Mike Lockert (1965-2009)

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If you grew up as a USC football fan and found a job working on a Notre Dame athletic broadcast, that already puts you in a precarious position.

If you’re an African-American man, from Los Angeles, working as a play-by-play man, in South Bend, Ind., you must really be dedicated to the craft.

Mike Lockert was.

Those who may remember his work in these parts of the sports broadcasting world are sadden to hear that Lockert passed away in his sleep last Friday of an apparent heart attack. He was 43.

The Cal State L.A. broadcasting grad who went to Muir High had been the voice of the nationally top-ranked Irish hockey team for the last seven seasons on the local ESPN affiliate, 99.9-FM, as well as on the Irish website. He wrote of his experience (linked here) for the Central Collegiate Hockey Association website about a year ago — talking about growing up and going to Kings’ games at the Forum in Inglewood.

“Following the Los Angeles Kings was fun when I was younger. Not because I understood the game immediately or even laced up a pair of skates. The reason the game was fun, was because the announcer made every rush up the ice sound exciting. He made every goal sound like a playoff goal and every tight game seemed to be the seventh game of the Stanley Cup. Despite the poor performance of the Kings, the game was a rush and I was taken in by the words and the pictures. It was around that time in my life I realized that what Kings’ announcer Bob Miller was doing was exactly what I wanted to do.”

Said Miller: “His passing was a complete shock since I had just visited with him at a Kings game around Christmas and he seemed to be his usual upbeat self. He was a avid hockey fan and Kings fan and I know he did a great job and was extremely well liked at Notre Dame. He was always a pleasure to be around and talk with, his attitude was always positive.
“I appreciate the kind words he credited to our Kings broadcast but it was his perseverance and dedication to his craft that enabled him to be a success in broadcasting. I am extremely saddened by his passing and send condolences to his family.”

Lockert subbed as a host and did reports on several sports-talk shows in L.A. some 15 years ago, doing UCLA pre- and post-game shows, as well as Clippers halftime reports at several L.A. stations — the old 1150-AM, 1260-AM and the Sports Entertainment Network out of Las Vegas in the early ’90s. He left L.A. nearly 10 years ago, pursuing a dream as a play-by-play guy. It lead to jobs in some minor league towns — the Southern Illinois (Marion, Ill.) Miners and the South Bend (Ind.) Silver Hawks, as well as some work in the East Coast Hockey League.

Former collegue Mike Johnson (KKGO/KGIL/KKJZ), who used to get sound bites for Lockert when he was doing Clipper halftime and postgame for 1260-AM, offered these thoughts:

“I remember marveling at Mike … He was a complete pro and always had a smile on his face. I believe that was the year the Clippers went 17-65, so there wasn’t a lot to smile about. As I got to know him, we would talk about his dreams of doing hockey play by play. He talked about going anywhere to follow that dream. Time passed and I would think about Mike sometimes, wondering where his career had taken him. I had no idea that he had been doing Fighting Irish hockey for the last seven seasons. He was a class act. I will never forget him.
“You did good Mike. You did real good.”

Here’s a link (here) to the local South Bend TV station’s coverage of the final Notre Dame home regular-season game, which included a tribute to Lockert with players wearning the initials “ML” on their helmets before a 5-0 win over Michigan State.

And a nice tribute by the Notre Dame Observer (linked) school paper. And another tribute at the USCOH site (linked here).

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This is the last line from his self-composed story from 2008:

“The journey for me has seen its ups and downs, but it is a journey that I would not want to detour in any way, shape or form. The people I have come in touch with, from coaches, players, sports information directors and colleagues has made this part of my journey well worth the trip and I look forward to traveling this road a little while longer.”

According to the Notre Dame sports information department, Mike Lockert’s father, William, escorted his son back to L.A. today. A noon-to-5 p.m. visitation is scheduled for Friday at Boyd Funeral Home (11109 S Vermont Ave., L.A., 323-756-8391) and his funeral is set for 10 a.m. Saturday at the Normandie Church of Christ (1655 West Manchester Blvd., L.A.)

Condolenses can be sent to Mike’s parents, William and Barbara, at 3601 N. Lincoln Avenue, Altadena, CA 91001

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