By Dave Walsh, columnist
It was truly one of the most important moments in my life, and it was a moment that would have an impact on not just my life, but the lives of those closest to me.
This moment happened four decades ago when a young radio broadcaster made a big move and took his young family and made a big step during the early years of his career.
The exact day of this big moment was Oct. 19, 1982. That’s the day the Walshes left for a new life in a new hometown in a new state.
Yep. That’s the day it all started. That’s the day the Walshes drove onto CY Avenue and pulled into their new hometown.
I was driving the U-Haul truck filled with everything we owned and Evelyn, now eight months pregnant, followed behind with Jennifer and Rascal, the pet cat. Jennifer would turn 8 years old six days later, and Emily was born exactly one month to day after we pulled into Casper and became Wyomingites.
I had accepted a job at KVOC Radio in Casper. The owner of the station I was working for in Ogden, Utah, also owned a radio station in Casper. And when KLO Radio in Ogden lost the broadcast rights to Weber State football and men’s basketball, well, the “Voice of the Wildcats” also was without his play-by-play gig.
That’s when the great Fred Hildebrand offered Dave Walsh a great new gig and a wonderful opportunity.
You see, Fred was not only the owner of a radio station in Casper, he was part owner of a new professional basketball franchise that would call Casper home. The Wyoming Wildcatters were the newest expansion team in the Continental Basketball Association. The CBA was considered the Triple A of the NBA, the so-called farm system. In fact, each CBA squad was a farm team of an NBA team. The Wildcatters were affiliated with the Utah Jazz.
The Wildcatters were a brand new team in Wyoming, the very first professional sports franchise in the Cowboy State. And the ‘Catters would have a brand new home arena to play in. The city of Casper had built The Casper Events Center, an all-purpose, horseshoe-shaped indoor facility that would seat 8,000 for basketball.
Today, this marvelous facility is known as the Ford Wyoming Center. And the Ford Wyoming Center has played host to many a sporting contest. Basketball games mostly, I suppose.
The Wildcatters played there, at least 24 home games a year, for six seasons. The Casper Event Center hosted the CBA All-Star Game in 1983, and the Wyoming Cowboys hosted the Cowboy Shootout and the Wyoming Shootout there for years. The Wyoming High School Championships in basketball and wrestling are staged here. Concerts, conventions, and rallies are common these days at the Ford Wyoming Center.
Ironically, in one of the first sporting events held in the Casper Events Center back in 1982, I was there to broadcast the cowboys.
Not the Wyoming Cowboys, but actual cowboys competing in a big-time PRCA rodeo in the Casper Events Center. I had the honor to work with the late, great Dale Stiles. Dale was a coaching icon in the sport, and I felt like I had found home.
Two seasons of Wildcatter basketball would follow, and little did I know then that a long, fulfilling career as the “Voice of the Cowboys” was just ahead.
But I did have the feeling that I “belonged” right from the start. The state and its people, the lifestyle and the work itself took its grip on me way back then. And it has, thankfully, not let go for 40 years now. From the very start some four decades ago, the Walshes have felt welcomed and appreciated.
And I have been rewarded every day since that day back in October 1982.
I proclaimed loudly for 38 years just how fortunate I was. I felt like I had the very best radio play-by-play job in America in the best place in America. Nothing was better than living in Wyoming, and working in Wyoming as the “Voice of the Cowboys.”
And I knew before that, that I had happened onto something special. My first two years in the Cowboy State was a period of learning and growing. The experience of covering a pro basketball team those first two seasons was so valuable. Early on in one’s play-by-play career it’s all about “doin’ games.” It’s all about getting play-by-play airtime.
I got plenty of that.
And look what it has all led to. Look how fortunate I have been.
Wow, what a career! What a life! And lucky me, it’s still going!