Spare the Rod and spoil the child

Robin Brownlee
June 29 2009 05:24PM

phillipscityhall

If you love something as much as Rod Phillips loves calling hockey games with the Edmonton Oilers, and you're as good at it as he is, you should do it until they rip the microphone from your hands.

It does my heart good, then, to hear that the Voice of the Oilers will be back for his 37th season in the radio booth — especially since it was looking like he had called his last game when the 2008-09 season ended.

Phillips, who'll turn 68 in September, was enjoying a five-week stint at the Arizona retirement home he and wife, Debbie, had built in Buckeye, outside of Phoenix, when he looked around and decided he had another 82 games left in him.

Leaning toward calling it a career, the Skipper realized he has the rest of his life to sip scotch, hack a ball to-and-fro at the Sundance Golf Course and don the Double Winnipeg: matching white shoes and belts in January.

How can carding 104 round after round and playing find-the-dentures on Thursday nights at the community centre hold a light to delivering his trademark "He scooooooooores," ordering an over-priced, room service clubhouse sandwich for the 4,000th time and charming the flight crew on the charter? It can't.

So, one more season it is.

On the road again

"It's one year at a time now," says Phillips, who will return with Bob Stauffer as his analyst for a second season. "I'm going to do this year and then I'll see what happens."

When Phillips packed up his headset and microphone at the end of last season, the Oilers' third straight year out of the playoffs, he thought it was curtains on a career that's put him in the broadcasters wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Knowing Rod as I do, having been his winger on the road for a decade, I had my doubts as to how he'd handle winters kicking back with the blue-rinse crowd in Buckeye. With all those years we spent on the road, Rod never once showed me the Oilers logo tattooed on his arse — even that night we got really drunk in St. Louis — but I'm sure it's there.

Turns out, after thinking he'd pull the plug, he had his doubts, too.

"I thought it was a slam dunk after that last game," Phillips said. "But you want to see, so you wait awhile.

"I'm glad I did. We were enjoying ourselves immensely (in Arizona), but after about three weeks, I just looked around and decided I wasn't ready for retirement."

One more year

Having been to Rod's palatial desert estate, I can tell you he's got a sweet joint to call his winter home when he's done. At the same time, I'm damn sure he'd be stir-crazy inside two months.

While critics might suggest Rod's lost a step since the last Stanley Cup parade, it's a great job and he's still got a passion for it. Phillips has earned the right to step away on his own terms. That day will come, and too soon if you ask old-schoolers like me. But not now, not yet.

"I think I can still call the game," understates Phillips, who laughed out loud when I suggested today's announcement sets up a retirement tour and the chance for the Oilers to maybe present him with a silver microphone, the broadcaster's version of the silver stick for 1,000 games. "How about a life's supply of single-malt instead?"

Setting it straight

As usual, there was lots of talk but not a lot of action in terms of wheeling and dealing at the Entry Draft in Montreal. While there was plenty of speculation at the Bell Centre, most of the action was on Crescent Street.

That's particularly true with the Oilers and GM Steve Tambellini, who was the subject of rampant speculation. Let's separate fact from fantasy.

FACT

Yes, the Oilers made every attempt to move up to the fourth spot to get a crack at Evander Kane, who ended up going to Atlanta. Kane is the prospect they most coveted.

FANTASY

  • The Oilers didn't shop defenceman Sheldon Souray and didn't talk to the Los Angeles Kings about acquiring the fifth pick in a deal involving Souray. While that scenario fits the circumstances — there's no question Souray would prefer to be closer to his two children in L.A. — it didn't happen. Fifth pick wasn't going to be enough to get Kane. Atlanta had him targeted.
  • There wasn't one word uttered in the context of a deal with Nashville that would have seen the Oilers acquire banger Jordin Tootoo for talented and noted slacker Robert Nilsson.

Of course, Souray and Nilsson could both end up in play after July 1, but I'll talk about them and everybody else in the next day or two as the free agency season opens.

Thanks

As a jaded, old writer who's been around long enough that my first stories in J-school were written on a typewriter using carbon paper, I've been blown away by ON readers — all you nameless, faceless people who put your money where your mouth is.

Your response to the item I did about MSM outlets being financially up against it in terms of coverage of the draft, a response that led to Jason Gregor jetting to Montreal, was really something. I'm especially thrilled that extra money raised goes to The Stollery. In my world, that's beyond cool.

This interweb thing might actually catch on.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on TEAM 1260.

Aceb4a1816f5fa09879a023b07d1a9b4
A sports writer since 1983, including stints at The Edmonton Journal and The Sun 1989-2007, I happily co-host the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260 twice a week and write when so inclined. Have the best damn lawn on the internet. Most important, I am Sam's dad. Follow me on Twitter at Robin_Brownlee. Or don't.
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#1 RossCreek
June 29 2009, 05:34PM
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Nice piece. Off topic... The latest on DANY HEATLEY from TSN’s Bob McKenzie:

“Dany Heatley could be traded before July 1, but it’s going to take a significant offer from the New York Rangers or the Edmonton Oilers — the two clubs seemingly most interested in the goal-scoring winger — to get it done. Sources say the Ottawa Senators do not have a trade offer from those teams, or anyone else, that is deemed worth of acceptance and the list of suitors looks as though it’s getting shorter rather than longer. The St. Louis Blues and Los Angeles Kings appear to have pulled out of the sweepstakes, leaving the Rangers, Oilers and Sharks as considerations.”

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#2 Jonathan Willis
June 29 2009, 05:35PM
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This interweb thing might actually catch on.

I don't know - I think we're going to be in trouble once this whole internet fad is finished.

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#3 RossCreek
June 29 2009, 05:35PM
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@ Robi Brownlee: Again, off topic...

Is Gilbert Brule better suited as a center a winger? Fair to say POTENTIALLY see him as a 3rd line winger. Darcy Tucker-ish?

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#4 Smokin' Ray
June 29 2009, 05:37PM
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Thank you for being apart of the Oilersnation. Without you and Gregor...

well, let's just say that you guys are needed and appreciated around here. I can only assure that the Stollery will see more ON $$$ in the future. What better fans then Oiler fans?

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#5 RossCreek
June 29 2009, 05:37PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Do you know if names such as Kari Lehtonen & Colby Armstrong in fact came up in talks with Atlanta?

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#6 Robin Brownlee
June 29 2009, 05:38PM
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@ RossCreek:

I want him wherever he can play the most minutes. I'd rather have him as a third-line winger than a fourth-line centre, but I'm one of those people who thinks the kid can play.

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#7 RossCreek
June 29 2009, 05:41PM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ RossCreek: I want him wherever he can play the most minutes. I’d rather have him as a third-line winger than a fourth-line centre, but I’m one of those people who thinks the kid can play.

Ok. Would he be better as a 3rd line c or 3rd line w, or is it to early to tell?

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#8 Librarian Mike
June 29 2009, 05:44PM
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Much like players wanting to go out with a cup-winning goal, it would be sweet to hear Phillips' last game end with him losing his marbles over a Hemsky goal that seals the championship. Well, it's Summer so it's okay to dream.

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#9 socaldave
June 29 2009, 05:49PM
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Rod Phillips... FTW!! I try to tell people down here about how amazing he is, and it's not until I tell them he's our Vin Scully or Chick Hearn that they understand. Different games, different styles, but when you hear that one voice, there's just no question that it's "right".

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#10 Heazues
June 29 2009, 06:01PM
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Brownlee Wrote: Phillips has earned the right to step away on his own terms.

completely agree. i have heard some people calling for him to retire as he has made some simple mistakes. i ask those same people to put the same flair into calling a game. at any age try to keep up to every player in every play and not make a mistake.

he has earned his right to retire in his own time. and i for one look forward to another year with phillips in the booth.

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#11 Robin Brownlee
June 29 2009, 06:16PM
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RossCreek wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: Do you know if names such as Kari Lehtonen & Colby Armstrong in fact came up in talks with Atlanta?

I'm told the Oilers pursued the fourth pick in an effort to get Kane. Nothing more.

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#12 NFINITEone
June 29 2009, 07:07PM
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@ Robin Brownlee: Off topic again. But after reading the Bob McKenzie article, Do you think there is any chance that the Oilers will pull off the deal that would be required for Heatley, or is this as good as done.

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#13 Robin Brownlee
June 29 2009, 07:24PM
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NFINITEone wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: Off topic again. But after reading the Bob McKenzie article, Do you think there is any chance that the Oilers will pull off the deal that would be required for Heatley, or is this as good as done.

Any chance? Sure. Likely? Can't say. Tambellini has failed to update me on what his plans are. His silence leaves people to guess. I'd rather not do that.

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#14 West Coast Oil
June 29 2009, 08:08PM
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@Robin

Do we actually know what the Oilers offered for Heatley? We have heard what Ottawa wanted but nothing really stating what was offered

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#15 Clarkenstein
June 29 2009, 08:58PM
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Nice words for Rod... By the end of last year the frustration in Rod's voice had become apparent to all that listen. He would never admit it but I'm sure he was sick of what Lowe and MacTavish had done to this organization. Tired of stupid penalties by the Captain and tired of invisible play from our "superstar". Tired of a disgusting excuse for a farm team they ran. Hell, who wasn't tired of all that mess? I think he will enjoy this winter with Quinn and the new growth that a different coaching staff will bring. It's OK Rod, we were all disgusted but summer brings hope. Welcome back.

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#16 Oilman
June 29 2009, 09:20PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

This interweb thing might actually catch on. I don’t know - I think we’re going to be in trouble once this whole internet fad is finished.

As long as the porn is free the interweb will live on:o)

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#17 Hemmertime
June 29 2009, 10:11PM
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@ Oilman: Its not free, I have to enter my credit card number to the talking moose 4 times!

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#18 Librarian Mike
June 29 2009, 10:18PM
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Oilman wrote:

As long as the porn is free the interweb will live on:o)

Wait....there's porn on the Internet?

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#19 Archaeologuy
June 29 2009, 10:43PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

This interweb thing might actually catch on. I don’t know - I think we’re going to be in trouble once this whole internet fad is finished.

Words on Paper, now THATS a dying fad.

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#20 SLURVE
June 29 2009, 10:56PM
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Heatley: If you are desperately seeking to play else where and interested teams are limited, why don't you forgo the 4 million coming July 1 and offer to rewrite a new contract. Then life would be much simipler for everyone and you can probably choose your team of choice much easier. Funny how money always confuses the simplest matter...

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#21 Robin Brownlee
June 29 2009, 11:05PM
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SLURVE wrote:

Heatley: If you are desperately seeking to play else where and interested teams are limited, why don’t you forgo the 4 million coming July 1 and offer to rewrite a new contract. Then life would be much simipler for everyone and you can probably choose your team of choice much easier. Funny how money always confuses the simplest matter…

It's not "simple" when you can't re-write a contract under the new CBA.

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#22 Harlie
June 29 2009, 11:19PM
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Rod's the man, the myth, the legend.

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#23 J.L.
June 29 2009, 11:22PM
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You never know a good thing 'til it's gone, and I'm glad Rod's not gone yet. If he calls another year just to see the Oilers miss the playoffs yet again, that would be a shame. I don't feel that will be the case, though.

This year, I'm going to make an effort to listen to more games on the radio. I'm not going to take it for granted that I get to listen to a legend like Rod call hockey games. He is as much a part of this organization as any of the former dynasty era players now in the Hall of Fame. He is one of the only lasting reminders of the dynasty years in Edmonton. Gretzky, Messier, Fuhr, all the other superstars are gone. Other than Lowe, who is still here that has had the same kind of impact on the organization and NHL hockey in Edmonton? Nobody. I'm happy for Rod Phillips and I hope that he truly enjoys the remainder of his career and that he has a fulfilling retirement.

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#24 Mowzie
June 30 2009, 06:14AM
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I suppose this can go anywhere, but have any media types questioned the Oilers on why they went so off the map with Abney?

I'd like to hear their reasoning behind it, or what they see in him to warrant investing such a high pick.

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#25 Peter Pan
June 30 2009, 07:37AM
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Great to hear Rod Phillips is returning. His best days may be behind him, but he's still better than 99% of the other commentators out there.

In response to your commendation towards Oilers Nation readers, please let it be known that without you and Gregor, this site would not be as popular as it has become. Kudos for the committment to interacting with us fans and for the insightful correspondence.

As for trading for Heatley, what type of return is Ottawa seeking? They said "very high", but what does that mean? Any idea Robin?

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#26 Robin Brownlee
June 30 2009, 07:50AM
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Mowzie wrote:

I suppose this can go anywhere, but have any media types questioned the Oilers on why they went so off the map with Abney? I’d like to hear their reasoning behind it, or what they see in him to warrant investing such a high pick.

Obviously, Bob Brown had a lot of input about Abney as the WHL is his turf. Too bad the local newspapers didn't send anybody to the draft to ask the questions you've raised. I'm sure somebody will get to it, but with the attention now turned to free agency, it'll likely get lost for awhile. Despite the misgivings of some people, I'm not seeing a lot of reasons to get into a tizzy about this pick. I'm guessing Brown knows more about Abney than the people fretting because the numbers don't seem to compute. As always, we'll see.

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#27 Robin Brownlee
June 30 2009, 08:34AM
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Peter Pan wrote:

As for trading for Heatley, what type of return is Ottawa seeking? They said “very high”, but what does that mean? Any idea Robin?

No idea. Any names thrown out are guesses because there are no leaks on this one from Edmonton's end. What complicates matters is Bryan Murray might want/need to throw somebody else into any trade with Heatley -- Garriock mentions Jason Smith and Christoph Schubert today. I don't know how hard the Oilers are pitching or if they've put a "final" offer on the table.

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#28 RossCreek
June 30 2009, 08:50AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Garriock mentions Jason Smith and Christoph Schubert today.

I'd take Jason Smith back if they took Staios back.

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#29 Robin Brownlee
June 30 2009, 08:57AM
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@ RossCreek: How about we skip Gator and they just take Staios?

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#30 RossCreek
June 30 2009, 09:08AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

@ RossCreek: How about we skip Gator and they just take Staios?

Ideally. But if they said you HAVE TO take Smith, then I'd say they HAVE TO take Staios. Similar cap hits, Gator's lost a step but still plays physical, moreso than Staios. #'s aside, I think they'd be better fits on opposite teams.

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#31 Chaz
June 30 2009, 10:22AM
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Robin,

I think this has come up before, but do you have any idea why Sportsnet has a delay on their coverage? I used to watch the games with the audio off so I could have Rod on instead, but now there is about a 5-7 second delay on the TV feed which makes this impossible. I wonder if Sportsnet does this on purpose? Any insight? Perhaps they have a delay in case colorful language is captured or someone severs a jugglar?

I don't have a PVR, but maybe I could delay the TV by the right amount to line it up with Rod's play by play. Has anyone out there tried this?

He does fumble his words more now than in the past, but one can never argue with Rod's passion for the game and for the Oilers. We're lucky to have him around for another season.

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#32 Robin Brownlee
June 30 2009, 10:41AM
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@ Chaz: Actually, there's no delay. Rod is clairvoyant and he calls the action five seconds before it happens. That, alone, got him into the HHOF.

No idea. I'm guessing any delay is built in just in case Gene P drops an F-Bomb when describing the Oilers penalty killing or some other atrocity.

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#33 risto
June 30 2009, 10:55AM
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Robin Brownlee wrote:

Too bad the local newspapers didn’t send anybody to the draft to ask the questions you’ve raised.

Is this for real? The Journal and Sun did NOT go to MTL?

Power to the People, Oiler Nation! Keep up the great work, Brownlee. Your piece on father's day was really touching, wait there's something in my eye........

re: Rod - I know my frustration level with the Oil bubbled over the matinee game against Nashville. I brought a rugrat to enjoy the afternoon match, and went early to watch the warmup up close as I had as a kid. The look on the Oilers' faces was unsettling, a little tight and nervous, but unfocused. No joy. No camaraderie. I was revolted by their indifference to the children's faces pressed to the glass.

Ryan Smyth and Gretz would always goof the kids watching the warmup - Erik Cole had his hair styled, and ignored the fans. Sorry Wanye, he'll always be a cursed Cane, and a spoiled Yank taboot to me. Give me a small town Canada boy with a mullet and a grin EVERYTIME!

We left the 0-0 game in the third period early. Listening to Rod's weary tone on the way home describing the lackluster play was an indication he might be done - I'm so glad the desert has rejuvenated him for another year. It wouldn't be the same without you, ROD! He's amazing.

I wonder if he would do some radio show with gregor where he talks about the WHA years, and the history of the Oilers and his life experiences. I know I would listen.

Chaz, unless you can PVR Rod, I think you are beyond the space time continuum. i kinda like hearing the play described by Rod just slightly before i see it, but then i'm also left-handed and therefore pre-wired for a little weirdness.

Waiting for the news.......trades, Heatley, and then bang tomorrow free agency - go get em Tambo

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#34 MrOiler
June 30 2009, 11:18AM
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Chaz wrote:

Robin, I think this has come up before, but do you have any idea why Sportsnet has a delay on their coverage? I used to watch the games with the audio off so I could have Rod on instead, but now there is about a 5-7 second delay on the TV feed which makes this impossible. I wonder if Sportsnet does this on purpose? .

Do you think it had anything to do with Roger Millions' colourful comments earlier this year?

p.s. - I'm glad to see Rod back for another year. I can't imagine listening to the games over the Internet and not hearing his voice. It's also good to see that he didn't go out on a sour note.

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#35 Librarian Mike
June 30 2009, 11:22AM
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risto wrote:

Give me a small town Canada boy with a mullet and a grin EVERYTIME!

I'm not sure Canada has the market cornered on 'nice'. The quote above describes Shayne Corson, after all, and by all accounts he was about as popular with his teammates as a case of herpes.

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#36 Peter Pan
June 30 2009, 12:11PM
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Spectors rumour of Heatley for Phaneuf would pretty much trump any offer the Oilers could muster. But in all honesty, I hope we don't land Heatley. I know he puts the puck in the net, but I would rather be patient & try to trade for some offensive, gritty forwards, such as Dustin Brown, Kesler, Horton, Lucic, Malone, etc. I know these guys are difficult to get, but that's the route I hope they take. Heatley just adds to "softness" of this team.

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#37 Yakman
June 30 2009, 01:06PM
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I'm a big Rod Phillips fan... I am glad he is back for at least one more kick at the can...

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#38 jesse r
June 30 2009, 01:14PM
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Hey, you old-schoolers aren't the only ones who don't want to see Rod retire.

Some of my earliest memories are of sitting in my car-seat during the glory years, listening to Rod's voice lull me to sleep, then abruptly wake me back up as soon as someone scored.

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#39 Gerald R. Ford
June 30 2009, 08:51PM
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Rod is still money.

Personally, I hope they have to pry that microphone out of his cold, dead fingers, and not for a very, very long time. Robin, I know you scribes have to keep an arm's length distance to maintain your objectivity, but I have no problem with a play-by-play guy being completely biased, and bleeding copper-and-blue like Rod does. He ain't Woodward or Bernstein (although, those two did a lot to advance MY career, I must say), he's an entertainer. And no one (NO ONE) calls as exciting a game as Rod. Certainly, the onslaught of cryptic, polysyllabic, eastern European names has led to more than a few moments of consternation and confusion for both broadcaster and audience alike, but the passion in the call makes up for any pronunciation mishaps, and we (eventually) get the gist.

And, when he finally does ride off into the sunset, please don't give Stauffer that job. I like Stauf a lot. He really changed Edmonton radio for the better when he was at The Team. I especially respect his unparalleled adoration for "The Unbearable Lightness of Being". Great flick. He just does NOT have a smooth broadcasting voice. Or, to quote Betty Rubble on Fred Flintstone's singing in the shower, "It sounds like some poor mastadon is drowning in the tar pits again. Close the window, Barney. I cant stand to hear an animal suffering."

God bless you, Rod.

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#40 gdawg
July 09 2009, 05:32PM
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Rod Phillips. A class act and a great broadcaster. Bob Stauffer could learn a lot from him in regards to on air arrogance and how to tame it. Bob knows his stuff like no one else but too often comes across with a good dose of ego in his voice.

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