The Gwinnett Gladiators' games, from the very start, have had one voice. Dustin Bixby, recently named the American Conference's media relations director of the year, is an award-winning radio broadcaster and has called every tilt in the Gladiators' four ECHL seasons.
Bixby, who graduated from the University of Delaware, worked for the organization in its previous incarnation as well, the Mobile Mysticks. During the franchise's transition from Alabama to Georgia, Bixby held the same position with the Baton Rouge Kingfish.
In this installment of "Getting to know ...," Bixby talks with staff writer Christine Troyke on a variety of topics, ranging from moving around growing up, to the best fight to road tripping in the ECHL.
CT: You guys had a jersey auction (Tuesday) night. How did that go? Was it bedlam?
DB: Yeah, it's always a little bit crazy just because there were so many things going on last night - which is a good thing. There were people checking out seats, Hoops (equipment manager Patrick Houlihan) had the equipment sale and then there was the jersey auction a little bit later.
CT: Were any of the players here?
DB: No. Nobody decided to show up from Canada.
CT: Is it a little less crazy when the players aren't here? Because you do the specialty jersey auctions during the regular season, too.
DB: When the players are not there, (the bidders) don't go as high, mostly because the guys are hamming it up a little bit. They're trying to beat the other guys out. Everybody wants the bragging rights for having the one that went for the most money.
So they'll do weird things. They'll do things out of pocket to try to drive the bid up. So when they're not here, it's a little more laid-back.
CT: Can you give any examples of weird things?
DB: One year we had Benoit Cotnoir decide he wanted to give the ladies a show on stage. This was when we were in Mobile and he was de-robing as the auction went along. And the price went up as he started to disrobe.
CT: Uh, how far did he get before the jersey was sold?
DB: He got his shirt off. He had the belt undone and that was the end. We stopped it at that.
But they do stuff like that. One guy said he'd buy them dinner somewhere.
CT: Does it still surprise you when someone pays thousands of dollars for a jersey?
DB: If I wasn't in the job I'm in, I probably wouldn't find it as crazy. Because I'm around it all the time, it's hard to part with that much money when I could go get a replica jersey and get it personalized.
CT: Best road trip in the ECHL?
DB: It's got to be Florida. Mostly because we go, we practice and then (head coach) Jeff (Pyle) and Hoops and I will go play golf. Especially when you go in the middle of the winter. You're leaving out of 20 (degrees) and rain. You get down there and it's sunny and 70.
Then you usually have the two games - and we always play real well (there) - so it's fun to go down there and win. It's a good road trip all the way around.
CT: Worst road trip in the ECHL?
DB: The worst for me is South Carolina. Not because I don't like Charleston. Charleston is a great city. But when we go to South Carolina, we bus out that day and we bus back to Gwinnett after the game. So that's 10 hours (on the bus) in a 15-hour span.
And a lot of the time we play a home game the day after. So we roll in about
3 (a.m.), I stay until 6 doing game notes for that night, then sleep for four or five hours and go back to the rink for the game.
You could ask me anything and I don't care what's going on. I just want to sleep.
CT: You lived in a couple different places growing up. Where were they?
DB: I was born in Idaho Falls, which is in Idaho, obviously. Then we moved to Hershey, Pennsylvania. Then to Springville, N.Y., which is just south of Buffalo. Then to Richland, Washington, and then to Crofton, Maryland, until I left for college.
CT: How old were you when you moved to Maryland?
DB: I was going into the eighth grade.
CT: And why all the moving around?
DB: My father worked for the Department of Energy. As I call him, he was a nuclear garbage man, basically. His job was to clean up old nuclear facilities.
There's a big nuclear test facility in Idaho Falls. So he was doing some managing of that. Then we moved to Hershey when Three-Mile Island melted down. He was the person the government put in charge to oversee the clean up.
Then when that got to a point where it was pretty well taken care of and managed, they moved him to a plant that stored spent fuel. It was basically a chemical plant that turned into a storage facility in West Valley, N.Y.
We moved to Washington because that's where they made the atomic bomb, or one of the atomic bombs was in Richland, that's where they did all the nuclear testing and research at Hanford (nuclear site). So he went to manage that.
We were there for two years and then they basically gave him a desk job in D.C. In the Department of Energy, he was one of the highest level employees, without being elected, when he retired. He was the Undersecretary of Energy.
CT: Out of all of that, and places that you've lived after college, where's your favorite?
DB: When I was growing up, the place that I liked the most was probably Buffalo. That's where I got introduced to hockey as well as football. We had season tickets to the Bills for the time we lived there.
CT: Was it during the 0-for-4 time?
DB: We moved to Richland in the summer and that next year they went to the Super Bowl.
CT: Best fight you've ever called?
DB: We were in Columbia, must have been three years ago. It was an early season game. It might have been (Mike Stathopoulos), he was kind of in a little pushing and shoving match in front of the net. I don't remember who it was (for Columbia), but Brownie (former captain Cam Brown) just unloaded on the guy.
The guy was taking a couple cheap shots at Stats and Brownie was basically kneeling on top of the guy and just feeding it to him. They guy had no idea what he got himself into. It was one of those ones where Brownie just turned and saw - the gloves and the helmet were gone and the guy had no chance.
CT: Most dramatic ending to a game you've called?
DB: It's got to be the win over South Carolina (in the first round of the 2006 playoffs) when we were down three goals. We were at home and we came back and Miffer (Scott Mifsud) won it in overtime. Because we were down so many goals so late in the game. It's was one of those ones where we'd come back before, but we'd never come back from three goals and there's 10 minutes left.
CT: Was it (Milan Gajic) that scored the tying goal?
DB: Yeah, on a shot from his knees with like nine seconds left.
(South Carolina goalie Davis) Parley had made like 57 saves. We scored one and were down by two and you could just sort of feel, you just sort of knew at that point that the comeback was definitely coming.
That's probably the most dramatic hockey game. That win made it 2-0 (in the best-of-five series) going back to South Carolina. If we lost that one, we go five games with South Carolina. But you win that one and they're toast. That, I think, sprung the whole run (to the Kelly Cup finals).