Toronto

He's the Raptors' game-day announcer, but he's also the team chaplain

Throughout the team’s entire 24-year history, Herbie Kuhn has been pumping up the crowd at Raptors games as the in-house public address announcer. But Kuhn’s responsibilities with the team extend well beyond the microphone.

Herbie Kuhn holds services for both the Raptors and the Argonauts

Herbie Kuhn, the Raptors' in-house announcer, doubles as the team chaplain. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News)

It's a voice most Toronto pro basketball fans know very well.

Throughout the team's entire 24-year history, Herbie Kuhn has been pumping up the crowd at Raptors games as the in-house public address announcer.

But fans may not know Kuhn's responsibilities with the National Basketball Association team extend well beyond the microphone to the spiritual side of things. 

Kuhn watches as the Raptors take on the Minnesota Timberwolves on Oct. 24. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News)

"I have probably what is one of the most unique dual roles in the whole association — getting to be both the in-house PA announcer and to be part of the chaplaincy staff for the team," Kuhn said.

He likes to call himself a sports chaplain, a service he's been providing for the Raptors for 20 years, and more recently with the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League, where he started in 2010.

Kuhn rarely misses a game or practice.

Herbie Kuhn has become a mentor to Raptors guard Norm Powell. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News)

He runs chapel service before every game for both the Raps and Argos. And players from visiting teams often attend the services, as well.

"My primary role as a chaplain and as a representative of the Lord is to serve and encourage, and that's what I love to do."

Raptors guard Norm Powell is a regular at the pregame chapel service. He's says to him Kuhn has become much more than just a chaplain.

"Herbie's always been a really positive role model for me," Powell told CBC Toronto.

Herbie Kuhn leads a prayer after Argos practice. (Gary Morton/CBC News)

Powell joined the Raptors four years ago as a 21-year old rookie from San Diego, Calif. He says Kuhn helped him through some stressful times as he adjusted to a new city and a new country, while at the same time learning to be a pro basketball player.

"I met Herbie and started going to chapel and chatting with him, just about faith and my outlook on things," Powell said. "If there's something on my mind, something I'm struggling with, I'll definitely talk to him."

Kuhn says part of his job is being there to offer guidance and support to players who need it. He says professional athletes deal with a level of stress and pressure that people outside of the game often don't understand.

"If you make a mistake they're going to replay it 16 times," he said.

He says having that kind of relationship with players requires consistency, which is why he's often at team practices as well.

"When you are here day after day and they see you over and over, you develop that trust, you develop that rapport."

On busy days, Kuhn will go to an Argos practice in the morning and a Raptors game at night.

With the Argos, he'll take the time to check in with every single player, coach and member of team staff to make sure they are okay. He'll offer group prayers for players and in some cases one-on-one counselling.

When that's done, he'll head straight to Scotiabank Arena to prepare for his announcing job.

Kuhn prepares his game notes. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News)

"Every single game, I hand write everything, I hand write my introductions for both teams, I hand write my rosters," Kuhn said.

He'll switch hats several times throughout the night, juggling his duties as announcer and chaplain.

Kuhn needs to be at chapel service, which is held 65-minutes before every game. It's takes place in the bowels of the arena, mostly used for storage. They block off a small corner and fill it with chairs.

Kuhn admits it's not much, but it gets the job done.

"When the Israelites were wondering across the desert for 40 years they had to set up tents and structures for their place of worship, so why not the NBA chaplains?" he said.

Kuhn shows off the space at Scotiabank Arena where he hosts chapel service. (Rob Krbavac/CBC News)

A handful of players from the Raptors and the visiting team will take part in the service that usually last about 15-minutes. It doesn't leave much time for Kuhn to get back behind the mic.

"I'll say, 'Amen' at the end of one of our chapels, and then I literally have to race over here within 60 seconds to my first read over the PA system," he told CBC Toronto.

But Kuhn says it worth it.

"Let's put it this way, it certainly helps still my heart and still my mind before I get over to the courtside."

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