Sitting Down with Gene Principe


I got a chance to have a chat with Gene Principe and find out what makes the Prince of Puns tick. I used some of your questions and some from around Nation HQ to find out the history behind his pre-game segments, what keeps him going, who’s the best Oiler to interview and some other stuff. Gene’s the greatest and it was super cool of him to take the time to chat with me.

Check it out…

Your pre-game segments are unique from what other people are doing, when did you come up with the idea and what is the inspiration behind it?

It started late in the 2006-2007 season. Edmonton was on a stretch where they won 2 of their last 20 games. It was during that time that I started trying to have a little more fun on the broadcasts. The next season I started doing ‘unique’ pre-game segments. It didn’t start as every game but it slowly grew into that until present day.

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@Baresnake asks – How much prep time do you do before a game? Are you coming up with puns all day long?

I do a lot of reading. We have access to newspaper stories from every NHL team’s city so we get something sent to us every morning. I read articles for the next 10 Oiler opponents. That generally takes 45 minutes a day. As for game days at the rink by 10:00am. Leave around 1:30 pm. I try to stay away from my phone between 3:00pm-5:00pm but I’m not always successful. Then I’m back at the rink from about 5:30pm-10:30pm. Yes I spend a lot of time thinking about puns. Some come along easily and some not so easily. I wouldn’t say all day long but a lot of time is spent on it.

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@David_Arsenault asks – What is your most memorable pre-game segment?

Geez that’s a tough one. I remember one I did recently using a Piranha and a Perronha and getting bit by the fish and my hand was bleeding(ketchup). It’s so hard to pick most memorable ones.  I think maybe if I had to pick one it was wearing a hot dog suit for Halloween opening and then continuing to wear it the entire game. During the intermission I spoke to Kelly Buchberger and said “This may be the first time in history a hot dog has interviewed a burger.”

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@WanyeGretz asks – Is there a pre-game segment that you cannot believe you did? Have you ever had any ideas axed by the network? If so, what was it?

I think the Halloween costume one. There was an opening in Vancouver where I had an umbrella and they poured water first because of how much it rains in Vancouver and then it was ‘raining’ pucks after Edmonton had scored 8 goals the night before. To be honest I can’t believe many of the openings I do. As I’m getting set to do it I wonder what the heck I’m doing and then I do it. I have never had anything axed by the network because I don’t tell them in advance.

The season started with so many expectations for a playoff push and obviously the results haven’t been there. Does that make things more difficult for you to stay positive during your segments?

It does make it more difficult.  When the team is winning everything feels better. However I try not to let the results impact my demeanour, attitude or approach. It wouldn’t be much fun if I did. Also the organization, despite the tough seasons, are fantastic to deal with even during all the tough times. I also have taken the approach of having fun but not making fun of the players, coaches or organization.

There’s a video floating around YouTube of Craig MacTavish kicking you out of the room when he was the head coach, have you ever been asked to leave a dressing room before? Has it happened since?

I remember that after a pay per view game. I was interviewing Geoff Sanderson and he kept looking away and finally I looked and MacT gave me the get out of here sign. Craig and I had and continue to have a good working relationship(as far as I know). I have not been kicked out of any other dressing rooms.

Have you ever said something you shouldn’t have when the microphones were hot?

Well I have said some things that were heard while the microphone was hot. Luckily it hasn’t been anything that was in bad taste. I am very careful about not saying anything near a microphone. I’ve seen it happen too often.

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@JordanSchwartz9 asks – Which ex-Oiler do you miss interacting with the most? What is the best road story that you can share with us?

Wow a great question(s). I actually miss interacting with Dustin Penner and Chris Pronger. They are two guys that kept you on your toes. You had to be careful with your questions but they made you think about what you were asking. In a different way I miss being around Fernando Pisani. Local kid, fighting a terrible disease, becomes a playoff hero and he’s Italian.

Best road story to pass along is hard to think of after 15 years on the job. I remember going on a police ride along in Minnesota that was set up by Dwayne Roloson. What a night! It was an amazing eye opener into the police world. One of my neatest road moments was walking the beach where Baywatch was shot (one year I did see Pamela Anderson in Vancouver). As usual the better stories are one’s I can’t speak of or at least shouldn’t.

Who in the Oiler organization do you always look forward to interviewing?

I actually always like interviewing Craig MacTavish. For a decade he was the coach and I spent countless days and nights speaking to him. He’s always been respectful of my work and my questions. I’m sure he hasn’t liked all of them but he’s never belittled me or been rude. I’ve always found his answers, especially when he was coach, as being painfully honest. I say painfully because it had to hurt to say some of the things he said during the difficult years but he said it. I don’t speak to him as often as the GM but I always look forward to chatting with him.

Do you really like working with Kevin Quinn and Louie Debrusk or is it all an act?

Working with Louie and Kevin is the best. The two of them are great at what they do and great to work with and hang out with on the road. The two of them put up with all my puns and always laugh (even if they aren’t funny). I wouldn’t do the pre-game segments the way I do if Louie and Kevin weren’t willing to go with the flow. I take a few jabs, all in jest, and they never take it the wrong way. Great broadcasters, great friends and not a charade because I do like working with them.

Thanks for taking the time to make a stupid blogger’s dream come true! I really appreciate it.

Glad to help out!

You can find Gene Principe on Sportsnet, writing articles for the Oilers, on Twitter, and where all good puns are traded as currency.

  • Muji

    I groan. I roll my eyes. Sometimes I even cringe.

    But I have a lot of respect for a man with the cojones to sometimes embarrass himself in front of the masses. Unlike anonymous cowards (cough cough TayLordBalls) who take chickensht shots from the peanut gallery.

    Don’t stop, Gene.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Gene is actually very good at what he tries to do………….as far as the king of puns, I would have to say Ron Mclean started this, not GP.

    I like the way Gene tries to add levity to the Oilers situation this year. His style may not appeal to everyone, but at least he tries to make it interesting. I have heard him in interviews and he asks the typical questions ( as do the vast majority of journalists) and gets the typical answers.

    I would like to see more odd ball questions like Cabbie does!

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Good stuff, BM.

    Gene’s a dude. Sure some stuff isn’t that funny, but if you’re hating on something small/innocent like that, you must have a lot of holes in your walls.

  • vetinari

    Gene seems like a sincerely nice guy and has a tough job trying to make an Oilers’ telecast a positive experience given years of horrible on ice results. Yes, some nights, I could use a little less puns but yet I find myself tuning it for the pregame segment night after night so he must be doing something right. Good interview guys…

  • Eulers

    I think the way Gene acts(childish,silly,humorous) makes people think he knows nothing about hockey but he knows alot. I go to school with one of his kids and used to do a program for reading to younger childs, I read to one of his kids too. I have met him on several different occasions

  • I don’t know bagged milk… I have enjoyed your contributions until today. The entire Rogers broadcast is a joke and Eugene’s the jester and not at all in a good way. Somehow watching these clowns losing season after losing season only makes it worse. I actually get uncomfortable on behalf of players that have to answer his ill prepared and unthought out questions. His repetative use of famousgo to “how did that feel…?” Every interview he injects that at least once. Last night he asked Justin how it felt to get the first goal and then asked Doan in the 2nd intermission how it felt to tie the game…Really? That’s the best interviewer they can get. The guy wouldn’t know a legit piece of journalism if it straightened out his oil soaked curls. People blast Rishaug on this site but at least he knows something about hockey.
    It’s unnerving to look forward to the Rogers broadcasts in the coming years. I sincerely hope the executives are serious about attaining a competent team that at least aims for the benchmark set by TSN. Until they do I’ll watch the games with the volume off and listen to the radio.

    • I’m a huge Gene fan. He’s out there making jokes when there’s nothing really to be happy about. I love his positivity when times have been dark. He’s a big goofball and it’s different from what everyone else is doing and I admire that.

      Now, as for Sportsnet – if you follow me on Twitter you’d know that there’s no one more critical than me. I agree that TSN has set the bar very high and Sportsnet has truck loads of work to do to catch up.

      And hey, it’s my first interview for the Nation so maybe I’ll ask questions of someone that you’re into. I’m always open to suggestions.

      • Baresnake

        I appreciate your thoughtful response and that you like the man but Ron Maclean is the only true pun master on hockey tv. Eugene is 3rd rate… Sorry to say.

  • Craig1981

    Gene’s a lot smarter than he’s given credit for. He always asks the questions…I’d be interested in his opinions of what the Oilers need to fix this group…few people know the oilers like he does.

    • Serious Gord

      Why wouldn’t the cannibal eat the clown?
      Ans: Because he tastes funny.
      Now back up to two guys that laugh at my jokes nooooo matter what!

      *This was my post that was censored out last night. I was making a pun out of the Taylordballs post. And illustrating the ease one can make a pun out of just about anything. I guess you could say the last part was a bit prickish. But censure worthy?

      Anyways I think puns are just a corny gimmick and the routine they have going is tacky. I do not wish anything bad on Gene Principe I just wish that he would stop with the cringe worthy openings. Humour is a matter of taste but it’s not a new idea that puns are widely thought of as irritating to some degree.

      Even Sigmund Freud waded in on the topic explaining the pun’s lowly stature with the fact that they are “the cheapest- and can be made with the least trouble.

    • Craig1981

      Your user name is “TayLordBalls”, your user icon is something even a redneck would roll his eyes at, and you have such great creative writing as “Gene sucks !” (there is no need to space the exclamation mark, treat it the same as a period). If you think you can do better get into broadcast and go do it, but with my points listed above I doubt you would get far. Props to Gene for success in a difficult profession

  • Bishai in the Benches

    Great article!! Good to have insight from someone who has been around the team. Somewhat surprised that he missed interacting with Pronger… I always got the vibe that he thought he was above anyone in the media, especially a goof who spews puns on the local network.

    Still hate #44 though.

    “I have never had anything axed by the network because I don’t tell them in advance.” hahahaha GOLD