By Dave Walsh, columnist
It was truly one of the most important moments of my life, and it was a moment that would impact not only my life, but the lives of those close to me.
This moment happened four decades ago when a young broadcaster took a big step forward and took his young family and took a big leap in the early years of his career.
The exact day of that big moment was October 19, 1982. It was the day the Walshes left for a new life in a new hometown in a new state.
Yeah. This is the day it all started. It’s the day the Walshes drove down CY Avenue and stopped in their new hometown.
I drove the U-Haul truck full of everything we owned and Evelyn, now eight months pregnant, followed with Jennifer and Rascal, the pet cat. Jennifer would turn 8 six days later, and Emily was born exactly one month after we stopped in Casper and became Wyoming residents.
I had accepted a job at KVOC Radio in Casper. The owner of the station I worked for in Ogden, Utah also owned a radio station in Casper. And when KLO Radio in Ogden lost the rights to broadcast football and men’s basketball from Weber State, well, the “Voice of the Wildcats” was also without its play-by-play gig.
That’s when the great Fred Hildebrand gave Dave Walsh a great new gig and a wonderful opportunity.
You see, Fred wasn’t just 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 Continental Basketball Association’s newest expansion team. The CBA was considered the Triple A of the NBA, the so-called farming system. In fact, every CBA team was a farm team of an NBA team. The Wildcatters were affiliated with the Utah Jazz.
The Wildcatters were an all-new team in Wyoming, the Cowboys’ first-ever professional sports franchise in the state. And the ‘Catters would have a whole new home arena to play in. The city of Casper had built the Casper Events Center, a horseshoe-shaped indoor multi-purpose facility that could accommodate 8,000 people for basketball.
Today, this marvelous facility is known as the Ford Wyoming Center. And the Ford Wyoming Center has hosted many sports competitions. Mostly basketball games, I guess.
The Wildcatters played at least 24 home games there a year, for six seasons. The Casper Event Center hosted the CBA All-Star Game in 1983, and the Wyoming Cowboys have hosted the Cowboy Shootout and Wyoming Shootout there for years. The Wyoming High School basketball and wrestling championships are held here. Concerts, conventions, and gatherings are common these days at the Ford Wyoming Center.
Ironically, in one of the first sporting events held at the Casper Events Center in 1982, I was there to stream the cowboys.
Not the Wyoming Cowboys, but real cowboys taking part in a big PRCA rodeo at the Casper Events Center. I had the honor of working with the late great Dale Stiles. Dale was a coaching icon in the sport and I felt like I had found it at home.
Two seasons of Wildcatter basketball would follow, and little did I know then that a long and fulfilling career as the “Voice of the Cowboys” was just ahead.
But I had the feeling of being “in my place” from the start. The state and its people, the lifestyle and the work itself took hold of me at the time. And he has, fortunately, not let go for 40 years now. From the very beginning, some four decades ago, the Walshes have felt welcomed and appreciated.
And I’ve been rewarded every day since that day in October 1982.
I proclaimed loud and clear for 38 years how lucky I was. I felt like I had the best play-by-play radio job in America in the best place in America. Nothing was better than living in Wyoming and working in Wyoming as “Voice of the Cowboys”.
And I knew before that that I had stumbled upon something special. My first two years in the Cowboy State were a time of learning and growing. The experience of covering a professional basketball team those first two seasons has been so valuable. At the start of his play-by-play career, it’s all about “making plays”. It’s all about getting play-by-play airtime.
I have plenty of them.
And look what it all came down to. Look how lucky I was.
Wow, what a career! What a life! And fortunately, it continues!