Not too long ago, Kyle Schultz's life seemed fulfilled. He was living in Los Angeles and had a great job selling industrial filters.
But after a chance encounter with a microphone, Schultz gave it all up - at the drop of a puck."I was selling filters one minute, then I'm doing play-by-play the next," said the 31-year-old Schultz, who made his debut last week on KAPN (AM-860) as the voice of the Utah Grizzlies.
Just three years removed from the high-pressure world of heating and air-conditioning equipment sales, Schultz has worked his way up the sports broadcasting ladder - from practicing his call into a tape recorder in Los Angeles, to working as sports director of a small radio station in his native Milwaukee, to his first play-by-play job last year with the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks of the East Coast Hockey League, all the way to Salt Lake City and the International Hockey League.
"I think it's the ultimate goal of everybody who does this job to be the longtime voice of a National Hockey League team or the longtime voice of an IHL team," Schultz said. "I had always wanted to do play-by-play because I know the sport. I love it. It's a passion."
As a kid, Schultz and his older brother loved hockey so much they persuaded their father to drive them all the way to Madison, Wis., a good hour's drive from their Milwaukee suburb, so they could take part in a more competitive hockey league. Current NHL star Gary Suter was a teammate on one of Schultz's youth state championship teams. He went on to play at Wisconsin-LaCrosse, a small college that didn't give scholarships - and didn't win much, either.
When he wasn't selling industrial filters, he played recreational hockey in Los Angeles. After one of his games, he happened to pick up a microphone for some impromptu play-by-play of the next game. Some friends heard him, he was encouraged and enrolled in a community college sportscasting class.
While honing his skills in L.A., Schultz got to know a Los Angeles Kings staffer who later mentioned Schultz to then-Tiger Sharks executive Tim Mouser. He hired Schultz after hearing his demo tape. After a year in Tallahassee, Mouser was hired as the Grizzlies' executive vice president and brought Schultz along with him to Utah.
Schultz already feels at home.
"The fans are loud and vocal. They're going to be great," he said. "I personally think the sport of hockey is on the uprise . . . It's fun to watch and people, like the football and basketball fans, are beginning to realize that. I think this town is very fertile in that way."
Schultz and KAPN will broadcast all 82 regular-season games and what Schultz hopes will be a long run in the IHL playoffs. Grizzlies player Andy Brickley and other special guests will join Schultz in the booth.
Schultz also will handle the play-by-play for 10 cable television broadcasts on the Prime Sports Network. He will be the host of a weekly half-hour TV show as well if the team can work out a deal with one of the local stations.