PHILADELPHIA – Zack Hill led a Flyers public relations staff which won four Dick Dillman Awards for outstanding media work but none of those could top the honor he received on Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.
Hill, who is completing 30 years of service with the hockey team, was on hand for the opening of the new Zack Hill Media Center at the WFC.
Naming the interview room in his honor is not only fitting but justified. Hill has been acknowledged as one of the best in business, making sure all media – home and away – were taken care of on game nights and daytime practices.
His friendly, unassuming personality made him one of the most popular figures in the history of Philadelphia sports media relations.
Joe Siville, who has taken over Hill’s position as a vice president, probably said it best during the dedication ceremonies.
“I had the privilege of working with Zack for 15 years,” Siville said. “There’s simply not enough time to explain what he meant to me.
“Zack, you’ve been exceptional at your job for 30 years, and that alone makes it only right to have this (media center) named after you. But that’s not why we’re here. Everybody sees you walk in the room and hears the name ‘Zack Hill’. . .the first thing you do is smile. And the smile gets bigger.”
Hill has that effect on people. Thing is, he really doesn’t have to work at that personable nature. It just comes natural.
“It (the honor) is very overwhelming, but it’s very cool,” Hill said. “I started with the Philadelphia 76ers (as a media relations assistant) in 1987. And here we are in 2023. That’s 36 years.”
Hill grinned and added: “I looked it up. That’s 252 years in dog years.”
That drew a laugh from team officials, ex-Flyers players and media members alike.
“I’ve been around awhile,” Hill said.
Hill gave a heartfelt thanks to the Wells Fargo Center and the Flyers organization for the honor. Plus the local broadcasters and media personnel.
“It’s truly the proudest and most humbling moment of my pro career,” he said. “But that’s not true. It’s ‘of my life.’ I’m just so happy.”
Some of the well-known personalities on hand included such franchise icons as Bob Clarke, Paul Holmgren, Bill Barber, Joe Watson and current general manager Daniel Briere.
Also on hand were Hill’s mom (Midge) and his life partner (Heidi), along with several other family members, including his brother, Bunker.
Briere said he knew he had a true friend in Hill when the two made their first visit to Montreal after Briere turned his back on the Canadiens and signed with the Flyers as a free agent in 2007.
“Today’s your day,” Briere said to Hill. “You deserve it. You were more than a PR guy, you were a friend. You were there to protect us.
“Me personally, for Zack, it was probably one of his worst nightmares. Zack had to come with me to Quebec, protect me in front of the Montreal crowd. But it was pretty cool, because I always felt safe going to Montreal. I was Public Enemy No. 1 there for a while. Zack was always by my side. We always had a bond, a special chemistry that developed. He knew if I needed help.”
Briere knew what Hill meant to the media.
“He was loved by his players and the media,” Briere said. “It’s not always easy – the players don’t always want to answer questions, and the reporters want to ask questions. He always had a special knack of making everyone feel special.”
As for the media members themselves, Hill said a few kind words.
“I think we had a great working relationship,” Hill said. “Our goal, as a PR department, was to make your job as easy as possible. I hope we had a little success in that.
“I know PR stands for public relations, but in my eyes, it stands for patience and respect. Those are the qualities I like to give off. When I talk to someone, I want to make sure I’m patient and respectful with them. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve lost my temper since the mid-‘80s. I’ve been fortunate to call all these folks in the Flyers organization my second family. I’ve spent over half my life here and it’s absolutely the best thing that’s ever happened to me. This is a day I will always cherish and will never forget.”