Spare the Rod and spoil the child

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.

  • Clarkenstein

    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.

  • Robin Brownlee

    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.

  • NFINITEone

    @ 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.

  • Robin Brownlee

    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.

  • Heazues

    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.

  • socaldave

    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".

  • Librarian Mike

    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.

  • RossCreek

    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?

  • Robin Brownlee

    @ 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.

  • 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?

  • RossCreek

    @ 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?

  • RossCreek

    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.”