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.