BIG SHOES TO FILL: MICHAELS STEPS IN

For the record, Jack Michaels has size 11 feet. That’s a good thing because, as heir to the broadcast booth Rod Phillips occupied with the Edmonton Oilers for 37 seasons, Michaels has big shoes to fill.

Unveiled as the replacement for Phillips in the Oilers dressing room at Rexall Place this morning after a protracted and well-guarded hiring process, Michaels looked right at home after getting the gig more than 50 candidates wanted.

"First and foremost, I’m not here to replace Rod Phillips," said Michaels, who paid due respect to his predecessor with the first words out of his mouth. "No one is going to replace Rod Phillips.

"It would almost be presumptuous of me to necessarily say I’m the voice of the Oilers. I’m the play-by-play announcer. I’m going to carve my own path and work with Bob Stauffer and create a broadcast team.

"It would be foolish of me to come in here and say I’m going to take over and replace Rod Phillips. I don’t think you can replace a guy like that. All you can do is be yourself, on the air and in the community, and establish roots in the community."

While some fans are asking Jack Who? — I didn’t hear his name once during the interview process — Michaels has done his time and paid his dues on the way to the big chair, having called 919 games in the minors, most recently as the radio and television voice of the ECHL’s Alaska Aces. That’s a good thing.

And this is a good hire.

A LONG ROAD

While the play-by-play resumes of job candidates who made the short list ran the gamut from next-to-none with the likes of Ryan Rishaug of TSN to "been doing it forever" veterans like Dennis Beyak, Michaels inherits the microphone alongside Stauffer as a happy medium.

Michaels is young, just 36, which fits well with a rebuilding Oilers team that’s casting a collective eye to the future after a very difficult last four years out of the playoffs.

And with his 919 games, starting with three seasons with the Colorado Gold Kings of the WCL before moving on to the Aces for eight seasons, in the booth, Michaels has the broadcast chops to be the right guy.

As for how he’ll fit with Stauffer, we’ll see, but it turns our Bombastic Bob had a hand in the hiring. The two have already been out for dinner, and I’m not guessing when I say they’re off on the right foot.

"The criteria was more than just being able to call play-by-play," said selection committee member Allan Watt. "He had to have a number of games under his belt.

"We included Bob Stauffer as part of the process when we got down to the final selection. The reason we did that is today we’re announcing a play-by-play broadcaster, but we’re really rounding out a tandem.

"That’s very important because there has to be chemistry. There has to be a match. There has to be something between a very good colour commentator who also has his own show, and Jack has to be able to crossover and do that as well."

THE RIGHT GUY

If you want my take (you’re going to get it anyway) based on my initial impression, the committee nailed it with the hiring of Michaels — the members were unanimous in their selection — regardless of his lack of profile in this market.

"You mean I wasn’t everyone’s favourite? I thought I was the favourite to get this job," smiled Michaels.

"I’m pretty passionate on the air. I definitely get some intrigue involved. One thing I have to stay away from is probably that pre-season opener, turning it into Game 7 against the Flyers in 1987.

"I’ll have to ratchet it down because I’m going to be naturally pumped, but as the season progresses, I think people will find that, as a good play-by-play guy should be, I’m a good communicator. I’m a good descriptor of what’s going on inside the building.

"Hopefully, I’m going to be able to not only let the listeners know what’s going on at the game, but also give them a feeling that, ‘Boy, I wish I was there.’ That’s really what I’m there to do."

Michaels, a native of Pennsylvania and married father of two, came off today as articulate, humble and excited at the opportunity in front of him. In an industry full of blowhards and grab-ass phonies, Michaels looks like a straight-shooter to me. What you see is what you get.

At first glance, that might not matter to Oilers fans — they want somebody who can take them inside the game when they turn on the radio — but it will in time. Over the long haul, guys with the straight goods always sell better than trumped-up posers. Phillips proved that during his tenure.

From where I sit, that makes Michaels a match for Stauffer — he can pick out an entitled silver-spooner who hasn’t put in the work a mile away — and that’s a start on the chemistry component Watt referred to and an absolute must for a radio tandem to work.

"It’s going to be a conversational approach," Michaels said. "If anything, I hope I’m assessed as talking with my listeners rather than at them."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I haven’t heard his clips yet as I don’t have access at work, but during my lurking around the internet I haven’t heard one bad thing about the guy.

  • danjo1

    That pick caught me totally by surprise. I do have to agree, after listening to a few of his calls he is a good pick for the job. Also, is it just me or does he does sound a lot like a younger version of Rod Phillips? I don’t mean just his voice, but how he calls plays, gets excited, etc…

    EDIT: audio of one of his calls can be found here: http://www.alaskaaces.com/audio

  • Ender

    Great interview with Bob today on Oilers lunch.Definitely a guy who has the “chops”. Over 900 games called puts him at the head of the line. Came across as a real sincere kinda guy. He’ll complement BOB Stauffer well. He’ll need BOB’s knowledge of the Edmonton sports market. Looking forward to the preseason. Good luck to both men.

  • D-Man

    He sounds very articulate and I look forward to hearing his chops after preseason… Hopefully, that won’t be too often once Shaw gets a deal with Rogers, so we all can get Sportsnet1.

    Kudos to the Oilers for making another good pick.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    Perfect hiring. Young guy, passionate about the game, wanting to set up roots in the community, respectful of who came before him, and a good hockey voice.

    Me likey.

  • ubermiguel

    Let’s call him “The New Guy” until he’s been calling the game longer than Rod. That’d be somewhere around 2040?

    I think I’ll watch the first few games with the radio for the audio this year. I usually do that with the CBC games. Mark Lee puts me to sleep.

  • Mitch

    Jack Micheals sounds like a guy who’s very humble.I Look forward to listening to his call, as we get to watch a new era of Oilers hockey hit the ice starting in September.

    • *blushes*

      I listened to most of the hour with Bob/Jack on Oilers lunch. The thing that gives the guy more respect in mind is the fact he had so money other jobs with the minor league club. The Aces got their moneys worth out of Michaels who is apparently a professional in multitasking. He also served in various capacities beyond the broadcast booth including travel, team services, corporate sales, website management, and media relations.

      He is correct that he won’t replace Rod, let’s hope that he can at least create some good chemistry with Bob & we can have the best radio duo in the league.

  • m3sh

    Ya not bad at all… like his call there on the aces sudden death winner: “…IN Overrrrtiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiime!”

    Definitely some passion there. Interested to see how it all comes together with Stauffer.

      • Mike Modano's Dog

        Ryan Rishaug is all class. I wouldn’t have done as well in the dealing he had with Craig MacTavish, but good on him for handling it so well…including this.

        I can’t wait to hear a game on the radio now to hear our new PBP guy! Sound like a really good guy to hire for the gig.

        Question to all:

        Any word yet as to the exact dates of training camp this year, including (most importantly) where it is going to be held. It’s the only Oiler action I can afford to go and see.

  • Steve Kouleas = wrong

    The Oilers are clearly trying to build a new brand.

    Instead of hiring a “name” the Oilers seem committed to keeping things in house and outside the box.

    180 approach, I’ll bite for a year.

  • ” In an industry full of blowhards and grab-ass phonies, Michaels looks like a straight-shooter to me. What you see is what you get. ”

    I’ve also tried to clean house of the other grab-ass phonies at my place of work…I’m the only one left.

    • One thing to keep in mind about Michaels and any game calls of his you’ve heard: My experience is that PBP guys in the minors often work on their own without the benefit of an analyst.

      Some people criticized Michaels today for going on and on in one of the clips — the OT game – for almost two minutes, but you’ve got to remember he didn’t have an analyst to hand things off to. It’s a one-man show.

      PBP in the minors is very challenging because of the solo nature of the gig.

  • Suntory Hanzo

    Guy sounds fine. Pretty disappointing that the Oilers hired an American though. Just my two cents, I think we’d be better served to promote from within our own country. Good luck to the new guy though. Not bitter, just a point.

  • @ ubermiguel…the true test WILL be watching the game on TV listening to Jack Michaels calling it to see how he keeps up with the game action…this is the show now, not the ECHL…
    i used to go to CHED all the time just to hear Rod do his thing…Rod Phillips was THE BEST at it, almost calling in anticipation…sometimes ahead of real time game action …and a great homer too…

    best of luck to him and the big guy

    • book¡e

      Rod was a homer?

      Is that why I thought this team has had amazingly bad luck over the last 20 or so years and had been unfairly targeted by the refs and fate?

      Maybe they just sucked and I never knew. I gotta start watching these things on TV.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I’m digging these clips, and his chat session on Oilers’ Lunch today. His calls demonstrate good energy, and a nice, professional delivery, and his answers indicate a smart, grateful person, generally. I really like the fact that this guy has *earned* his shot here, by working his hump off, doing whatever was asked of him at every opportunity. He’s, like, the Anti-Milhouse.

    Balance has finally been restored to the Oilerverse.

  • Suntory Hanzo

    you’re telling me they hired an American with only ECHL experience?

    with the list of CANADIAN broadcaster names we’ve been hearing with NHL and AHL experience, those who made this hiring obviously work for a 30th place team

    • Dutchscooter

      I hope you listened to the guy before tar and feathering him with the American brush…..the guy commentates with as much passion as Rod Phillips does. Just because he’s an American does not mean he doesn’t know what he’s doing!

    • book¡e

      I would much rather they just hire the best guy for the job!

      By your logic, they should have hired the person standing closest to the mike when Rod announced his retirement – given that the announcement came on an off day, we would probably have some Rexall Place maintenance man announcing the games.

  • m3sh

    Sorry, I think they missed it. Bartlett (assuming he was interested in leaving the Centre of the Universe)has a better voice and more experience at a higher level of play. Add the Canadian card and I feel he would have been better.

  • Rob...

    I was listening to Gord Whitehead this morning. Gord was talking about how he was surfing blogs to see the town’s reaction to the new PBP man, and he commented on how negative and downright hostile many of the posts were.

    It’s pretty obvious where Gord wasn’t surfing given all the positive comments here. If any of you know Gord, you might want to give him the address to ON. I’d hate to think he relies on Tencer for information on what blogs are worth reading.

  • Dutchscooter

    Don’t worry Robin, no one is blaming you for not forecasting who the ultimate candidate would be. I mean, who could possibly have predicted that a guy from Alaska would take over? He came out of left field. I was just impressed that you actually tracked down some of the front runners. Now, that Seguin thing on the other hand…jk.

  • Rob...

    There’s never a volcano around when you need one. Nobody can ignore the existence of Christian Louboutin in the fashion world.And what makes Louboutin Shoes so remarkable? Its exquisite quality, fine craftsmanship, sexy high heels, quirky designs and of course the red outsole known as the symbol of Christian Louboutin Shoes.