Scott Lima always arrived at Ralph Engelstad Arena early.

Four hours before puck drop, he would be stationed in the upper level of the press box, behind his big camera, making sure everything was right for that night's television broadcast.

It wasn't all business, though. Anytime someone walked past his station, he'd pause to greet them with a smile, engage in conversation, and, if it was someone he knew best, he might even jokingly give them grief about something.

"He was never talking about himself, ever," said co-worker Brian Bestge. "It was all about you or his boys, Mason and Landon."

When it came time to grab food or walk around the arena for another reason, he couldn't get very far without someone calling out to him.

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"It was like he was the mayor or a senator," Bestge said. "Everyone would be yelling, 'Hey Scott!'"

Lima, the affable cameraman who was renowned for his exceptional talent working the tight-follow camera at UND hockey broadcasts in Ralph Engelstad Arena since nearly the building's first game, died Monday due to complications from COVID-19. He had been hospitalized for about two months fighting the disease [Scott Lima's GoFundMe Page].

He was 47 years old.

"I'm just at a loss," said Bestge, who went to high school with Lima in Valley City and worked with him at WDAZ, on UND hockey broadcasts and most recently with Mobile Pro. "It's a huge hole for all of us. If there was an MVP, I would give him the MVP as an overall great person to be around and somebody who made others feel important.

"Scott was always about other people first. He always made other people feel good about themselves. He always pumped people up. He was the guy who made people feel special about the task they had to do."

Setting the 'tight follow' standard

Lima worked several jobs in TV, including stints at WDAY in Fargo, WDAZ in Grand Forks and at the UND Television Center. After the UND Television Center closed in 2016, he worked at Mobile Pro, commuting between work in Fargo and his home in Grand Forks.

Lima freelanced UND hockey games going back to nearly the opening of Ralph Engelstad Arena in 2001, working for different entities that carried games -- WDAZ, the Fighting Sioux Sports Network and most recently Midco Sports Network.

He worked one of the most difficult positions on the broadcast, the "tight follow" camera. He was assigned to follow the puck with a tight zoom-in from the upper rafters of The Ralph.

"I always said that he's the measuring stick when it comes to, what we call, the tight follow," said Marv Leier, the longtime cameraman between the benches at UND hockey games and Lima's old co-worker at the TV Center. "He never missed a goal. It always amazed me. I would be like, 'Jeeze, Lima, you never miss it. How does that work? How can you be so good?'

"He loved hockey and he loved shooting hockey. He loved being a part of that production crew and we loved him. You could always count on Scott Lima up there. That's a tough job. That's a real tough job. I've worked with a lot of different tight-follow guys. He was one of the best I've ever worked with."

Lima was stationed in the booth with the play-by-play and color commentators.

"That's the hardest camera position, by far, and he was flawless at it," said Midco play-by-play announcer Alex Heinert. "Our broadcasts were always elevated when he was part of our crew. Whenever we would go back through old games to find clips, you could always tell if it was Scott Lima on tight follow, because he was that good."

Lima got his start in TV while going to school at UND. Upon graduation, he got a job at WDAY in Fargo and worked there for a little more than three years. Then, he moved up to WDAZ in Grand Forks.

"He was a guy who took his job seriously, but didn't take himself too seriously," said longtime WDAZ sports director and former UND hockey play-by-play commentator Pat Sweeney, who is now with KNOX Radio. "He was a very kind gentleman. There was nothing phony about him. He was the real deal. In this business, you don't often find people like that."

After working at WDAZ, Lima moved to the UND Television Center, where he helped the next generation of broadcasters learn the trade. Leier, who met Lima when he was student, recruited him to work there.

Leier said he cherished Monday coffee outings with Lima and Monte Koshel. They would discuss the weekend's UND hockey games and their broadcasts.

"We always had so much fun and Scott was always in the middle of that," Leier said. "He would bring his boys, Mason and Landon, to work. It was fun to watch them grow up. He was always so happy when his boys were around. They were certainly his pride and joy."

Scott Lima with his sons, Mason and Landon.
Scott Lima with his sons, Mason and Landon.

In addition to working UND hockey games, Lima also worked other sporting events in the area, like Fargo Force games, UND football games and occasionally other sports.

"He was just such a genuinely good guy," Heinert said. "He would be one of the first people Jake (Brandt) and I would see when we got to the rink. He'd always have a smile on his face. He'd always ask how our families were doing. We'd talk about anything but hockey until puck drop. He was just a great guy to be around.

"He was always so proud of his boys and the time they got to spend together. He had an infectious smile, an infectious personality. He was genuinely a fantastic human being and it's an absolute tragedy that he's gone."