“It feels like small-town America,” Peter Schaad told me over the phone. His family just returning from a quick vacation to Point Roberts, the Vancouver Whitecaps FC play-by-play announcer tried to avoid work as best he could. “I dial completely off. I try to stay away from Twitter, as hard as that is.”
Over the last few years as the Vancouver Whitecaps FC play-by-play announcer has accomplished the enviable task of combining his hobby with his career. “I wanted to be the Whitecaps play-by-play guy since I was 12,” he confessed. Local greats like Jim Robson (Canucks, 1970-1999) and Ian Michaud (Whitecaps 1973-1981) inspired him. “Jim Robson was total class. Ian Michaud was the first non-English accented announcer that, really to me, showed that there was a place for guy like us — that didn’t have an accent — in the game.”
Not everyone is fortunate enough to land their dream job. As for Peter, who paid his dues in small market radio across BC over many years, he’s been lucky enough to land a couple.
“I fell in love with music radio,” said the original 100.5 The Peak morning show host. “I had no idea how much I was going to love it, love the audience, love the music, and the atmosphere.”
Returning to Vancouver after stints in Port Alberni and Victoria over the years, Peter never thought the opportunity with the Whitecaps would materialize as it did. With a diligent eye on the Vancouver soccer team from afar, Peter knew great things were about to happen when Greg Kerfoot took ownership late in 2002. A strong media strategy was developed and it opened doors for people like him. With a heavy heart, and after much consideration, he left music radio and pursued his lifelong dream.
“It’s a job that’s a hobby more than anything,” he admits. Not only a long-time Vancouver soccer fan but lifelong Aston Villa fan as well. He gets to travel around North America, he gets to call matches. I said that it’s so nice to hear someone speak so passionately about their job. He told me that it’s passion, but it’s also great fortune that led him here.
“I was raised by a hardworking family that always said ‘follow your dreams, we’ll support you. Just make sure you set goals along the way’. So I kind of always set these little incremental goals.”
He added that unless you’re extremely talented, you don’t shoot to the top right away — in the radio business or in any business for that matter. You need to be challenged, you need to set goals and figure out how you’ll get from one point to the next. Each being a small victory but also a stepping stone.
Even in sports broadcasting, Peter rolled with the punches. Working a bit with the Whitecaps since 2002 when they were still in the USL (pre-MLS days) he would travel from Atlanta to Miami or Puerto Rico with his own radio equipment, piling into mini-vans with “all the guys and all the gear” to get to the next game. “That’s how you learn. I’d rather learn that way then be given everything right off the bat.” Peter now enjoys the high standards and quality of TEAM Radio and MLS facilities.
“The MLS is still up and coming. Players are coming in and they’re just getting better and better. This is the renaissance of soccer in North America right now.”
The Whitecaps have come a long way in the last 12 months alone and have made the most of their sophomore year in the MLS. As someone whose job it is to know the ins and outs of the team, on and off the pitch, Peter says the journey has been truly amazing.
“It was fun last year. A lot of excitement, there was a novelty, thrills and spills, but not a lot of wins. To transform from last year to this – with salary restrictions – is unbelievable.” He tips his hat to the commitment of ownership and to the vision of Head Coach Martin Rennie. “His recruitment is part of what really drives him. This is the reason why he’s able to get players that are higher than the MLS… …He looks for the player, the personality, and the person he wants in the group.”
With a couple of moves recently, trading off big names and fan favourites, Peter said it took guts. “Every single move has been shrewd and they’re strengthened still. I think we’re on the cusp of something really, really big.”
Momentum is already growing for the team inside BC Place, on the road, and around Vancouver. “You have no idea how excited I am and how hard it is to temper that enthusiasm because you don’t want to set expectations high – but expectations are high.”
Despite only three sold out games this season, you cannot deny the fact that the Whitecaps FC games pack a big punch when it comes to action, excitement, atmosphere, and overall fan experience. As for the Southsiders supporter club, Peter said it wouldn’t be the same in BC Place without them. He also noted that even on the road, in places like Seattle, Portland, Colorado, and even Chicago, Whitecaps fans are being spotted en masse.
Peter encourages Whitecaps FC fans to do a road trip game if they can and named Portland as the top destination, “it’s a must-do!” If you’re up for a bit more travel, Salt Lake is another. It’s just over a two hour flight, the city itself is really beautiful and the stadium is set with a view of the Wasatch Front. “I’ve been really fortunate and blessed because I get to see these places every year. I enjoy each and every one as much as I can where I go.”
On the road and around home, you can catch Peter on Twitter @PeteSchaad — even though he does try to avoid it when he’s off the clock. “Where else do you go to find your news now? Legions of hard core major league soccer fans share their insights. I don’t know what I would do without [Twitter].” From great writers and reporters in each MLS city sharing stories and breaking news, Peter recognizes it as a great resource.
As modest as he is, Peter is still taking everything in stride. He’s currently a part of something really big happening in Vancouver while living out his dream. It’s fortune, it’s dedication, it’s passion, and it’s a lot of hard work that can get you where you want to go. His excitement cannot be contained — and who can blame him.
The next Whitecaps FC game is Saturday, August 11, 2012 at 4:00pm from BC Place in Vancouver. You can hear Peter on TEAM 1410 every weekday at 3:00pm on Whitecaps FC Daily.