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.
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.
- 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.
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.