There’s a conspicuous silence from the old radio booth above section 324 in PNC Arena these days. When Chuck Kaiton was up there, his baritone would spill out the open window and down into the stands. You never needed a radio to listen along to Kaiton up there.
That booth sits mostly empty now, used only for the pregame, postgame and intermission shows since Kaiton’s contract was not renewed over the summer after four decades. Kaiton, however, is not silent.
As the Carolina Hurricanes roll along through the regular season, the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster has a new outlet for his thoughts: a podcast with friend and financial planner “Coach Pete” D’Arruda.
“It keeps me busy at least, until something changes,” Kaiton said.
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The Live Happy Show – focusing on “the things in life that never disappoint – wine, cigars and sports!” – is keeping Kaiton busy in retirement. The slickly produced video podcasts with theme music and graphics, recorded at D’Arruda’s home studio, have so far featured guests Scotty Bowman, Ron Francis – appearing on camera in a Toronto Maple Leafs hat – Erik Cole and Tim Gleason.
And the podcasts also feature a lot of Kaiton, talking hockey and wine and cigars with D’Arruda – essentially, the experience of traveling with Kaiton on a road trip, now available for public consumption. Minus the actual cigar smoke.
“We’re trying to get it off the ground and naturally, at some point, monetizing it to some degree,” Kaiton said. “The first thing is to have a lot of fun with it and just get it off the ground. We want people to see it.”
Guests still to come, according to Kaiton: Chris Berman, Gary Bettman, Bobby Orr. While the show has so far skewed in a hockey direction, Kaiton said he doesn’t want or expect it it to stay that way; that there’s more to living happy than hockey is practically the point of the show.
For someone who has lived almost all of his adult years by the rhythms of the hockey schedule, the beginning of the NHL season going on without him has been jarring for Kaiton, to say the least.
He hears from his friends in the business as they come through Raleigh, and he texted Rod Brind’Amour to congratulate him on his first win as Hurricanes coach, but he hasn’t watched or listened to the team’s games. After all these years as the first point of contact for many fans, most of his information on the Hurricanes now arrives indirectly.
“It is weird. It definitely is weird,” Kaiton said. “And the funniest thing was, I knew the day would be coming, when the season would start. I constantly got reminded of it by people calling me. ... I’ve been hearing from people, it’s nice. But it’s also a little bittersweet. I’d love to be working, but what are you going to do? I’m not looking back.”
Instead, he has sunk his efforts into the podcast, which if anything has been more labor-intensive than he expected. Kaiton equated that dynamic to people thinking all that went into being a play-by-play announcer was the few hours he was on the air and not the many hours of preparation. Though the podcast only runs an hour a week, Kaiton has found it to be a substantial time commitment, even with D’Arruda handling most of the production and distribution.
“That’s out of my realm of responsibility,” Kaiton said. “I just talk”
Which, as Hurricanes fans know, is where Kaiton excels.
So for now, he is throwing himself into the podcast – preparing for each week’s interview, lining up guests, expanding his vocabulary to find new ways to describe the wine and cigars he and D’Arruda sample on the show – while waiting for whatever comes next.
“It’s something temporary for me,” Kaiton said. “I do want to get back in the NHL, but I want to pick a good spot. I’m not just going to go anywhere. Whether that materializes or not is out of my hands.”
Until then, he’ll occupy his hands with wine and cigars, extemporizing into a different microphone for a different audience, a broadcaster turned podcaster still hoping to turn back someday.
Find the Live Happy Show at livehappyshow.com. New episodes are available on Fridays.