Mike Benton knows precisely what he's getting into. In his eight seasons as the only broadcaster in Stockton Thunder history, he visited Anchorage more than a dozen times for series against the ECHL's Alaska Aces, so he's familiar with that hockey franchise, the town and Sullivan Arena. Plus, he's got an aunt, uncle and cousins who live here.
Benton's coming back to town soon -- for the long haul, this time.
The Aces on Thursday announced they have hired Benton, 32, as their radio and television broadcaster, and their director of media relations.
He replaces Josh Bogorad, who earlier this month accepted a radio gig with the NHL's Dallas Stars.
Benton, who in 2009 received the ECHL's Media Relations Award of Excellence and three times has called the radio broadcast of the circuit's All-Star Game, said he sees the move north as a great opportunity. It is not lost on him that the previous two guys to hold the Aces job advanced to the NHL -- Bogorad's predecessor, Jack Michaels, is the radio play-by-play man for the Edmonton Oilers.
"Ultimately, this was an opportunity way too good to pass up,'' Benton said in a telephone interview. "In seeing what Jack and Josh have parlayed this opportunity into, it makes it very appealing.''
Particularly appealing to Benson is the television aspect -- the Aces broadcast all home games statewide, though not in the Anchorage market. Benton said he owns some television experience -- Stockton broadcast three home games a few seasons ago and he did some television work in college -- but the dozens of television broadcasts he will do for the Aces each season will significantly expand his skills.
Particularly appealing to the Aces is Benson's social-media credentials. In Stockton, he furnished the Thunder a strong presence on Facebook and Twitter -- he also is active on his own Twitter account, @Benton_Mike -- and also made video content a strong element on the Thunder website.
"He has a skill set which we don't have, which is the social-media stuff,'' said Aces managing partner Terry Parks.
Parks said Benton topped a list of 40 applicants.
Benton become the second Stockton Thunder employee to land a new job in Anchorage recently. Former Thunder head coach Matt Thomas, who engineered that club's playoff defeat of the Aces on the way to the Kelly Cup Finals last spring, earlier this summer was named head coach at UAA.
"A colleague of mine joked, 'When are you going to be cutting the cord and stop following (Thomas) to a new city?' '' Benton said with a laugh.
Parks said Benton benefitted from strong recommendations from Thomas and Bogorad.
"That had a lot of say about it,'' Parks said. "You want to go with somebody you know instead of taking a longshot.''
Benton said he is flying to Anchorage on Sept. 1 and his wife Amy, a teacher, will follow about a month later.
One of Benton's first goals is to engage Aces fans, known as the Cowbell Crew. He's witnessed the passion of Anchorage fans.
"You really understand the high degree of responsibility that comes with the job,'' he said. "I want to deliver an informative and entertaining broadcast.''
That, and get ready for the transition from California to Alaska.
"Needless to say, my wife Amy and I are going to be putting a lot of resources into extra clothing,'' Benton said.
Find Doyle Woody's blog at adn.com/hockeyblog or call him at 257-4335.
Woody on Hockey
By DOYLE WOODY