Magnificent Men! Leadership Lunch
February 6th, 2015
The Voice of the Flames has called 3162 games! That’s 33 seasons! And Peter didn’t miss one game! This Hockey Hall of Fame sports caster dreamed of being a goaltender for the Maple Leafs but instead thrilled Canadian fans of the NHL and the Olympics, as he was also the voice of the Vancouver Hockey Olympics in 2010. Although he retired in September 2014, Peter will be fondly remembered by fans for many, many years both for his hockey and his charitable leadership and generosity.
Lessons for Successful Living
Magnificent Men! Leadership Lunch
Friday, February 6.15
Crystal Ballroom, Fairmont Palliser
Thank you, Brian Burke. Image being called a legend by this giant! Thank you for your wonderful introduction.
Thank you, Rob Kerr, for your fine remarks, too. Always great to be with you. Glad you’re the emcee today!
I’m very pleased to be here this afternoon as your speaker but I do feel a little overwhelmed.
I’m honoured that the Canadian Centre for Male Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse would ask me to be part of their Magnificent Men! Leadership Series. I was definitely intrigued when I looked at the list of Magnificent Men who have been featured as speakers in the past such as Ken Dryden, Jon Cornish, Peter Mansbridge, Doug Mitchell, Ron Ghitter and others.
I’m a hockey broadcaster who had the privilege and good fortune of being involved with the National Hockey League for 37 years and as Brian mentioned, 34 years here in Calgary.
Perhaps, though, I’m here to blaze the path for the next lunch that they’re going to have on April 17th when the keynote speaker is going to be the former Premier of my home province of New Brunswick, the Honourable Frank McKenna, a fellow I know well. I encourage you to attend this lunch, too.
I first became aware of cc4ms in October of 2012 when Ken Dryden was the guest speaker and I had the privilege of being the Master of Ceremonies. At that time, I told the story and I’ll tell it again today because I don’t think most of you were at that lunch and that’s the story of the only time I bet on a hockey game involved Ken Dryden.
BETTING ON A HOCKEY GAME
That was back in 1979 when I was broadcasting for the Maple Leafs in Toronto. The Leafs didn’t get to the finals but fortunately I did as the play-by-play guy for a network of stations.
The Rangers were playing the Canadians in New York and Dryden didn’t particularly have a good game so the series went back to Montreal for games 3 & 4.
So the night before Game 3, I was out with a bunch of other people including my good friend, Dan Kelly, a broadcaster of great renown who was broadcasting that series for an American network.
He and I made a $10 bet as to who would be the starting goalie for the Canadians in the next game. I said it would be Ken Dryden and he said it would be Bunny LaRocque. Our bet was witnessed by lots of people there.
What I didn’t know was the Dan had had lunch with Scotty Bowman the night before. Bowman was the Coach of the Canadians so he knew that LaRocque had been selected.
But in the warm-up, Doug Risebrough, who was playing for the Canadians before coming to the Flames, had shot the puck up into the throat of Bunny LaRocque so Dryden became the starting goalie. I thought I’d won the bet but Danny won’t pay. He insisted that it was just the injury that prevented LaRocque from playing but that he was the choice of Bowman.
Five years later in New Brunswick, Charlie Beaugeois was a defenseman with the Flames and had gone down to play with St. Louis. He had a golf tournament every summer and I was always the emcee. That particular year, he had Dan Kelly come in as the guest speaker.
When Dan got up to speak, he told the story that I’ve just told you.
He also told the people that he hadn’t paid the bet because he didn’t think he’d lost. He asked the audience whom they thought won the bet and the answer was unanimous. Me!!
Dan finally asked me to come forward so he could pay the bet and he gave me $10. Then, of course, I spent $50 buying drinks for everyone!
MALE SURVIVORS I HAVE KNOWN
cc4ms does outstanding work and will continue to do so. The lunch will help them to do more and bring more awareness to this important issue.
When I was the play-by-play broadcaster with the Flames, I was there when Sheldon Kennedy came forward and said that he’d been abused as a teen. I saw what effect that had had on him. Sheldon has displayed tremendous, tremendous courage in doing so much after what he endured. He’s helping so many victims and recently was recognized with the Order of Canada.
Theo Fleury was also part of that team and later it was revealed that he was also abused as a teen and I’m proud of what Theo has done by reaching out to others.
When I was starting out as the broadcaster for my team in my home town in New Brunswick, I was also the manager when the team who won the Canadian Championships in 1972.
The deciding game of that series was played in Saskatchewan. The captain of my team scored three goals as we won the championship. He seemed to have everything – family, kids. Etc.
Several years later, that young man would take his own life. There was much speculation that, as a teen, he had been abused by a minor hockey coach whilst on the team in my home town so this cause is one I whole-heartedly endorse.
MY BROADCAST BEGINNINGS
As you are aware, I retired at the end of the last Flames’ season but you might not be aware of how it all started. AT the age of 15, it was my dream to be a goalie in the National Hockey League. While playing minor hockey, I realized that there were going to be a lot of slap shots coming my way that I could talk a lot faster than I could move.
Like with the hockey game, you need breaks that come along the way and you need to make the most of them. My home is in northern New Brunswick, right along the Quebec-New Brunswick border. Not very big. Town hooker is still a virgin!
But the town was big enough to have a radio station and small enough to have a kid like me at 15 start his broadcast career.
My first broadcast was in 1970 with the hometown team playing against the Nova Scotia Voyageurs. Larry Robinson, who later became a Hall of Famer, played in that game. Al McNeil who has been very much involved with the Flames was the coach of the Nova Scotia Voyageurs.
That team was a very good team, winning two Canadian championships so I got lots of play-by-play opportunities to hone my craft.
In 1976, a bank manager in my hometown came forward and said, ‘You are too good to be in this town.” Naively I said, “If I’m that good, someone will find me. “ “No,” he said, “be proactive kid.”
So in 1976-77 hockey season, I sent some of my tapes to my idol, Danny Gallivan and also the producer of Hockey Night in Canada, Charles Bellamy.
In June of 1977 at a junior hockey banquet in my hometown, Danny Gallivan was the guest speaker. During his comments he said, “There’s a man in this room who will be leaving Campbellton soon. He’s capable of broadcasting at a much higher level”
Three months later, I was on my way to the National Hockey League.
However, I needed a break and I got it from a friend of mine. During the Labor Day weekend of 1977, I was involved in a ball tournament in my hometown. I wasn’t paying much attention to what else was going on in the world but this guy came to me with a newspaper with a three paragraph story on the back page of the Sports Section saying that the broadcast rights to the Toronto Maple Leafs had been sold to an upstart radio. Foster Hewitt’s station had had them for a very long time.
If he hadn’t pointed it out to me, that job would have been filled very quickly by someone else. I applied and was selected with two other people to go to an exhibition game in Toronto against Montreal to do one period of play-by-play.
We each were slated to do one period and after that, they would decide who would be…
I went back home and got a phone call saying that I’d been selected to be the Maple Leafs play by play broadcaster.
So just like that, I went from a town of 6000 people to a city of 6,000,000.
TORONTO AND CALGARY
I worked the Maple Leafs games for a couple of years and then in 1980, the radio station was having financial problems and decided that they weren’t going to bid for the broadcast rights. The rights went back to Foster Hewitt’s station. In addition to Foster, he had a couple of sons who were also broadcasters so there was no position for me there.
That was also the year that the Flames came to Calgary so I wound up coming west because some of my games were aired on a local radio station. In the mid-80’s, for three straight years, I ended up commuting back and forth so I could broadcast the Flames and go back to Toronto to broadcast their mid-week games.
Three times they offered me the job to be the mid-week Leafs broadcaster. It would have been a fulltime job and it would have meant leaving Calgary. I’m sure glad I stayed in Calgary because I had the good fortune of three runs at the Stanley Cup. That wouldn’t have happened in Toronto.
Now I will say, given the plight of the Maple Leafs these days, if they been smart enough to keep Brian Burke, they wouldn’t be having the problems they’re having today. So we’re benefitting – a real break for the Flames!
NATHAN O’BRIEN BENEFIT GAME
I thought my voice was going to be a little raspy today because last night I was doing the play-by-play with my colour commentator of most recent vintage, Mike Rogers, for the charity game honouring young Nathan O’Brien at the Saddledome – a game which raised thousands of dollars for various charities for kids.
They sold over 15,000 tickets in a game which saw the Flames Alumni play business men, politicians, Calgary Police and others. It was a wonderful, wonderful game with a very emotional start to it and then a lot of fun as it went on. This was the first game which I’ve broadcast since last April and usually my voice is a little raspy after a game. Fortunately, it’s okay.
NEVER MISSED A GAME
As was mentioned by Brian Burke, I’ve had the good fortune of going my entire career without missing a game. Good cleaning living will do that!
But then, I’ve had lots of help. The big guy upstairs, trainers, doctors, my broadcast partners… Mike Rogers, Peter Lavartius and my vinegar concoctions I would sip at night but the most important thing, wash your hands!
Leadership for me is about a positive approach. A positive demeanor is the best approach for a positive outcome….. An upbeat approach whilst problem solving and getting input from your teammates. Team work is essential – involving everyone in the plan.
Also socializing with your team mates is important.
During the play-by-play broadcasting with my colour commentators, we often had an audience of people who can’t see the game but they want to know what’s going on. My plan with my partners was always when the play is on, I do the play-by-play. When the play stops, they have two seconds to jump in and comment and if they don’t, I’ll just carry on until the play starts up again.
My colour commentators all offered me good insights and bailed me out in tough situations. And I’m very grateful to have had that from Doug, Mike and Peter. I worked with Doug Barclay for more than 21 years! Best one-eyed colour commentator in the National Hockey League!
One night when we were in Edmonton when the Flames were playing the Oilers, the play went for six minute without a whistle and my throat became very dry. Finally I couldn’t speak any more and Doug jumped in and did play-by-play – Gretzky to Currie, Currie to Gretzky, Gretzky to Currie – and I quickly took a sip of water and started back in.
Afterward I complimented Doug but he said that was very easy because Gretzky and Currie had the puck all night. He didn’t have to know or say anything else.
Be prepared. That something I work very hard on. I study and memorize the players, get to know them by their numbers as well as gathering some insights to pass along to the audience. For a game, you might get to use 15-20% of the research you prepared for that broadcast but you were prepared for any situation and that’s important.
Be positive. I’ve been accused of trying to be too positive while the team was not doing too well. I always tried to find a positive angle particularly when the team was on a losing streak. Sometimes I’d have to look long and deep to find a positive hook.
If I was working tonight’s game, while another broadcast might say, “Well, the Flames have lost the last eight games.”, I’d probably say something like, “It’s Friday night. It’s game night tonight. The Flames have won the last six games they played on a Friday night at 7 pm.”
Guess what the most important job is for a radio play-by-play broadcaster? The most important thing is to say the score. You have to say the score frequently even if some nights your team is not winning. Let others know the score.
Giving back is another important part of life. I do charity work like today because I think it’s very important to give back. Fans, partners, teams have been very generous to me.
Bob Hartley has done a superb job of changing the culture of the Flames to a winning, positive culture. It started last year and this year with the tremendous season which this team is having. He certainly is deserving of the contract extension which he received earlier this season. He certainly would get my vote for Coach of The Year for the outstanding job which he has done.
Bob scored again when he selected Mark Giordano as captain of the team, someone who has a positive attitude on and off the ice. Another solid leader.
I can’t thank the Flames enough for what they’ve done for me both during and when I ended my career. In particular on November 18th when the organization went out of their way to honour my career and involve my family and my colleagues, even buddies came in from New Brunswick so I’m very much thankful for what the Flames have done for me throughout my career and most particularly at the end.
The Flames also helped one time when I was injured. Nobody knows about this but the game had started. With Doug Barclay, my colour man to my right in the Saddledome, I decided to stand up and hit my head on a beam. The blood was flowing and there was no hair on my head to mop it up. I’m still talking and everyone is running around trying to find some towels, something to mop up the blood. Doug was very concerned as were my producer and director.
These guys were massaging my head trying to get the blood to stop as the game carried on.
Just as the second period was to start, Al Coates, the general manager of the Flames, came up with a helmet and had me wear it for the rest of the game!
MISSED CALLING ONE FLAMES GOAL
I missed calling one goal with the Flames in 2006 when I was honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame as was Harley Hotchkiss. We were asked to drop the puck so I missed the first few minutes of that game and Rob Kerr filled in. Well, he had a dream couple of minutes – a fight, a break away and a Flames goal!
ME AND MARTY BRODEUR
I like to talk about my teammates and the help that they’ve been but I also got some help from some unexpected sources. Marty Brodeur retired last week after his great career.
Something happened about 12 years ago in the Meadowlands where the Devils used to play, where they won their Stanley Cups. This is where there is no morning skate. This is where we get our early interviews so I made arrangements with the media relations people of the Devils so that I would be outside the dressing room so I can get an interview with one of the players.
I’m there about two hours before the game, no sign of their media relations guy. I’m standing there waiting and waiting and waiting. At one point, the door to the dressing room opens and I see a sign saying…. 5:40 and the game starts at 7 so I’m thinking I’m not going to get an interview. No cell phones in those days.
Marty Brodeur comes out of the Devil’s dressing room with his underwear on, ready for the game. He looks over this equipment for the game and I say, “Hi. I’m waiting to do an interview but your media relations guy hasn’t shown up.”
Marty says, “Why don’t you interview me?” “Fine,” I said, and we had a great interview for the next 4-5 minutes. I was so amazed because most goal tenders do not talk to the media on the day of the game. They are so focussed on the game.
Therefore, I was and am so grateful that he would do an interview with me on game day and in fact, he initiated the interview. It was Marty’s carefree style which made him such a great goaltender.
MY FEUD WITH WAYNE GRETZKY
There was also the time when I had a feud with Wayne Gretzky. That was back in 1986 when the Oilers were playing the Flames in the finals. This series was full of passion.
It was Game 5 and we were back in Edmonton. I asked for an interview with an Oiler after their morning skate but no one was offered. Nobody wanted to do the interview. Finally I found their media relations guy and asked again for an interview.
“Oh, we’re not talking to you.” he said. “What seems to be the problem?” I asked. “Wayne’s mad at you.” he said. “Well, what seems to be the problem?” I asked.
“Well, we heard in the game the other night that you called Wayne a whiner all night.” I said, “I beg your pardon. That’s not so. Would you like to hear the tapes of that game?”
I told him that I’d never called Wayne a whiner and I’d be happy to get him all my tapes but I need to interview a player right now. He eventually got me a player but then I said to him that I’d like to talk to Wayne, too, to get this thing cleared up.
After a couple of minutes, Wayne came out of the dressing room and I said to him, “I hear you’ve got a problem with me.”
He repeated that they’d heard that I said he was a whiner at the game the other night. I assured him that I didn’t say that and offered to send him the recording tapes of the game.
You know, Peter,” he said “I’ve listened to some of your broadcast as I drive around Edmonton and you’re a very fair broadcaster. I didn’t quite believe what I heard so let’s be friends again.”
Wayne was good to his word and I always had an annual interview with him.
I gained another plateau here with my friend, Ken Newans. He, too, is an old broadcaster here in Calgary and introduced me to the Old Broadcasters Club, part of the old Athletics Club. …. Ken arranged for that just before Christmas last year. We were reminiscing with a bunch of guys that I don’t get to reminisce much with. I certainly hope that I’ll get invited back again next year.
In retirement, I’m getting out to a lot more family outings, something I didn’t get time to do with my career. I’m pleased to have with me my immediate family – my wife, Nancy; and my son and daughter, Jeff and Tricia. They are my best fans. Without their support, I wouldn’t have had the career I had.
I’ve got a couple of stories to tell you about Yeah Baby! And then I’ll wrap it up.
Yeah Baby! Was born off my lips in the series in 1986. It was supposed to be born during the sixth game at the Saddledome. Earlier that morning, I’d heard a song on the radio with the refrain, Yeah, Baby! And I thought to myself, “I’ll use that tonight when the Flames win.”
Well, they didn’t win that game and the next game was in Edmonton. I can remember that game as if it happened five minutes ago. In the final two minutes of the game, Mark Messier took the shot for the Oilers and missed the net!
That’s when I yelled, ‘Yeah Baby!’ for the first time. It got lots of use in those years as the Flames won game after game and ended up winning the Stanley Cup. “Yeah Baby!” – that was my only contribution to the Flames winning streak!
THREE YEAH BABIES AND THE HOCKEY HALL OF FAME
I thought I might lose my job in 2004 when Marty Gelinas scored the overtime goal against Detroit in the sixth game of that series in the Saddledome. I yelled out three ‘Yeah Babies’!
I went home after the game. Couldn’t sleep, was all worked up so the first thing I did in the morning was to the Saddledome, to Darryl Sutter’s office. Darryl Sutter was the coach.
I said to Darryl Sutter, “I want to apologize for my over zealous calling of the goal in the last game.’ Darryl looked at me – I’m sure you’ve all seen that look on TV – so I didn’t know if he was going to scream me or hit me or what.
Next thing, a big smile came over his face and he said, “I heard it this morning and that was excellent.” Then I started feeling much better.
I always say to Marty Gelinas that you put me into the Hockey Hall of Fame because that goal was played and replayed on all the sports networks, even in the US because each week they highlighted the top 5 plays of the week including other sports.
That goals including our audio was the top spot for five straight weeks. As I told Marty, the Beatles and Rolling Stones never had a #1 for five weeks in a row!
That goal got me so much attention that two years later, I was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame as the Foster Hewitt Award winner for which I’m very grateful.
Finally, I’ve got great hopes for the Red Mile this year. Several years ago, when the Flames won the Western Championship, the Red Mile was fabulous. After one of the games, I was encouraged to go by two young female fans who thought I’d be treated like a rock star!
Who me? I can’t sing but my daughter sure can! I don’t look like the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. But just because I was involved with the Flames, I became some one of great interest. I never did get to the Red Mile – had to prepare for the next game.
In closing, I want to wish the Mount Royal Cougar lots of luck.
Thank you very much for being a great audience. I hope your careers can be as much fun as my career has been. Thank you for being great listeners not only today but during the time I was broadcasting.
Thanks for coming today!