Comets Tales: Meet Andy Zilch
by Don LaibleAug 29, 2016
For the first time in the team’s history, this upcoming season, the Utica Comets will have a new radio play-by-play voice other than Brendan Burke. Andy Zilch, coming over from the Springfield Falcons, has been tapped as Burke's replacement. Like Comets' fans, Zilch is anxious to see hockey at The AUD, again.
Q: Any surprise calls wishing you well in Utica?
A: It wasn't the calls but the people who have been there for me. On May 1, I was unemployed until two or three weeks ago. I went back to Springfield to say good-bye to Teddy Shore (son of hockey legend Eddie Shore). When we were having lunch, I had a call, and excused myself.
It was Robert Esche offering me the job. I have so many people to thank for their support - Brendan, Chris Kerber, Joe Micheletti, Bruce Landon, they have all been unbelievable.
Q: Have you tried out your new seat in the press box?
A: Earlier today (Thursday, Aug. 25) Brendan and I had lunch. We've been friends for six years. We went up to the booth and I sat on the home team side for the first time. I feel so unique to get this job. Coming to the Comets speaks volumes to the hockey madness in this area.
Q: When did you find out that Brendan might be leaving Utica and you would be interested in joining the Comets?
A: Brendan and I had talked occasionally this summer and exchanged texts, so I knew that he was looking at the Islanders. Once every two or three weeks he'd let me know what was going on. The day after Brendan met with the Islanders' team owner, he had a good idea that he would get the (TV) job and we spoke about the Utica job opening. Brendan asked if I would be interested in coming to Utica, and asked that I send my resume to him, and that he would put it on Robert Esche's desk.
Q: For the past two seasons with the Falcons, you wore many "hats" in the front office (at least six). Why so many?
A: I like keeping busy, so I brought it on myself. Working in communications and community relations are what I really wanted to do. I like getting out to practices and schools with the mascot, reading books to kids, and preaching the right things in guiding them.
Q: In April it was announced that the Arizona Coyotes were purchasing the franchise (Springfield), your initial thoughts?
A: Actually, I wasn't freaking out. With the team moving to Tucson, I thought that I would be a candidate for the new job (radio) there. Well, I didn't hear from the new owners. By mid-June, I started worrying; should I stay in this field, or look for something in public relations. I had so much support around me to stick with it.
Q: Before Utica and Springfield, you cut your pro hockey teeth in the ECHL, what's the most valuable education you received there?
A: In Greenville, our general manager Chris Lewis would talk with me weekly. He became my friend and mentor, and guided me in different directions. Chris helped me become a pro.
Q: With Greenville being in the South division, geographically you had to have found it inviting?
A: The longest bus trip we had was 10 hours. We would make our trips on a sleeper, and always leave at midnight. This way we would wake up on a regular schedule in their (visiting) city, and have the next day off. There's no better destination than Orlando. One day, when our hotel wasn't ready, me and a couple others from the team went to Universal Studios for the day.
Q: Do you remember your first hockey broadcast?
A: I was in college (Lindenwood University). It was for the women's national hockey championship, hosted in St. Louis. I was nervous, the same as in Greenville. I was gripping "the stick" (mic) a little too tight.
Q: You called Lindenwood's men's hockey games on the radio. Why there?
A: I chose Lindenwood because I could get on-the-air as a freshman.
Q: Do you think you were destined for sports radio, with internships with the Blues, and St. Louis Rams Radio Network?
A: The Rams were looking for an intern when I was a sophomore. When I was a senior, they called back and asked if I would be interested again. Absolutely I was. As for the Blues, Chris Kerber was so willing to help out. We had lunch, and the next week I got it. When I was with the Blues, all the people I dealt with there are like family to me; from the top, to the ushers, and security guards.
Q: Describe your time playing in the Collegiate Roller Hockey Association.
A: While in college I was broadcasting ice hockey, when that was over, I slid over to play roller hockey. I played in high school and became more serious with it in college. The best teams, bar none, have been at Lindenwood; national championship after championship (9).
Q: Have you heard from Travis Green and his staff?
A: I've received texts from all of them saying congratulations, welcome to Utica, and giving helpful tips on getting set up here.
Q: Aside from broadcasting, will you have any other duties?
A: I will be finalizing travel arrangements taking care of hotels, and handling pre-game meals. I spoke with Jason King today with some travel questions. When he was with St. John's, Jason handled travel.
Q: If you could have a sit down with three broadcasters to ask advice of, or just spend time with - who would they be?
A: Bob Costas. He's the pinnacle of broadcasters, and began his career in St. Louis (Zilch is from Florissant, MO, 22 miles north of St. Louis). I've met "Doc" Emrick, but haven't had time to talk with him. Third, Al Michaels. He made hockey's most famous call. Al is at the top of the list of all sportscasters.