a graphic template book or anything we needed to ascribe to because I found out that we kind of got to pick what our graphic templates would be. Which has been extremely cool, because we have really been able to create that face of what our team looks like. Then also just being able to create different logos and designs that will hopefully continue to be used throughout this organization in the future.
Of course, one of the coolest moments I ever worked as an intern was our ‘meet the team’ night. I found it amazing that we had never played a game yet, outside of a couple preseason games, and yet we already had such a big core of fans. 200-plus people came out to meet our guys, and they got to learn what amazing and nice people our players are.
Something I really love to talk to people about as I wind down to the end of an interview is their future. If I was able to give you a looking glass to peer into future Emma 15-20 years down the road, where do you think that Emma would be at, and separately, would you say the time you are spending now with Savannah would help you reach that point?
I would really love to be a head graphic designer for an NHL team, specifically the Blue Jackets. Although I won’t limit myself just to them. Another opportunity that I would love to pursue, as we have established my love for books, is to design book covers. Which I know is a very wide berth, but it’s hockey or books for me.
My end goal would be to work with the Blue Jackets though, and especially if I can help out with in-game presentation stuff because doing that with my internship, I have started to realize I love doing the fan aspect even more than just doing graphics.
Being here in Savannah has really assisted me in my confidence going forward as well. I am making all these connections which I feel can assist in giving me a leg up in the future. Especially since I am at the same time gathering all this work experience. Any type of experience you can get in the field is obviously extremely important. I feel like with sports specifically, it is even more so crucial. The sports industry heavily uses that, and if I did not have a sports internship my end goal may be a little more difficult to reach.
Before we finish up here Emma, I do have one more query for you. During your time with the team, I am sure you have seen your fair share of athletes come into our organization. I was wondering if you had a favorite one that you love watching out there on the ice, and if so, what is it about their game that you love to watch?
I actually have two. I am partial to Skeoch because I love to watch his fights on the ice, but I also love Logan Drevitch. During these past couple of weeks he has been on fire as well, but he is always so fun to watch out there. It helps that he is so easy to spot on the ice because his hair has these little wings that come out and curl up out of his helmet.
I remember Drevitch had a scrum early in December where it escalated into a pretty crazy brawl between him and another player. Pads and jerseys went flying and I just remember sitting there thinking, “Okay, Savannah is putting on a show tonight”.
As Emma and I wrapped up our conversation it gave me an entirely new perspective on the world of hockey. Too many times, as fans, we focus heavily on the teams and on-ice play. Sometimes taking that step back we are able to examine the collective of ourselves as hockey fans. Win or lose, fans end up being each a piece of chain mail that forms together to create a stronger grouping.
Emma lamented on all her favorite moments in this sport, and in Savannah Ghost Pirates’ history. It was the fans that excited her, the people she met through her time with the organization. She will always look to create a better experience for everyone involved because at the end of the day she is in hockey not only for the teams, but for the fans as well.
Editor’s note: The interviews in this article have been slightly edited for clarity and conciseness.
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