Aroostook County loves their high school basketball. Boy is that ever an understatement. The inaugural tournament at the Cross Insurance Center drew some of the largest crowds in several years. Part of the uptick can be attributed to the curiosity factor of the new arena but one of the key reasons for the increase was the deep run made by many teams from The County. For the past seventeen seasons and tournaments, the voice bringing the action back home to the folks in central and southern Aroostook County has belonged to WHOU’s Ken Holck.
The New Limerick resident and graduate of Houlton High School recently was awarded the electronic media award by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association at their annual convention at the Samoset Resort in Rockport.
Holck began his broadcasting career at the Houlton-based radio station in 1997, working as a board operator and basketball announcer, before being promoted to sales manager, a position which he currently holds. When Ken first started calling games they would broadcast primarily Houlton, Hodgdon, and Southern Aroostook games, with some games involving Katahdin and East Grand in the mix. Within a few years WHOU began doing some Greater Houlton Christian games when they started to field a team and also Central Aroostook.
He called his first game for the station with current Presque Isle boys basketball coach, Terry Cummings. During this year’s tournament as the Cross Insurance Center, Holck called his 1000th game.
When listening to a Ken Holck broadcast, you won’t hear some of the over-the-top bombastic shtick found elsewhere. Holck’s style is very straightforward, reserved almost, which is truly refreshing. Ken and whoever he is doing the game broadcast with understand their audience. That audience is often different from the basketball junkie who might tune into an ESPN college basketball telecast on a Tuesday night, for instance. While there is a healthy dose of basketball insight given, the typical listener might be the grandmother living in town, who cannot make it to the game. It could be the college student who is away, following their hometown team on the video stream, a feature WHOU has added for the past three seasons. For those fans, the games aren’t so much about the strategy or X’s and O’s but rather about keeping up with the kids who are playing.
This past season, WHOU expanded their video streaming to include two different games many nights. There was a southern feed, which would cover a game from the southern end of Aroostook County, as well as a feed to cover areas such as Caribou, Presque Isle, Fort Fairfield, and Washburn, just to name a few. The station was awarded an exclusive deal to video stream all of the Eastern Maine quarterfinal games in 2013. When the Maine Principals Association contracted with the NFHS Network/Play-on Sports for 2014, WHOU provided the production and on-air talent for those broadcasts as well.
A staple of WHOU broadcasts with Ken have been his half-time and post game guests. Holck doesn’t choose a player of the game but rather likes to showcase as many student-athletes as possible by having a post game guest. Many of Ken’s halftime interviews are not basketball related. Often the school’s music program will be highlighted or drama. He realizes there is much more going on in the athlete’s lives than just basketball and tries to showcase those areas. On some nights there will be players from other schools in the stands who might be interviewed on-air during half-time.
As far as some of Holck’s favorite moments are concerned, in 2006 when Greater Houlton Christian Academy upset girls class D powerhouse Lee Academy would have to be right up there. He also had the opportunity to call the 2004 Houlton boys state championship victory with Terry Cummings as his broadcast partner that night.
Another favorite memory of Ken’s came several years ago when the Woodland girls defeated Southern Aroostook for the Eastern Maine title. Holck had given one of the Southern Aroostook players, Kaylea Collier (now Kaylea Harbison) a hard time for being a big New York Yankees fan. Holck, being an avid Red Sox fan, had bet Collier if Southern Aroostook advanced to the Eastern Maine final, he would wear a Yankees hat in the Bangor Auditorium for the final. Sure enough the Lady Warriors were in the final and there was Holck, a man of his word, wearing the hat of the evil empire.
Ken Holck is one of those broadcasters who “gets it” Those of us who have listened to his work can appreciate the level of professionalism he brings to every broadcast. He understands the essence of high school sports and shines the spotlight warmly on those youngsters on its stage. The good people of Aroostook County are fortunate to have someone of Ken Holck’s caliber calling the action high above courtside.