By Rob Ficiur
In recent years iconic sportscasters have retired; leaving a void of experience for their replacement to try to follow. The list of retirees includes: Peter Maher (Calgary Flames 33 years), Vin Scully (LA Dodgers 66 years), Bob Miller (LA Kings 44 years). Several other long time announcers appear to be winding down their careers. These include Rick Jeanneret (Buffalo Sabres 46 years), Mike Lange (Pittsburgh Penguins 40 years) and Bob Cole (CBC 48 years). As these legends retire, they each (will) leave a different legacy to the sporting world. Some are remembered for a phrase or a style but all will be remembered for their insights into their sport.
1. Peter Maher – Peter called every Calgary Flames game from the team’s arrival in 1980 until he retired in 2014. His consecutive games streak of 3162 consecutive games will never be repeated. His call of “Yeah Baby!” is unique to Peter. Unfortunately, the last few years of Maher’s career the Flames did not play well enough to earn a “Yeah Baby” from their radio voice. Peter retired right after the 2013-2014 season – not giving fans a final farewell season. Maher said it was never about him – but he was wrong; fans would have liked a final season to appreciate his talent.
2. Mike Lange is famous for his creative calls after the Penguins score. In preparing this article, I found where TSN did a top 10 of Mike Lange calls. Many of these calls he has repeated on different occasions. The following are some of his famous calls – but caution don’t try to make sense of why he would say these things.
-“Lord Stanley Lord Stanley give me the brandy…” he announced as the Penguins claimed the 1992 Stanley Cup.
-“Slap me silly, Sidney,” was first used the day Sidney Crosby scored his first NHL goal.
“Get in the fast lane, Grandma, the Bingo game is about to roll.”
“Beat him like a rented mule.”
Since none of them makes sense, why do I go out of my way to hear what he has to say?
3. Bob Cole started with CBC radio in 1969. Two years later he moved to television. Cole is a national broadcaster – so he won’t have one loyal listening audience like they have in Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Los Angeles. Canadians have been hearing the 84 year old announcer call out “Oh baby!” for most of their lives.
4. Rick Jeanneret has been the announcer since the Buffalo Sabres second NHL season, 1971-72. He is known for his extremely biased goal announcements. When Buffalo scores a big goal turn the volume down or you will wake up the children. For the last few years he has cut back in his broadcasting; giving Sabres fans more time to remember their legend before he retires.
5. Bob Miller retired after 44 years as the voice of the LA Kings at age 78. In his biography, written ten years ago, Miller said he did not want to retire and then have the Kings win the Stanley Cup next year. In 2012, Miller got to call the first LA Kings Stanley Cup moment. Due to network rules – Bob’s game call of that clinching game was fake. Since NBC was carrying the game on TV, Bob and his color analyst Jim Fox taped the game as if they were on air.
Long time announcers like these men have lived the history of their teams and their sport. In his first seasons Miller also had to look after player’s requests – including game tickets. In 1981 Team owner sent Bob to the airport to pick up Richard Martin the team’s newly acquired left winger. The former fifty goal scorer had just been acquired for a first round draft pick. As Miller watched Martin get into the car he feared the worst. Their new superstar could barely walk – how could he skate? Richard Martin played four games for the Kings before knee injuries finished is career.
Will future broadcasters remain with one team for decades? This seems unlikely in our modern world of change. Modern broadcasters know the game, but they don’t have the unique traits that distinguish the past generation.
Maybe back in the day when Miller, Cole, Jeanneret and Lange were hired fans scoffed at anyone replacing Foster Hewitt. LA Kings hired 28 year old Alex Faust to replace a 44 year veteran.
Check back in 44 years or so (about the year 2060) and we will see if the modern generation of announcers was as good as the broadcasters or our day.