Answering The Call

New Jersey Native Takes Talents To Hockey’s Biggest Stage

 

Take one look at Evan Yasser’s room and there’s no question that he’s a New Jersey Devils fan. His walls are lined with posters and calendars featuring his favorite Devils players, a testament to the team he’s grown up watching – and idolizing. 

Even through a short conversation, you can tell that Evan knows more about hockey – and horse racing and baseball – than the average fan. His recall is swift when questions about his team come up. And he has a voice one would swear is made for radio, which might explain why he was a perfect fit as a guest broadcaster alongside Matt Loughlin and Chico Resch when the Devils hosted the Las Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 3, 2019.

But for Yasser, it was a moment that was years in the making.

Evan is on the autism spectrum and when he was younger, he didn’t have expressive and receptive language. According to his parents, Dona and Ed, he couldn’t really compose an answer to an open-ended question or stay on the topic of a conversation. 

The 19-year-old special hockey player overcame that challenge with time; what came next was a passion for broadcasting that pushed past those previous boundaries. 

Evan’s interest in announcing began around the age of 14 with horse racing at Monmouth Park. He was enthralled with the announcer’s ability to keep up with the action on the track. Yasser began to mimic those professionals, and his skills quickly evolved. Before long he began honing his voice by calling video games and footage of classic moments in Mets and Devils history. Then he started taking his talents to games at the Prudential Center.

“I started doing it because I was trying to help my mom keep up with some of the opposing players that I know,” Yasser recalled. “There have been a few times – mostly when I’ve gone out with my dad and a few of his work friends – where one of my dad’s buddies is like ‘who has the radio?’ But it was really me.”

Evan’s talent didn’t sit in the stands for long. With the help of the American Special Hockey Association, Yasser first put on the headset in what he considered a “tryout” with the Binghamton Devils, the AHL affiliate of the New Jersey Devils. It was his performance during that game that surprised everyone, especially his parents.

“My wife and I heard a clip of the Binghamton game afterwards, and at first we were waiting for him to come on and then we realized it was him,” said Ed Yasser. “To hear him being able to process at the speed he does is incredible, even with teams where he came in and didn’t know the guys at all. 

“He got the media guide the day before and read up on it and then during the game flawlessly – and at high speed – just started calling out the names and stuff like that.”

That trial obviously went well, and it landed him a spot in between Loughlin and Resch during a Devils game. Despite Evan never seeing himself do live play-by-play for a professional team, Loughlin described him as “enthusiastic, knowledgeable…having all his bases covered.” The opportunity to work alongside some of his idols wasn’t something Yasser took lightly.

“It was beyond belief,” he said. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ve been going out to The Rock for a long time. But to actually sit in the radio booth with the guys that actually do it, I never even dreamed of that.”

For his parents who have heard his voice echoing up from the basement for years, they already knew what Evan was capable of. They’re just excited he had the opportunity to share his talents with more people.

“We’re crazy proud of him,” said Dona Yasser. “It’s amazing to see him here and what he can bring to the booth. On the one hand, he really surprises us but on the other hand, we know that he’s really talented. It’s really rewarding to see and makes us really happy to see him succeeding that way.”

Reception of his performance on-air has been overwhelmingly positive, including a range of fans that think he’s better than some of the pros. It’s too early to speculate the long-term outlook of Evan’s broadcasting career, but for now he’d love stay local (and loyal to his Devils).

With baseball season rolling back around, Evan has his sights set on calling for the Mets alongside Howie Rose at Citi Field. But until then, he’ll be in his basement, working on perfecting the rhythm that took him to the rafters of The Rock.

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