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Earl Bugaile
Written April 1, 2008


My best guess now, looking at the Pittsburgh Penguins media guide, is that the coach was probably Johnny Wilson and the month was probably August of 1977.  Just two months before, the ten-year-old National Hockey League team had named him its new head coach.

I had never heard of Wilson.  It turns out that he once set an NHL "iron man" record by playing 580 straight games for the Detroit Red Wings.  Nor was I familiar with the four men who had preceded him as coach of the Penguins, because I didn't follow hockey.

Growing up in rural central Ohio, I knew baseball, football, basketball, auto racing, and track and field.  But "ice hockey" was foreign to me.  I'd seen it on TV, but I thought of it a sport for people who lived far away.  It was exotic, like jai alai or polo or cliff diving.

Nevertheless, I was now working for a cable TV channel in Washington, Pennsylvania, and there was an NHL franchise not far away in Pittsburgh, and they were looking for publicity for their team and their upcoming season with their new coach.  The word came down that on a certain afternoon, Johnny Somebody would be at the local Holiday Inn, and I ought to go talk to him on camera.

I did what I could.  I read the press release, went out to Meadow Lands, and asked the coach some general questions for a minute or two.  Needless to say, it was not a groundbreaking interview.  But what could be expected of someone who'd never seen hockey in person?

I recall another event at the little outdoor rink at Washington Park.  This time the interviewees were local folks, I was the cameraman, and Earl Bugaile would ask the questions.  As we waited in the warming hut — is that what it's called? — for the guests to arrive, Earl idly tossed an object from one hand to the other.  It looked to me like a large roll of black electrical tape.  "What's that?" I inquired.  "That's the puck," he explained, showing it to me.  "Oh," I replied.

Earl did know something about hockey.  At the time he was a reporter — actually the whole news department, I think — for a daytime-only AM radio station, WKEG.  Its studios were in a trailer north of town.  (These pictures are from the Wikipedia article on its successor, WKZV.)  I had met Earl in 1974 when he interviewed me to drum up publicity for the fund-raising auction for the Bronco League World Series.

He and his tiny radio station continued to cooperate with my tiny cable channel in various ways over the years.  For example, we both attended a ceremony.  He talked with Bob Prince (right), recording the conversation for radio.  At the same time, I shot it with our camera and ran the piece on my TV newscast that evening.

On another occasion, we needed to interview a public official live in our studio, but most of our small crew had gone off to tape some other event.  Earl came in to be our on-camera talent while I ran the control room.  Because one of our two cameras was at the remote, I had only the other one.  I arranged the studio the best I could to make the 15-minute single-camera conversation look at least somewhat professional.  Earl sat in a swivel chair, facing the camera.  His guest sat six feet behind him, visible over his shoulder in soft focus.  After the introduction, Earl turned to face his guest, and the camera shifted focus and zoomed in.

Three decades later, Earl is now providing reports for Pittsburgh's all-news radio station, KQV, which is on the air night and day.  And he continues to inform Pittsburghers about pucks on his "Center Ice" website.



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