Whoever said accountants are stuffy has not met, or rather heard, Mark Ryba. He's fairly unassuming. He talks numbers by day. But on weekend nights, his exceptional voice booms off the walls at Ingall's Rink as the announcer for Yale's hockey team.
And in the fall, he announces the school's football games. Ryba doesn't quite understand what the hype is about. After all, the team is the big deal and all he does is tell the folks what the team is doing. But to hockey fans, he is the voice of Yale hockey. That's a voice they know.
Ryba tries not to let his enthusiasm about his own team be too obvious. But he admits, from behind the microphone, his bias slips out. When he is talking about the opposing team, he feels himself relax a little. Not so when he's talking about Yale.
"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 told reporters. "It's not the focus on an announcer's style as to what controls the atmosphere of the games."
Where it all began
So how did a Connecticut number cruncher become the beloved voice of Yale teams? A native of Connecticut, he started by playing hockey for St. Mary's High School in Greenwich, Connecticut. He also served as president of the Southern Connecticut youth hockey board of directors. In 1999, when a representative of the Beast of New Haven – a now-defunct American Hockey League team – heard Ryba speak, he asked him to audition for an opening as announcer.
Ryba didn't take it too seriously, but it sounded like fun.
"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, the Yale announcer of 30 years passed away. Officials asked someone at the Beast of New Haven to provide a stand in, and that was Ryba. He did the job as a temp for a season, and then he asked to become permanent.
The answer was quick. "If you want us, we want you," said, Wayne Dean, athletic director at the time.
Ryba has not missed a men's hockey game since that time, and that was 10 years ago.
The Yale difference
Ryba is especially fond of the Yale stadiums. The stadiums have an "old school collegiate atmosphere," he told reporters, unlike the trendy modern versions that exist in most places.
"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."
In addition to announcing the games, Ryba plays an integral part in the operations. He presents the school's head coach with the lineup for the other team. And, he delivers the scorecards to the referees, an act which, though it might seem insignificant, solidifies the list of starters. And, per a longstanding 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," band member Wesley Wilson told reporters, as Ryba's booming voice informs the players that there is "one minute left in the period." Then the band thanks him.
Prior to his stint as Yale's sports announcer, Ryba was not unaware of the resonance of his voice. In his accounting career he is often asked to make presentations because of his voice. In private life, he gets many comments from his fellow church members, asking him if, with a voice like that, he should step up into leadership.
"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."