When people think about sports, athletes and teams come to mind.
However, there’s a whole other side to sports games that the fans sometimes don’t take for granted.
On the other side are the Public-Address (PA) announcers, the referees, the guys who work statistics, and the penalty box timekeepers.
In Ottawa, Ontario, one person on this side is Stu Schwartz, former Ottawa Senators PA announcer and current radio host at MAJIC 100.
Growing up, Schwartz was fascinated by the entertainment industry, so, in a way, it’s fitting he landed a job as a radio host.
“To be on the radio/TV and to be in a movie,” Schwartz said.
In the summer of 2006, Schwartz was told by a friend that the Senators were hiring a PA announcer, and that’s how his time with the Sens began.
“I saw the opening on the Sens website, so I sent an awful audition tape,” Schwartz said.
Although he was nervous on his first day on the job for the 2006-07 season, Schwartz would go on to work with the Senators for the next 12 years.
“It was surreal and I thought I was dreaming. Growing up as a Montreal Canadiens fan, I was obsessed with their legendary PA man Claude Mouton and his successor, Michel Lacroix,” Schwartz reminisced.
“I never had the skill to play in the National Hockey League (NHL) so this was the next best thing. It felt really weird that first preseason game and to be honest that’s all I remember,” he added.
During his time with the Senators, Schwartz has gotten the opportunity to work during the 2007 Stanley Cup Final vs the Anaheim Ducks, attend a lot of community events, and meet many fans.
“Without a doubt it was announcing the Stanley Cup finals in my first season. I remember being so nervous because CBC was live in the press box where I announced from my first 8 seasons. I kept telling myself ‘don’t screw up, don’t screw up’,” Schwartz recalled about his most memorable moment.
While working with the Sens, Schwartz then joined the MAJIC 100 radio station in 2011, and began working with fellow host, Angie Poirier.
“For 5 years before I got sick, we started the #nomorebullies campaign and took our presentation to schools and honestly, it’s one of the things I’m most proud of,” Schwartz said about his most memorable moment.
Then, in 2016, his life came to a shock. In February, Schwartz was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the blood.
“I was in shock and disbelief but then quickly went into ‘how do we beat this?’ mode,” Schwartz recalled.
During his time with cancer and getting treatment, Schwartz took time off from his radio host job and his Senators job. Through it all, he saw the tremendous support the people of Ottawa showed him.
“I can never thank the Sens fans enough for their support. Whenever I’m out anywhere in the city, someone always comes up to me and says something nice or shares their story,” Schwartz said.
Following his bout with cancer, Schwartz returned to MAJIC 100 and his Senators job in the 2017-18 season.
Then in October of 2018, Schwartz announced he would be retiring from his job as the Senators PA announcer.
“When I came back to MAJIC 100 in the fall of 2017, it became very clear that I couldn’t resume late nights with a 3:45am wakeup call to host the morning show and decided a year later to hang it up,” Schwartz explained.
Although leaving the Senators job meant working full-time at MAJIC 100, Schwartz has said he misses a lot of aspects of being a PA announcer.
“The fans, announcing goals and visitors’ penalties, especially when the Toronto Maple Leafs were in town. I also miss the atmosphere of the rink, from the ushers, good will ambassadors and the game night crew,” Schwartz said.
Over the course of his PA announcing gig and his radio show hosting gig, Schwartz has connected with a lot of fans and made a lot of friendships with people he has met in both jobs.
“We’ve known each other for 20 years, shared a ton of laughs and tears, she’s one of my best friends and she knows me inside out,” Schwartz said about his friendship with Poirier.
“The morning I came back after being off for 18 months was really special because I missed working with her. She’s a pros pro,” he added.
Due to the journey that life has taken with him and cancer, Schwartz has realized the most special part of all is getting to spend more time with his children: his son Matteo and his daughter Isabella.
“After cancer you learn what’s really important in life, I still sweat the small things though. Family trumps everything, where it was always work before now, I try to spend more time with my wife Consuelo Bernardi, and my kids,” Schwartz said.
And in terms of the Senators, Schwartz believes that although they have hit some hard patches, they will rebound and come out stronger.
“The role of the PA announcer is to compliment the fans experience at the rink, not to overtake it. If you’re having fun it comes across. While the team has hit some hard times, I have no doubt they’ll fully rebound in good time.”
Just like he did.