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Interview: YouTube Hockey Names Guy tells (almost) all

Puck Daddy

Guillaume Latendresse of the Minnesota Wild has, shall we say, a challenge name to pronounce for the layman. The NHL's official pronunciation guide tells us it's GEE-OHM lah-TEHN-drehs.

YouTube sensation 'Runforthecube' disagrees, offering up an alternative on one of his 1,000 NHL player name videos: gully-OHM lah-TEEN-dress-aye.

Eh, close enough.

The videos produced by 'Runforthecube' first came to our attention in early October. Like much great comedy, it's all about the simplicity and the oddity: The "How To Pronounce" videos run five seconds, don't have any graphics other than white letters on a black screen, and feature an exaggerated male voice giving absurd line readings of names both large and small, easy and complicated.

For example, one instant classic for a recent Hall of Famer:

It's one of those things that's either going to strike you as the kind of nonsensical fun you have with your buddies at one in the morning at the pub, or the biggest waste of time on YouTube since people began filming themselves opening packs of hockey cards.

We're squarely in the former group. Not every video works. But the ones that do are just ridiculously amusing: "Whiney Gret-sky?"

Who is this guy? Why is he doing this? Puck Daddy reached out to him and got some answers about his background, the making of the videos and … why? Just …. why?

'Runforthecube' wasn't ready to reveal his name to the world quite yet, being that there's still other sports to conquer (his NBA clips are gaining steam).

Here's what we know: He's 5-11, 165 pounds from Winnipeg. He's 33 years old. He shoots left.

And now, our email interview with this genius/weirdo:

Q. Why? Just ... why?

'RUNSFORTHECUBE': I remember in elementary school trading hockey cards with my friends and getting laughed at because I mispronounced Patrick Roy's name. I was adamant that I was right until I watched Hockey Night in Canada and heard Don Cherry pronounce it 'Patrick Wah'. From then on I referred to Don Cherry as my official pronunciation guru.

Unfortunately as a grown man, I've had to relive my childhood taunting as I've been pronouncing 'Roberto Luongo' and 'Kevin Bieksa' as 'Roberto Lulongo' and 'Kevin Bieska'. From that moment I decided that I wouldn't rely on anyone else to tell me how to pronounce athlete names and that I alone would become the official source of athlete name pronunciation.

There are too many inconsistencies across sports broadcasters and not a single resource that they can rely on as an industry accepted pronunciation guide. The video pronunciation service that I provide hopes to solve this need. Sadly, as far as I know there aren't any broadcasters that have adopted the runforthecube pronunciation standard.

How many names are we up to, as of this moment?

We are currently sitting at just over 1,000 NHL player name pronunciation videos. There is a video for almost every current NHL hockey player. Every Saturday morning we create a few pronunciation videos of retired players that have been submitted by fans.

How many fonts did you use before settling on whatever the hell this is?

Selecting a font was pretty easy. I wanted something that was easy to read and had clean lines. I chose to use 'Helvetica' as it met all my requirements.

What was the first name you attempted and why?

Oddly enough, I actually started this channel with a couple of NFL quarterback names.

My initial plan was to conquer the NFL first, but the task seemed too daunting and my heart wasn't into at that moment. I quickly shifted my strategy, deleted my first couple of videos and started to go through the NHL player list alphabetically. The first hockey player name that I did was Justin Abdelkader. I was battling a cold at the time the video was produced, so it's not my best work.

What was the most challenging name for you to attempt and why?

I set a time limit on my videos to last only 5 seconds so the biggest challenge is trying to pronounce each name twice within that time frame.

The most difficult hockey videos to create so far have been Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond of the Calgary Flames (video here) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers (video here). The hardest one to pronounce overall has been the basketball player Chukwudiebere Maduabum of the Denver Nuggets.

How many takes does a typical video take?

Most videos can be completed in one take. I listen back to the audio to see if there can be any improvements or minor tweaks to the delivery of my vocal performance. A video can be created from start to finish within 2-3 minutes. There isn't any preparation or planning into how an individual video or pronunciation will be made. I've been able to create an assembly line type of video production schedule to whiz through creating up to 30-50 pronunciation videos a night.

First, I create the visual graphic of the player name within one minute, then I practice the pronunciation in my head while I load the image into my video editing software. I record my vocal performance within 30 seconds. The first time I vocalize my pronunciation is when the record button is pressed. I then upload the video to YouTube within a minute and move onto the next name. It needs to be a very systematic process in order to get through the volume of videos that I've done within the last month or so.

Which announcers and/or voice artists would you call your influences?

Russian singer and vocal artist Eduard Khil has had a major influence in my vocal performances. His vocal range is amazing and something that I would aspire to. In the shower I often try to sing like Chris Colfer from "Glee." Fans comment that I sound more like Marvin the Martian from Looney Toons.

Play-by-play announcers and broadcasters that influenced my work include Bob Cole, Harry Neale, Jim Hughson, Tom Larscheid, John Shorthouse and Don Taylor.

It would appear that as the numbers have grown, the comedy has gotten broader, much like the track for the U.S. version of "The Office." Do you agree?

I think Dwight Schrute should have become the Regional Manager, but enough about "The Office".

I think as a vocal artist and performer you have to always experiment and try new ways of approaching things. This very low level of comedy can easily transfer across many sports and still have the same impact on the individual viewer. I don't focus so much on the number of views a video gets. My most viewed videos are not the hockey superstars, they are the lesser known players like of Guillaume Latendresse, Petteri Nokelainen, and Dale Weise.

Are you surprised by the reaction to this bit of whimsy from hockey fans?

It's been a very polarizing response from viewers. I never realized how serious hockey fans are about pronunciation, enunciation and intonation of hockey player names. It just goes to show you that fans are very passionate about their teams and their favourite players. Some of the back and forth bickering about proper pronunciation between fans can be amusing.

I'm surprised that this small video project that started out in my parent's basement has caught the attention of hockey fans everywhere and garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

Are you surprised no one has done an electronica remix of the names?

I'm not surprised at all. I think people revere these videos as holy or untouchable. They respect the art form too much to alter it. Either that or they think it would be a colossal waste of time.

Are you surprised that the NHL hasn't reached out to hire you for announcer seminars, teaching proper pronunciation for a nominal fee?

I think the NHL is probably scrambling to find a way to keep in-house arena announcers employed now that I've developed a way to automate the in-game experience. All they have to do is play the runforthecube pre-recorded names to announce all goals, assists, penalties, and 3 stars of the game. I can see EA Sports or another similar gaming company implementing a runforthecube announcer option in one of their upcoming NHL games.

What's the end game for YouTube Hockey Names Guy?

I'd like to think that this is only the beginning of the 1st Period for the runforthecube YouTube channel. I've pretty much wrapped up creating pronunciation videos for current hockey players, but there are hundreds of retired players that could get featured. My ultimate goal is to have a pronunciation video for every athlete of every sport.

Some people say this project is too dangerous and shouldn't be attempted. To them I say: "Did Theo Fleury quit hockey when he was told he was too small to play? Heck No! Did BizNasty2point0 quit Twitter when he was told he was too controversial? Heck No! Will I stop polluting the Internet with five second videos of odd sounding pronunciations? Heck No!"

PS — Here's a present for you!

(Ed. Note: The great Roger Ebert once said: "Now that I've inspired a character in a Godzilla movie, all I really still desire is for several Ingmar Bergman characters to sit in a circle and read my reviews to one another in hushed tones."

This is like that.)


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