by Debbie Little
In line with the web site NCAA.com, “magnificence” is hockey slang for “a participant who’s beloved not just for his abilities, however for his persona. He is without doubt one of the coolest guys on the workforce and often has nice tales. He may also have the most effective circulation on the workforce.”
Appears like an excellent time period for newly minted Corridor of Famer Ken Warkentin, who’s dwelling out his childhood dream, though he did must commerce skates for sulkies.
“I had this pipedream to be a play-by-play announcer in hockey or a shade man,” mentioned Warkentin. “After which I discovered this factor on the aspect, referred to as racing harness.”
At 14-years-old, Warkentin noticed his first race at his hometown monitor, Greenwood Raceway in Toronto. And, at the moment, he remembers studying the sports activities part of his native newspaper, the Toronto Starand responding to a characteristic that supplied younger followers the chance to fulfill a sports activities persona.
Courtesy Ken Warkentin A younger Ken Warkentin calling the races at Flamboro Downs.
Dave Landry For 31 years, Warkentin has been the voice of The Meadowlands.
So, he wrote a letter to the newspaper as a result of he wished to fulfill Greenwood’s monitor announcer and shortly thereafter was contacted by Jim Lampman, long-time publicity director for the Ontario Jockey Membership.
“And I met Earl Lennox and I spent an entire evening there,” mentioned Warkentin. “And he mentioned, ‘In the event you ever need to come up and name qualifiers, you possibly can.’ Which I did.”
Whereas at school, Warkentin obtained a summer season job at Greenwood working within the race workplace and calling the infant races.
One evening, when Lennox was on trip, Jack Stephens was scheduled to name however was working late, so the judges requested Warkentin to offer the adjustments and do the publish parade.
As they have been transferring behind the gate, Stephens lastly walked in and Warkentin handed him the mic and went to go away.
“He says ‘Hey, these, proper?’” mentioned Warkentin. “I say ‘Yeah, I believe so.’ And he arms me the mic and I did the primary race.”
A columnist from Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper obtained wind of the story and wrote concerning the aspiring announcer who obtained his large probability.
Warkentin grew up a number of streets over from Flamboro Downs monitor announcer Wayne Reed.
“I might drive to Flamboro and he would let me name two races an evening and do publish parades,” mentioned Warkentin. “I wasn’t getting paid however he was giving me good publicity.”
When Reed retired, Warkentin grew to become the Flamboro announcer from 1982-90, earlier than transferring to the States.
Following a one-year stint as publicity director and backup announcer at Ohio’s Northfield Park, Warkentin obtained his dream job when he was employed to work at The Meadowlands in 1991.
He is now in his thirty first 12 months on the mecca of harness racing and is fast to level out that by the entire of his tenure, he has been a part of a terrific on-air workforce that is included John Bothe, Dave Brower, Shades Demsky, Edison Hatter , Bob Heyden, Dave Johnson, Dave Little, Sam McKee and Jessica Otten.
Warkentin has referred to as and performed TV work at many alternative tracks all through his profession, and along with The Large M, for during the last dozen years, he is been a part of broadcasts from Purple Shores on the Charlottetown Driving Park on Prince Edward Island, one in every of Canada’s Maritime Provinces.
“As a result of The Meadowlands isn’t racing at that exact time it permits him to do some work on our signature occasions,” mentioned Lee Drake, supervisor of racing, manufacturers, and broadcast for Purple Shores. “The winner is actually us and our workforce. Ken is a real skilled. He at all times comes ready. And he is a real delight for the shoppers and in addition the horsepeople get alongside nice with him.
“When Ken involves Prince Edward Island, he is right here to work and whether or not it is on the printed or backfilling for [announcer] Vance Cameron when he has to go to the sales space and name some races or internet hosting one thing with me, he is only a professional and that is why he is going into the Corridor of Fame.”
Final week, whereas out taking a stroll, Warkentin obtained the decision about his Communicators Corridor of Fame election from US Harness Writers Affiliation president Barry Lefkowitz.
“He instructed me after which it began to sink in after which we began speaking about hockey for 2 hours,” mentioned Warkentin with fun. “It type of sums up your profession. It type of sums up your life. It places a pleasant bow on a variety of work.”
Though they by no means labored collectively, former voice of The Meadowlands Tom Durkin had a profound affect on the announcer that Warkentin would change into.
“Way back, I attempted to determine the best approach to do that and there weren’t many on the market that impressed me besides Tom Durkin,” mentioned Warkentin.
Coincidentally, the three greatest items of recommendation that Warkentin ever obtained all got here from individuals who have not less than, often, dealt with a mic.
“Jack Stevens instructed me ‘The celebrities are on the monitor and your job is to focus on them. That is it. You are not the star, they’re the celebrities,’” mentioned Warkentin. “Earl Lennox mentioned ‘If you wish to pursue this that is as much as you however you actually need to strive various things, completely different jobs.’ And [Hall of Famer] Jerry Connors instructed me ‘Speak to individuals. Exit and ask questions.’”
Warkentin was extraordinarily near Corridor of Fame announcer Sam McKee, who died unexpectedly at 54 from stroke issues in 2017.
It isn’t misplaced on Warkentin that going into the Corridor will put him again in the identical room with McKee, since their sketches will grasp close to each other. And he believes that McKee is comfortable for him.
“We have been an excellent workforce,” Warkentin mentioned. “Sam was the king. I attempt to be higher each day. And I do know I am 63 and father time wins each time. However, while you’re capable of make the most of what you are good at and also you get pleasure from it, is not that the important thing to life?
“It is obtained to be enjoyable and if it is not enjoyable, discover one thing else. I actually love the strain. Put me in that spot. I am ready. I am able to go. Now, you possibly can put the sunshine on. Put me there. I need to be there. I need that strain.”
Drake made the journey to Goshen, NY when the “King of PEI”, driver Wally Hennessey, was inducted and has Sunday, July 2, 2023 circled on his calendar.
“He is fairly humble,” mentioned Drake of Warkentin. “I am unsure he realizes the connection that he has [with the fans]. He is very recognizable and really approachable and straightforward to speak to, so he matches proper in with our Island allure right here.”