Six years ago when Tom Grace left his job as the broadcaster for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, he did it for what he says was the wrong reason - money.
This month, when Grace leaves the team again to take a job elsewhere, the reasons are a bit different.
Namely living in South Beach and working for an NHL team.
The “Voice of the Penguins” has accepted a job as the manager of team services for the Florida Panthers and will be joining the team within the next two weeks.
The job will take Grace away from the broadcast booth and put him in charge of the team’s transportation and scheduling, including chartering flights, booking hotel rooms, handling immigration issues for foreign-born players and their families as well as making arrangements for players from Florida’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio when they are called up. Grace will also travel with the team on all road games.
They are duties that Grace is somewhat familiar with from his time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, to a degree.
“Traveling on a bus and checking into the Hilton at Hartford is a lot different than landing in Edmonton at 2 a.m. on a chartered flight with 35 guys,” he said.
Grace has worked more than 1,000 pro games behind the microphone and has been the Penguins’ play-by-play voice for 11 seasons. He left the team in 2007 to take a job with a marketing company but returned to the Penguins three years later.
The latest move might mark the end of Grace’s tenure as a hockey broadcaster.
“I’m not going (to Florida) to eventually become a broadcaster again,” he said. “My enthusiasm for this game is contagious, but I’m not in the public spotlight with this job. My goal is to learn and adapt to the culture of the Florida Panthers. My goal is to succeed in the NHL.”
Grace credits his time in Wilkes-Barre and the overall success of the Penguins organization as the main reasons for his step up to the NHL. During his time with the Penguins, Grace won three James H. Ellery Memorial Awards for outstanding media coverage.
“The biggest thing with this is an NHL team outside of my organization said we want Tom Grace to work for us. An outside organization recognizes your abilities, that’s what is most satisfying,” Grace said.
Penguins CEO Jeff Barrett said Grace was one of the most recognizable and popular members of the organization since its inception in 1999. Barrett said he and San Antonio GM Mike Santos have discussed Grace’s move to the Florida organization for quite some time, and it’s a move that Barrett said is long overdue.
“Unfortunately the Pittsburgh organization is losing a good person, but I’m very happy for Tom,” Barrett said. “Our job here is to get people to the NHL.”
Of the things he will miss most about Wilkes-Barre, Grace said the fans top the list. When he returned to the team in 2010 Grace said the move re-invigorated the fan base, and he feels good about the mark he has left with the community.
“I hope the fans understand this is a great day for me personally. I feel great about what I’m leaving behind and the Penguins are committed to having the best product possible,” Grace said.
“It’s bittersweet because it’s tough to leave a place where I’ve been so well-accepted and it’s not easy to walk away from an area where people have taken you into their hearts. I am now a Florida Panther, but the Penguins allowed me to be a part of their team that was constructive to our success.”