By Rob Ficiur
After 3162 consecutive games the first (and only) radio voice of the Calgary Flames has retired this week. Sixty four year old Peter Maher originally wanted to be an NHL goalie, but soon realized her could talk faster than he could skate.
He is the only person with the Calgary Flames for every one of their games. Not missing work for 34 years in a row is a great feat. But that is only the beginning of what made Peter Maher a fan favorite.
As I have read and listened to Peter Maher stories this week, five things stand out about Calgary’s Mr. Hockey.
In his farewell news conference Maher gave some advice to whoever will take over his role as the play by play commentator. “Treat every game and every broadcast with respect and reverence, remember it is an honor to be a broadcaster in the best league in the world.” After more than three decades on the job, he still had respect for the league and the team.
2. Professional – When Maher first began broadcasting with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Harold Ballard gave him one piece of advice. “Remember there are two teams playing the game.” In the past 3126 games, if the Flames opponent scored a goal, Maher would announce it with some enthusiasm. Some “homer” announcers barely whisper it out loud when the other team scores.
Lanny McDonald (of the Toronto Maple Leafs) scored the first goal that Maher announced in the NHL. Later Maher called Lanny’s 500th goal; and Lanny’s final goal the day the Flames won their 1989 Stanley Cup. Twenty five years later, Lanny was at the Peter’s farewell press conference, a tribute to Maher’s professionalism.
As I have listened to Maher in the Morning for the last ten years, Peter could add stories from 10 or 20 or 30 years ago about what the Flames players and events. Sports fans can tell stories, but Peter Maher was there.
This week Maher was asked about his weirdest interview. His response was the morning before a Oilers Flames game, Peter asked Wayne Gretzky for an interview for the pre-game show. Wayne replied shyly “The Oilers have asked me not to do game day interviews.” With Wayne being the focus of so much media attention, it is understandable why Edmonton would want to limit distractions. Wayne said to Peter, “Meet me over there in fifteen minutes.”
There will be no farewell game or season for Peter Maher – though fans would have liked it. Maher did not seek publicity for himself, it is not about him.
Two years ago, I wrote an article entitled 3000 consecutive games, Yah Baby!” When I Googled “Peter Maher” my column was the 13th article to come up. Two of the other twelve have nothing to do with the Flames announcer – so there are only 10 articles ahead of mine. I don’t know how search engines work – but what this tells me is that Peter Maher was not in the news very much. It was not about him; his goal was to tell the world about the Flames and entertain.
When Maher handed in his resignation, he suggested that all that was left was to send out a press release. It was suggested that there should be a press conference. Peter was uncertain about a press conference. His worry was “What if no one comes?” No worry, the room was packed to overflowing with Calgary media, Calgary Flames from the past and present. Their tribute to him.
5. Yeah Baby!
Was a phrase Peter first used in the 1986 playoffs. He was coming home from a game and listening to the radio when these words came on in a song. During the 2004 Stanley Cup playoff run, Maher’s “Yeah Baby’s” got shared across an internet that did not exist in 1986. Peter got to call the 2010 Olympic Gold Medal game, with a “Yeah Baby!” as Sidney Crosby scored the overtime winning goal.
As he gave his farewell press conference, Peter Maher did not give a farewell “Yeah Baby!” for those in attendance. He said that would have been about him and the game is not about him.
For the rest of our lives, when we will think of Peter at those high points in our lives when we exclaim: “Yeah Baby! Yeah Baby!”