It all began with 12-year-old Wyatt Nelson and a shared love for hockey with his father, Gerry Nelson.
The resulting whirlwind has taken the family from their home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada down to St. Louis and into Scottrade Center for Game 2 of the Western Conference Final on Tuesday between the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks.
Gerry Nelson has been blind since 1988 because of complications from diabetes. He would go to minor-league hockey games of the local team, the Saskatoon Blades, with his son and follow along on a radio feed.
One game, there was no broadcast and young Wyatt Nelson began doing a bit of play-by-play broadcasting to help his blind father follow the action on the ice.
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The son’s voice became the eyes for his father to follow the game.
“You know, when this all started it was one of those things that Wyatt and I just did,” Gerry Nelson said Tuesday. “It was part of our relationship. We would go to hockey games and sometimes I’d have a radio feed and if I didn’t, he would just start giving me the play-by-play.
“Quite honestly, we never even thought twice about it. It was just something that we did and an opportunity to hang out together first and foremost, spend some time together father and son, share our love for the game of hockey.”
It was just something that we did and an opportunity to hang out together first and foremost, spend some time together father and son, share our love for the game of hockey.
When a Blades’ executive found out about the story, Wyatt and Gerry Nelson were brought in for a surprise visit into a room with hockey’s holy grail — the Stanley Cup.
The resulting NHL video of an emotional Gerry Nelson touching the Stanley Cup and sharing the experience with his son caught the attention of Blues broadcaster Kelly Chase, a Saskatchewan native himself who once played for the Blades.
The original video, which went viral, was part of the “Day with the Cup” program by NHL.com and Discover.
Chase and the Blues got on board quickly and last Friday, Chase and Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong made a phone call to the Nelsons. Armstrong and Chase not only invited the Nelsons to Game 2 of the Western Conference Final, they also invited Wyatt Nelson was invited to do some play-by-play work on KMOX Radio.
“I never expected to be here in St. Louis getting ready to call a game, part of a game, for the Blues,” said Wyatt Nelson, seated at the same podium being used earlier Tuesday by Blues coach Ken Hitchcock and Sharks coach Peter DeBoer.
Wyatt Nelson said he prepared for his NHL broadcasting debut by watching the Blues-Sharks Game 1 on Sunday night and by trying to learn the faces of the many players he got to meet at the arena on Tuesday.
“I’m looking over the sheets, got the rosters right here,” he said. “I’m trying to memorize the numbers. I watched the Sunday night game, part of it, to get a bit of a feel of how it would look. I’m just pumped and ready to get going.”
Nelson took the microphone during the first period Tuesday with his father seated alongside him in the broadcast booth.
The fact that I can’t see and he had to describe the game to me was really irrelevant or secondary. To see where we are at now, in St. Louis at a playoff game and having had our hands (on) and touch the Stanley Cup ... it’s pretty surreal.
On the earlier NHL.com video, Wyatt Nelson said “My play-by-play, I think it’s all right but I’m no Doc Emrick.”
Gerry Nelson spoke about what the trip to St. Louis meant to he and his son.
“The fact that I can’t see and he had to describe the game to me was really irrelevant or secondary,” he said. “To see where we are at now, in St. Louis at a playoff game and having had our hands (on) and touch the Stanley Cup ... it’s pretty surreal.
“I really have to stop and think, just the enormity of where this has gotten to now.”
The Nelsons got the royal treatment, including the flight to St. Louis, all courtesy of the Blues.
That did not surprise Blues’ radio play-by-play announcer Chris Kerber one bit.
“The fact that it’s tied in to Saskatoon and the Blades, where Chaser played, and now with Chaser on our broadcast, it’s just an absolute perfect fit,” said Kerber, who credited everyone in the Blues organization for getting on board with the project. “It’s a real team effort and something I think everybody takes pride in.
“Frankly just to have them here is a thrill and as a radio play-by-play guy in a situation like they’re dealing with, the fact that it’s Wyatt’s description that is the eyes for his dad, is a real powerful moment. It’s something really special.”