Toronto

Toronto Raptors' PA announcer Herbie Kuhn gets ready for Game 3

Toronto Raptors' PA announcer Herbie Kuhn looks back on his 21 years with the team.

Raptors' longtime PA announcer warms up for Game 3 between the Raptors and Cavaliers at ACC

Toronto Raptors' PA announcer Herbie Kuhn stands in Jurassic Park at the Air Canada Centre as he gets set to announce the team's first home game of the Eastern Conference Finals gainst the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Paul Borkwood/CBC News)

"KYYYYYYYYYYYYYLLLLLE L-L-L-LOWWWREEEEEEEEEE WITH THE THREEEEEEEEE!!!!!!"

Chances are you've heard that voice at the Air Canada Centre or on your TV while watching Toronto Raptors home games. It rings out every time Kyle Lowry sinks a three, or Bismack Biyombo makes a monster dunk.

But do you know the man behind those unforgettable pipes?

"Being a part of the best fans in the NBA for 21 years has been a privilege."

That's how Herbie Kuhn feels about his job as the "Voice of the Toronto Raptors," 

He's the public address announcer at every one of the team's home games, and it's been his gig since the Raps joined the NBA way back in 1995..

Herbie Kuhn announcing a Toronto Raptors game at the Skydome back in 1996. (CBC News)

And he still remembers that first game.

First game: Nov. 3, 1995

"November, 3, 1995 against the New Jersey Nets at Skydome," Kuhn recalled.

Kuhn remembers being nervous calling his first big game but he knew it was a historic moment in the Canadian sports landscape.

"Back then it was like. 'Oh my goodness, the NBA is here in Canada,'" Kuhn told CBC News. 

Herbie Kuhn taking some notes during his early days as the Toronto Raptors' PA announcer. (CBC News)

The Toronto Raptors were formed alongside the Vancouver Grizzlies as the first two Canadian teams in the NBA.

"When I look back I really have the sense we were a part of a piece of Canadian nostalgia and I'm very blessed and grateful to be a part of that," Kuhn said.

Herbie Kuhn having some fun with the camera, while announcing a Toronto Raptors' game at the Skydome in 1996. (CBC News)

'I get the best seat in the house'

And Kuhn believes since then he has announced between 800 to 900 Raptors' home games.

"I get the best seat in the house to watch some of the best athletes in the world, I get to use my God-given talents to announce and bring enthusiasm to the fans and to players," Kuhn said.

Herbie Kuhn and former NBA player and coach Isiah Thomas. (NBAE/Getty Images/Herbie Kuhn)

But how does he make sure those vocal cords last four quarters?

Kuhn says he drinks hot water and honey three hours prior to each game to keep his voice warmed up, cuts out the caffeine and does vocal exercises.

He arrives three hours before every game to prep. 

"I'm old fashioned, old school. I like to write out by hand all my introductions, all the rosters," Kuhn explains.

But how does he get all those players names' right?

"I will talk to the visiting team's PR person if necessary to clarify the pronunciation of a name and if I'm not convinced by that I might try to get to the player myself," Kuhn said.

Team's Chaplain

Kuhn not only lends his voice as the Raptor's announcer, but he's also the team's chaplain.

"We have a pre-game chapel service, an hour before tip-off every single home game that is open to both teams," Kuhn explains.

The team has been holding pre-game chapel since the Raptors' second season in 1996.

"Chapels are quite common in the NBA. All 30 teams if I'm not mistaken have a chaplaincy program," Kuhn said.

Kuhn says it's open to every player, but it's not mandatory they attend.

Stand out moments

The Toronto Raptors' win over Chicago Bulls in their first season is one of many stand-out moments Kuhn has experienced with the team.

But it was Vince Carter's tenure as a Raptor from 1998 to 2004 that was a high point for Kuhn. He describes announcing the games the man nicknamed "Air Canada" played in as an "incredible privilege." 

Vince Carter played with the Toronto Raptors from 1998-2004. (Gary Dineen/Getty Images)

"You just never knew what was going to happen every night," Kuhn explained.

"From night to night there was kind of like an anticipation, 'What's Vince going to do? What's Vinsanity going to look like tonight,'" said Kuhn.

And most recently, getting to call the current team's playoff run has been one of his biggest career highlights to date.

"Game 7 home win over Indiana, Game 7 home win over Miami Heat this season has been a consistent string of highlights," Kuhn said. 

The Toronto Raptors' play their first home game in the Eastern Conference finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 3.

"I can't wait until Saturday night when we have the first game of the series back at the Air Canada Centre."

Toronto Raptors' PA announcer Herbie Kuhn practices some names ahead of Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals when the Raptors take on the Cleveland Cavaliers on May 21, 2016 at the Air Canada Centre. (CBC News)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Victoria Valido is a producer based in Ottawa for the CBC News parliamentary bureau. She has produced for Power and Politics, The House, Rosemary Barton Live and The National. Previously, she was CBC Toronto's Social Media Producer. She also produced local Toronto TV newscasts and worked on CBC Radio One's Metro Morning and Here and Now. You can email story ideas to Victoria.Valido@cbc.ca

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