With the Portland Winterhawks’ season set to start, there will be one name noticeably absent from the masthead.
After 32 years with the Portland Winterhawks, Dean “Scooter” Vrooman has retired. With his retirement, the name Vrooman will vanish entirely as son Todd has moved onto other adventures. Nick Marek has taken over as the voice of the Winterhawks and the change has also happened with the Winterhawks going completely to the app on the phone.
They will still have several games versus Seattle through CW 32 in Portland, as well as Joe TV in Seattle. The era of Dean “Scooter” Vrooman has ended, though, and it’s time—as we gear up to see the 44th edition of the team—to look back on a career in Portland.
Dean started with the team as they geared up for the first of two Memorial Cup championships that he would call in 1982. But back as early as 1959, Dean was looking for ways to be an announcer. There were opportunities, as he would call neighborhood games of kids while growing up in Beaverton, Oregon. They could be baseball, basketball or football—it really didn’t matter; it was just the love of announcing.
While he was growing up, Dean listened to Bob Blackburn and Rollie Truitt as they called games for the Portland Beavers baseball team and Oregon State basketball and football. Those times were where he honed his skills.
Dean started to listen to Bill Anderson as he called the Portland Buckaroos hockey team. Dean would check out a couple of games a year and sometimes watch Jimmy Jones cover the broadcasts on KPTV Channel 12. Dean tried to emulate the games by trying to roller skate, and if that didn’t happen, he would call the play by play of the games—hockey was in his blood.
Dean attended Sunset High School and used his passion to call the football and basketball games as the public address announcer. With that, he headed to the University of Oregon in 1972 where journalism became his major, communications his minor. Following his graduation, Dean relocated to John Day, Oregon in July 1977 at station KDJY. A very small station indeed with just five active personnel. With the newfound place, Vrooman was a busy man. Writing and recording commercials, being the newscaster and even spinning a few records as a Disc Jockey. He had it all. While there, he called two seasons of Grant Union High School Football.
In 1979, he called the coast his home with KVAS in Astoria, Oregon, and with it, Warrenton High School football came calling. Dean ran with it, even being able to broadcast a Statewide Network for State B basketball as well in 1981.
Dean, by this point, still called the Portland area home and he met Jan, who would become his wife. Dean was tapped to carry the broadcasts of the Winterhawks by Cliff Zauner who had traveled with the team as the sportscaster for years. Growing tired of the bus, which was the mode of transport, Dean looked to take over in 1982.
But before that, Dean had to audition, and it happened a baseball game was the place to do it. Dean recalls, and almost feels, moments like when Dwight, the son of Jan Boss, who was the office manager of the Winterhawks, threw a no-hitter in the game Dean called. Dean also had a deja vu moment when Boss scored as a member of the Seattle Breakers (Later the be renamed the Thunderbirds) hockey team. That goal was the first of Dean’s many calls. The Hawks did win the game 8-2 in the Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Ivan Kafoury, who owned the broadcasting rights of the Winterhawks, gave Dean a great deal to plan over the summer as Dean looked to take over the broadcast duties. The late John Kirby, who was an incredible handyman of his own right, was a local linesman for adult and junior recreational games. John provided the rules to Dean and with that, it was up to Vrooman to pick up the history, learn about the returning players and develop a style.
It wasn’t overnight for Dean, and he worked up getting a style that was both pleasing to listen to and could also be one that would entertain. Vrooman was able to work on that during the season when the Memorial Cup came calling. Brian Shaw had talked the Canadian Hockey League into a round-robin tournament to allow all teams to participate and the host team would get an entry as well to make four teams.
In almost Cinderella-type fashion, the Winterhawks not only won the West Division, but made it to the finals, where they lost to Lethbridge by a 4-1 margin. The teams would be Portland as the host, Lethbridge representing the WHL, Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and Verdun Juniors of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). With Portland hosting the tournament, Lethbridge was bounced out early and Portland would win 8-3 against Oshawa to become the first US team to hold the Memorial Cup. Over 54,000 fans saw the eight-game tournament.
Dean was never an employee of the Winterhawks while broadcasting. To make income, he would sell advertising on the radio broadcasts. It was a win/win situation for the Winterhawks, who saw signage, tickets and promotions sold on their end, which allowed Dean to keep all sides happy.
In 1984, Kirby was relocated by his real employer, Tektronics, to California. Dean was joined by Ron Ross as the color man on broadcasts, a relationship that lasted twenty years. Rick Kaplan joined Dean on the road for a couple of seasons. In 2004, things changed with the addition of Andy Kemper. Kemper was a long-time statistics buff and provide all sorts of numerical information to help fill in. He was eventually hired by Dean and the two co-hosted until 2007. With the sale of the team, Dean was relieved of duty in favor of Mark Ertle, who lasted a couple of seasons with the team. Andy remained with the team, selling again, and welcomed Todd Vrooman to the fold in 2010.
Todd is the son of Dean and seemed to take over well. The two flipped spots in 2012 with Todd now the Voice of the team, with Andy providing color commentating. With the sale, Dean also returned to the Winterhawks after a stint of doing banking. Added to the two announcers was a thrill for Dean as it reunited him on air on TV with Todd and Andy.
Dean was working with Rich Franklin at this time on securing sponsors and advertisers. Rich is the Senior Vice President of Corporate Sponsorships, with Dean as the Director and allowing him the chance to work with many of his previous sponsors. Rich Franklin continues to this day of finding the right mix and making both the Winterhawks profitable and an event people want to go to
All of the teams seem to find a language of their own and Dean wasn’t able to shy away from that. During one trip to Canada, he was brought out to the ice. All of a sudden, Coach and General Manager at the time Ken Hodge called “Wallsies.” It is basically skating from one wall to the other at full blast. Dean was told to participate.
Without being able to skate on ice properly, he borrowed Ray Ferraro’s skates, as Ray had the smallest skates. As Dean was getting them on he looked up to see a wall of people rushing toward him. Defenceman Jim Playfair saw Dean getting down on his knees and rapidly crawled into the bench to get out of the way. The whole team starting laughing and defenseman Jim Playfair started slapping his stick on the ice yelling “Scoooooter” “Scooooooooter” “Scoooooooter” and the whole team joined in.
To this day, Dean is known as “Scooter”
With the broadcasts, Dean tried to not only be family-friendly, he also tried to entertain. As most broadcasters look for their own catchphrases, so can Dean claim a couple too.
“Mother McCree” came about whenever something happened that seemed to take a turn for the worse. Whether a goal against the Hawks or a line call that seemed to deflate the sails, Dean would insert that phrase
“Aunt Martha’s teacup” seemed to pop in when things went to the final bell. Whether a scramble in front of the net, the final seconds ticking off as the opposition seemed to be mounting a serious comeback or just plain insanity that seemed to happen, the phrase would be pulled out. The phrase referred to Leave it to Beaver where Aunt Martha would have the teacup in a position of peril. It looked often that it would spill, but amazingly would not.
Those and other catchphrases seem to have been silenced now with the retirement of Dean. As Todd has moved on to other pastures, now Dean has as well.
It will be a different scene without a Vrooman in the Hawks fold.