Flyers’ Morgan Frost to play first NHL game in Toronto with father and former Maple Leafs announcer watching proudly
Frost grew to love hockey while tagging along with his father, Andy, the Leafs' PA announcer for 17 years. It's come full circle: "Now I'm kind of taking him to the game," Morgan says.
From his booth above the ice at the Air Canada Centre more than a decade ago, former Toronto Maple Leafs public address announcer Andy Frost attentively watched the action unfold beneath him, prepared at any moment to announce a goal or a penalty.
But he broke his focus occasionally, peering over the glass barrier at the edge of his desk down to press row below him. Among the horde of reporters typing away at their laptops sat his adolescent son, Morgan, who fixated on the game with a pen in one hand and a program in the other.
Andy watched Morgan write something down, mimicking the reporters around him. Was he taking notes on the actions of his favorite Leafs players, including Kyle Wellwood and Mats Sundin? Tracking stats, just like the ones he memorized on the backs of hockey cards? Was he doodling? Andy couldn’t quite tell. Regardless, Andy knew Morgan liked what he saw and what he was a part of on press row.
“I could tell he had the aptitude,” Andy said. “Like any little kid, you know what press boxes are like. He liked the fact that he could get popcorn and bags of chips and ice cream and drinks for no charge.”
That aptitude built in the rafters of Air Canada Centre inspired an adoration for the game, propelling Morgan to an illustrious junior hockey career with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and a burgeoning professional one with the Flyers.
On Tuesday, 22-year-old Morgan will return to the home of the Leafs, now called Scotiabank Arena, to play his first NHL game in Toronto.
Since the end of his 17-year tenure with the Leafs after the 2015-16 season, Andy rarely commutes to Toronto from his home 30 miles north in Aurora, Ontario, averse to the traffic congestion and “construction everywhere.” But he’ll make an exception to see Morgan live out his dream in the building where it was born.
“I was always so proud to be my dad’s son,” Morgan said. “I’m really thankful for those experiences and that he was able to bring me in there and just everyone that he was in touch with at the rink or arena was always so great to me. I would never take that for granted.
“The whole experience of it and getting to go and being around the locker room, that kind of set me up for, I want to do this.”
From volunteer DJ to Leafs PA announcer
Andy grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the 1960s in a family that constantly added to their collection of 45 rpm 7-inch vinyl single records, also known as 45s. They regularly played music in the house, from the Supremes to Paul Revere & the Raiders to Three Dog Night to the Beach Boys.
Of course, Andy played both ice hockey and popular Winnipeg pastime sponge hockey, too.
“There’s nothing else to do in Winnipeg in the winter than to play hockey and listen to music and smoke dope,” Andy said.
At any party that he went to throughout his teenage years, Andy always served as the DJ. While he worked as a waiter at a steak house in Winnipeg, Andy volunteered at the University of Manitoba radio station as an announcer. Shortly after, the local rock station hired him, paying him to do what he already did for nothing.
After seven years in Winnipeg radio, Andy joined Toronto rock station Q107 in 1985 to host a weekly show called “Psychadelic Psunday” and serve as music director. The show aired from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. every Sunday and played music from the psychedelic era of 1965 to 1975.
“I played not necessarily what I wanted, but I played what I thought the listeners would like to hear,” Andy said.
Andy had been hosting “Psychadelic Psunday” for nearly 14 years when he attended Leafs training camp in nearby Barrie, Ontario. That’s where Kristy Fletcher, daughter of former Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher and brother of Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, approached Andy to see if he would be interested in submitting a demo tape and applying for the Leafs’ public address announcer position.
He passed rounds of interviews and landed the job in 1999. Morgan was born that same year. Andy passed on his love for hockey to his son, setting up a road hockey net in the garage and shooting on it with Morgan before he was old enough to skate.
When Morgan was about 7 years old — “I was actually two years late starting hockey,” he said — he started going to skating clinics and playing hockey.
“I had no aspirations that he would become a professional,” Andy said. “I just wanted him to play. To be a member of a team like any other father would want their kid to be a part of a team, you know? But as time went on, and as he got a little bit older, by that time he was maybe 12, 13, 14, you could see that this kid, not only did he love it, but he was really good.”
‘More of an influence than he thought he was’
As Morgan grew older, Andy brought him to the Air Canada Centre with one condition he had to abide by during games: “Don’t bother me, I’m working.”
But before puck drop, Andy gave Morgan the full behind-the-scenes experience. He took Morgan to his mic check, letting his son shout something over the speakers in a mostly empty arena. The duo took the elevator downstairs to attend the pregame media meal, walking by the visitor’s locker room and catching glimpses of players warming up.
Morgan was fascinated by the rack of sticks leaning against the wall by the locker room. Each player had multiple sticks, which were pristine compared to the stick Morgan used for two and a half years, plastered with so many yards of yellow, white, and black tape for his minor Aurora Tigers team that it practically resembled a club. When the Washington Capitals came to town once, Morgan recalled watching Alex Ovechkin tape his stick before the game.
“I remember looking at Morgan just staring at Ovechkin,” Andy said. “Just staring at him. And now he gets to go and play against him.”
Two minutes after the final buzzer, Andy would race down the hall with Morgan in tow to host Leaf Talk, a call-in radio show. Andy plopped a headset over Morgan’s ears so he could follow along with his conversations. Before Morgan was old enough to attend games, he fell asleep to his dad’s voice on the postgame show over the radio on his bedside table.
For seven straight seasons from 2006 through 2012, the Leafs missed out on the playoffs, so Morgan heard plenty of “ridiculous stuff” from frustrated fans and witty retorts from his father.
“That’s where I think I really learned my dad’s sense of humor, how he’s a little sarcastic,” Morgan said.
Much like their mutual passion for hockey, Andy and Morgan share a love for music. Morgan accompanied Andy for his Sunday radio show downtown, sitting in the booth and growing to appreciate the perfection of the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and the Rolling Stones.
Morgan explored the genre on his own as he got older, counting Tom Petty, the Tragically Hip, and the Eagles as a few of his favorite artists. Just like his dad was as a teenager, both Morgan and his younger sister, Marley, are the DJs among their friend groups at social outings.
“I don’t know where he got his taste,” Andy said. “I do know that he’s got really good taste in music though. Like he doesn’t play [bad stuff], you know?”
For Morgan, it’s pretty obvious — “I think he was probably more of an influence than he thought he was,” he said.
‘It’s all come full circle’
In 2015 when Morgan was taken in the fourth round, 81st overall by the Greyhounds in the OHL Priority Selection draft, Andy didn’t think Morgan was going to make the team, let alone play in the NHL one day.
Andy purchased round-trip tickets to Sault Ste. Marie for him and Morgan to attend training camp, fully under the impression that they would fly home to Aurora five days later. Morgan packed a single change of clothes and even had a fallback plan in place with a Junior A team.
But a couple of Greyhounds ended up staying with their professional teams, leaving an extra roster spot available for Morgan. In four seasons with the Greyhounds, Morgan led the team in scoring twice, once in 2017-18 (42 goals, 70 assists for 112 points) and again in 2018-19 (37 goals, 72 assists for 109 points).
“After his success in Sault Ste. Marie and that whole period,” Andy said. “I had a pretty good feeling at that point that something was about to happen.”
At the 2017 NHL draft, former Flyers general manager Ron Hextall traded forward Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for the 27th overall pick, center Jori Lehtera, and a 2018 conditional first-round pick. Hextall used that 27th pick to select Morgan.
Since becoming a full-time pro in the 2019-20 season, Morgan has split time between the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Flyers. He has played against the AHL Toronto Marlies in Toronto twice, but he’ll play against the Leafs in what will always be known to him as the Air Canada Centre for the first time on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be emotional for me just going into that building where I worked for 17 years, but also the fact that my son is going to be on the ice,” Andy said. “It’s going to be fantastic.”
As a child alongside his father, Morgan marveled at the visiting players that would pass through the arena as they warmed up and taped their sticks. Now, Morgan is that visiting player he aspired to become, and his father will be marveling at him.
“I’m very thankful for the experiences that he gave me when I was younger and it’s kind of cool that it’s all come full circle,” Morgan said. “Now, I’m kind of taking him to the game.”