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From bleachers to broadcast booth: Eagles’ play-by-play announcer marks 10 years


When Pat McNeil signs on to call Wednesday night's Cape Breton Eagles game at Sydney’s Centre 200, he will mark the 10-year anniversary of a special moment.

Exactly a decade ago, on Nov. 29, 2013, McNeil called his first Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game — a 4-3 win against rival Halifax Mooseheads.

"I was actually unemployed at the time. I was working at a call center,” McNeil recalled.

An Eagles fan since day one, McNeil was unemployed and looking for a job when someone suggested he apply for the team’s play-by-play position.

While he had earned a communications degree from Cape Breton University, McNeil had no formal broadcast training or experience.

"I was given the opportunity to commentate a game. I wasn't given the job right away,” he explained.

It only took one game on the mic for his future employers to recognize his potential.

“They received a number of calls saying good things about the new radio announcer,” McNeil said. “They called me after the game and said, ‘You have the job.’"

Over the years, McNeil witnessed some memorable moments such as goaltender François Brassard scoring a goal and Jordan-Ty Fournier’s game 7 winning overtime goal against the Gatineau Olympiques on his 20th birthday in 2017.

In other cases, it was McNeil's calls that were unforgettable.

"Even just growing up being an Eagles fan, everyone knows Pat,” said Eagles’ communications director Brad Chandler. “If they don't know his face, they know his voice for sure."

Chandler says McNeil isn't just the team's voice — he's an ambassador, too.

"Every good franchise has kind of a heartbeat of the team, a guy who really makes a franchise a hometown team,” Chandler said. “And that's exactly what he is."

When asked about his future with the Eagles, McNeil said his journey so far has been a pleasure.

“There’s something very special about being in Cape Breton, where you’ve built your life, and calling the team you grew up watching,” McNeil said. “But at the same time, who involved in sport doesn’t desire to be at the highest level?”

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