It's All in the Numbers
How would you like to have the best seat in the house at your favorite sporting event and get paid a small stipend to perform a task you love? That has been the good fortune of one of our Fellows for the past 22 years, ever since he was a senior in high school. It helped to know Jiggs McDonald, the television announcer for the New York Islanders at that time. Our Fellow convinced Jiggs that he could add a lot to the telecasts by feeding him statistics about the team and the game.
He was only eight years old when the Islanders were formed and immediately started following them avidly. When he became statistician for the telecasts, the team was in the midst of a run of four straight Stanley Cups. "Riding in the Stanley Cup Parades, touching the Stanley Cup. What a thrill for a high school kid!"
He became a broadcaster at Union College in Schenectady, New York. He was "The Voice of The Dutchmen" for football and hockey, called three National Championship games, and was the voice of the "Final Four" when Union hosted it in 1985.
College, however, did not interrupt his service as statistician for Islanders home telecasts. He somehow found time to drive home for a number of games. One time he drove four hours to Montreal for an Islander game the day before his parents were flying him home for his birthday. His folks were quite shocked when his uncle heard Jiggs name him on the air.
Over the years, he has met many of hockey's greatest names, including those he rooted for and against as a youngster. "I had a funny encounter with Bobby Clarke, the legendary Philadelphia Flyer (now their general manager), in the crowded Coliseum press box one evening. I backed up into someone and knocked him a bit off-balance. When I turned to apologize, a sheepish smile came over my face as I said to Clarke, `Fifteen years ago I would have given anything to do that.' He shook my hand and said simply, `Fifteen years ago I would have hit you back.'"
In the broadcast booth he supplies the statistics of the game such as shots on goal. But he goes well beyond that with observations such as, "This will be the first time since 1989-90 that the Islanders have won seven straight home games." Jiggs, a Hockey Hall of Fame Broadcaster who now calls the games for the Florida Panthers, says our Fellow dazzled him with some of the most unusual statistics. Jiggs joked that our Fellow fed him off the wall things such as the Islanders' 7-1-0 record when a public address announcement stated that a car in the parking lot had been left with the lights on and the motor running.
Our Fellow has worked with Howie Rose for the past nine seasons, currently on Fox Sports New York. According to Howie, it didn't take long to reach that "zone" where they can read each other's mind about what piece of information is needed and when. "Quite simply, he is the best at what he does." In a recent game, the Islanders broke a long scoreless drought against New Jersey, scoring their first goal against the Devils. Immediately, our Fellow had the information that it was the Islanders' first goal against New Jersey in 201:44, sixteen seconds shy of the club record. Howie frequently authenticates the statistics by saying, "We know this is right because he is an actuary."
In addition to his television duties, our Fellow is a reliable source for several of the teams' beat writers and he writes two regular columns for newyorkislanders.com, the team's official Web site. "This Week on the Isle" looks ahead to the coming games. "The Skinny" is prepared after each game and expands on a segment that was featured on telecasts in the early 1990's. Although he has not been on the air during games since college, he was recently interviewed on the radio to promote his columns.
Before that he wrote to various e-mail groups from his personal e-mail address "forever firstname.lastname@example.org." It seems that the Islander fans had serenaded the New York Rangers and their fans with the cry "19-40," reflecting the year of the Rangers' last Stanley Cup. However, the Rangers won the Cup in 1994. Islander fans will tell you that that Cup was "bought" and not "won," thus the derivation of the e-mail address.
Eric Hornick's day job is vice president of Centre Insurance Company. He is also the current secretary/treasurer of the Casualty Actuaries of Greater New York, a CAS Regional Affiliate. He has worked in the profession for fifteen years, following a short stay at the National Hockey League office in New York City. Before hiring him, Centre's president, also an actuary, was concerned about Hornick's nonactuarial activities, but was convinced to hire him. In an interesting coincidence, Centre had been founded in 1988 by Steven Gluckstern, who briefly owned the Islanders from February 1998 to April 2000. Gluckstern had sold Centre to the Zurich Group but was still on the Zurich Board when Eric joined Centre.