WELCOME TO THE JUNGLE!

Hockey fan, radio deejay brings it each home game at Stockton Arena
By Stephanie Maynard

STOCKTON – Standing at 5’8” and wearing simple jeans and a Thunder jersey, “Jungle Jim” might not stand out in a Thunder crowd. But put a mic in his hand and his voice over the speakers and he is instantly recognizable as a Thunder home game emcee.

Splitting time with fellow emcee D.J. Walker in the capacity, his position is more affectionately known as the “Fun Guy.” He hopped on board the year before as a fill-in for D.J., a fellow KAT Country 103 deejay.

During the games, Jim’s voice carries to every part of the arena and the man himself rarely stays still.

Pre-game

Half an hour before the start of the game, Jim gets his script for the night, which outlines everything that needs to be said, when it needs to be said and for what. Then it’s off to the zamboni tunnel where he meets up with the evening’s kids who famously kick off every hockey game with a loud cheer of “LET’S PLAY HOCKEY!”

This game features five kids, each decked out in Thunder gear with smiling parents looking on with camera phones at the ready. It’s hard to tell who is acting as more excited to be there—Jim or them.

He gets them to practice their chant and then mock-frowns at the result.

“I don’t know,” he says and points at one of the kids.

“I think you were lip synching that one.”

Others in the group hurriedly assure him that they are “saving their voice” for their big moment. He leads them out onto the ice and high-fives them all as they step off the ice.

Technically, Jim’s done until the first intermission, but he goes up to visit the Storm Squad, joining in and occasionally instigating their cheers to the crowd.

First Intermission

Jim carefully puts on rubber cleat covers for his shoes every time he prepares to step out onto the ice, careful not to slip during the game.

The caution doesn’t carry over to the mic as he announces the “Thunderettes” skating group and introduced the Zamboni guest rider.

As the Zamboni circles, Jim rouses a section of the crowd to “Dance for their Dinner,” egging on the dance moves from the ice.

“I’m the cheesiest person I know and I will be cheesy to anyone,” Jim said.

After he carefully steps off the Zamboni-slick ice, it’s back upstairs. This time he takes a seat at the media table continuing to chat with and engage fans he passes.

Second Intermission

Well before the Chuck a Puck, Jim is already down at the entrance to the ice, checking to see if he’s pronouncing the Zamboni guest rider’s name correctly and to dish out another round of high fives – and compliment to a small girl in a Disney Helmet—to the waiting Chuck a Puck kids.

Jungle Jim conducts a costume contest in Groucho Marx glasses at Stockton Arena on Oct. 29, 2011. (photo by Sean Blair)

“It’s all about confidence,” Jim said. “Some people get the mic and get all nervous about how they should look or what people think about them. You can’t take yourself that seriously, especially with kids. Kids are the ones I work with the most, they’re my best demographic.”

Walking with practiced ease around the ice, first for the famous “Chuck A Puck” contest and second to cheer on the free T-shirt giveaway, it’s hard to believe he broke his leg five years ago and took a tumble on the ice just last November, which makes him more cautious, he said. He even brings an ankle brace to the games, just in case.

Then, it’s over, at least for Jungle Jim. Sometimes, like the December 11 game, he heads home.

Other times he stays and continues to ham it up with fans and Thunder workers.

“Most of my job is really about the fans,” he says.

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