For a man with such a tremendous voice, Mark Ryba is unassuming. When this reporter first met him, Ryba first said, “Are you sure you got the right guy? [You want to talk to] the PA announcer?”
But on weekend nights at Ingalls Rink, Ryba’s voice booms throughout the building, a voice all Yale hockey fans would recognize.
As befits a career accountant, Ryba’s voice is professional — his hometown bias muted.
“During the intro I deliberately punch my voice for Yale, [but] I don’t sound like I have a stomach disorder for the visiting team,” he said. “It’s not the focus on an announcer’s style as to what controls the atmosphere of the games.”
Ryba, the announcer for the Yale football and hockey teams, had an odd rise to announcing prominence. A Connecticut native, he played hockey at St. Mary’s High School in Greenwich, Conn., and served as president of the Southern Connecticut youth hockey board of directors. While at one of the board meetings, a representative from the fledgling — and now defunct — American Hockey League team Beast of New Haven heard Ryba talk and asked him to audition for the open announcing spot in 1999.
“I took it as a lark, really, because I had no experience,” he said. “They brought me into the New Haven Coliseum which was completely empty, gave me their script and told me to simulate the game conditions. I got the job stone cold.”
A year later, Yale’s previous announcer of 30 years passed away, and Yale administrators asked the Beast for someone to fill in. At the end of the season, Ryba asked if he could keep the job.
“If you want us, we want you,” then-Athletics Director Wayne Dean said.
Ryba was always aware of his deeply resonant voice. In his day job as an accountant, he was often called on to deliver presentations.
“Sometimes if I do readings in church people say, ‘Couldn’t you be a priest?’” Ryba said.
Yale stadiums, with their lack of JumboTrons and instant replay, have an old-school collegiate atmosphere which contrasts sharply with trends in professional sports, Ryba said.
“Some sports just become a bit of a circus with a focus on the commercialism of a show,” he said. “It’s not necessarily about the game, fireworks and loud announcers. It’s not my style and it isn’t the style here at the Yale contests.”
Aside from announcing penalties, goals and the starting lineups, Ryba plays an integral role in game operations at Ingalls Rink. Each night, the away team gives him its starting lineup, which he then presents to Yale head coach Keith Allain ’80. Allain, as the coach of the home squad, has the advantage of assembling his five starters with the knowledge of the opponents’ starters. Precisely 15 minutes before the puck drops, Ryba brings the scorecards to the referees, who all seem to know Ryba by name. Once the referees sign the sheet, both coaches are unable to change their starters.
Ryba also plays a role in what has become a Yale Precision Marching Band tradition. When there is 1:04 left on the scoreboard, members of the band always scream out, “Hey Mark, how much time is left?”
“He always lets us know what time it is,” YPMB member Wesley Wilson ’12 said, as Ryba’s booming voice lets the players know that there is “one minute left in the period.” The band then thanks him.
Although Ryba’s voice is now heard by thousands each night he works, Ryba used to be insecure about speaking in front of crowds. He said that high school speech classes helped him get over his fear of microphones.
For former News sports editor Brittany Golob ’10, now studying in England, Ryba’s resonance reminds her of her days in New Haven.
“He’s the voice of Yale hockey,” she said. “Whenever I listen to the games on WYBC’s Web stream and hear his voice, it brings me back to Ingalls and makes me feel like I am not 6,000 miles away.”
Ryba doesn’t currently have any ambitions to apply his voice to other fields or venues.
“I’ve looked into doing voiceover work, but again a lot of that involves being overly animated, which is not my style,” he said. “I think that I’ve found my niche in doing this and I enjoy it.”
Ryba has two children and lives with his wife, Debbie, in Milford. He has not missed a men’s hockey game in the 10 years he has been on the job.
Peter Damrosch contributed reporting.