ROD PHILLIPS: LAST CALL

Fans of the Edmonton Oilers longing for a nostalgic night they won’t soon forget might want to turn off the TV and turn up the radio when the puck drops against the Los Angeles Kings at Rexall Place Tuesday.

If you gather around the old wireless, you’ll be party to the end of an era when Rod Phillips calls his last-ever game as the radio play-by-play man with the Oilers.

After 37 years behind the microphone, including a curtain call of 10 radio games this season, dubbed Rod’s Classics, The Voice of the Oilers will call one last game against the Kings, then exit the booth and slip off into retirement.

Tuesday will mark game No. 3,542 for the 69-year-old Phillips, who has provided the narrative for so many moments that will forever be etched into the minds of Oilers fans. He is the voice of the glory days, of the five Stanley Cup celebrations and all those parades downtown.

In a season when the Oilers will miss the playoffs for a fifth consecutive season, Phillips is a link to times when this town boasted the greatest collection of talent, and arguably the best team, ever assembled.

One more time for the good times.

SAYING GOODBYE

Having caroused around the NHL in the seat beside Phillips for a decade during my time covering the Oilers, I’ve written plenty about him here over the past couple of years as the time for him to step away to the grill and the golf course drew closer.

I’m not going to tell stories from the road yet again. I couldn’t doing nearly as good a job as Jim Matheson, Rod’s best friend and his running mate dating back to the WHA, did Saturday in The Journal. Give it a read if you get the chance.

For those of you who grew up listening to Phillips call Oilers games for four decades in a career that saw him inducted into the broadcast wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame in back in 2003, this is just a reminder that Tuesday is his curtain call.

Fittingly, Matheson, who did about 1,000 games as the analyst alongside Phillips as they traipsed around the WHA and eventually the NHL, will put down his notepad and join him in the booth for his last call.

A NIGHT TO REMEMBER

Tuesday against the Kings is as good a night as any for a departure from the grind of this season, one in which the Oilers will finish 30th for the second straight year. A great time to tune in and, well, tune out.

The Oilers will take the ice for the warm-up wearing No. 37 jerseys as a salute to Phillips 37 seasons. If I know Phillips, he’ll be a bundle of nerves, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he turns back the clock a few years and belts out a broadcast to be proud of with Walter Buehler working the booth, as usual, and Matheson riding shotgun.

The Oilers hosted a lunch for Phillips today to set the stage for tomorrow. Prime Minister Stephen Harper sent a letter of congratulations. So did Gary Bettman.

The free lunch drew the usual media suspects, a full compliment of free-loaders including past radio colour men Terry Jones, Morley Scott, Kevin Karius, Greg Pilling and Matheson.

Tom Renney and Kevin Lowe were there, so was former coach Ron Low, Barry Stafford and Sparky Kulchisky. Current Oilers Sam Gagner, Steve MacIntyre and Tom Gilbert joined the likes of Al Hamilton and Dave Lumley. Somebody who looked just like Bryan Hall, but sporting a Grizzly Adams beard, showed up. There was a lot of history in that room today.

A special chapter in that history closes tomorrow night.

SOME OF ROD’S BEST CALLS HERE: oilers.nhl.com/club/podcastplayer.htm

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • ogorr

    Living 150 miles south, half in Flames country, listening to 630 after 8:00 is a challenge at best. With the signal turned north, some southern baptist fading in and out, with Rod ranting about an oiler injustice, wife and kids complaining “why who and what are we listening to”? I hung on every word. Only now do I realize how good we had it! no next year, just now! Rod calling, Glen S dealing, team could win any night. Good times…. Good times …. Thanks Rod for the memories

  • OilFan

    Great article Robin, Rod will be missed and it almost seems fit. Like does anyone even listen to radio anymore ? With ipods , smart phones and sat radio I haven’t listened to local radio in years. I’ll be sure to tune in tonight. Just downloaded the corus radio application for my iphone sqeeeeeeeeeee.

  • 5cups7years

    I’ll Miss you Rod. With all do respect to Jack Michaels, i cant stand when he used the term “right to left” etc ect. Enjoy your retirement you earned it, a long time ago.

  • 5cups7years

    One call that isn’t on the podcast:

    “Weight rips it past Richter!”

    Awesome.

    He will be missed.

    This is not meant to be a shot at the late great Danny Gallivan, but when I first heard Gallivan do a game, I’d already been listening to Rod on the Oilers game of the week up in Grande Prairie in the early and mid 1980s.

    I can remember thinking how boring and slow Danny Gallivan was compared to Rod. I know that’s probably sacreligious (and I’m sure Rod would say it is, too), but that’s how I feel. Nobody and I mean nobody brought you into a game better than Rod.

  • Rogue

    Heard Rod many times when I was still on the farm. The first 3 weeks of May, I was sitting on a tractor. Luckily the Oil were still playing. Met him once, and the charm with Rod was that he was not pompous. A very humble and fun guy. Just your average Joe. Thanx for being there Rod. You will always be Numero Uno for me and many others.

  • Crash

    Had to choke back the tears listening to those calls while rememebering the moments. Rod still has it to this day. The only guy that even compares in my eyes was Danny Gallivan.

    So many more great calls that could have been included, it would be hard to fit them all in.

    I sold my tickets for tonights game just so I could stay home and listen to it on the radio.

    Thanks Rod, you “ARE” the “BEST”

  • #94 sized hole where my heart used to be...

    I’m only 18 so I don’t have all these awesome memories from Rod in the 80’s like everyone else but to me Rod is the true definition of a beauty and it was an absolute privilege for all oiler fans to have listened to him all these years, what other city can claim they had one of there teams biggest fans call the games so passionately?

    I grew up listening to Rod and was almost thankful for PPV games when they rolled around and I had an excuse to listen to the legend, I, along with many here at Oilersnation I’m sure, will have the TV on mute listening to the beauty one last time

    Thank you Rod Phillips Forever the true Voice of the Edmonton Oilers

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Before they used to Delay the RedDeer radio station I used to listen to Rod and put on the TV with no sound. They lined up perfectly and it was Glorious indeed. They need to release a DVD series of the Stanley cups against the Islanders both the loosing and winning series with Rod as the voice over.
    Thank -you Mr Phillips For your passion you were a class act! Always!!!!

  • D-Man

    Rod Phillips is and will always be a class act… The one thing I appreciated the most about his broadcasts were his biased opinions and overall, love for the Oilers. Rod always called a game with pure emotion; you don’t see or hear too much of that these days. Rod – you will be missed…

    P.S. Does anyone know how to ‘negotiate a blue line’??

  • OilFan

    Its too bad, I remember listening to him calling the hockey games on the radio. My parents wouldn’t let me stay up to watch the game but my dad always let me listen to it on the radio. I think it was his voice and methods that helped me become such a big Oiler fan. I still have all my old hockey card from the early 90’s. Listening to Oiler hockey will never be the same or as good. I will without a doubt be listening tonight.

  • JohnQPublic

    Congrats to Rod on a great 37 year career. I will always remember him for calling that Hemsky goal when he went around Regehr. I can’t remember exactly what was said but it was ridiculously funny. All the best Rod and thanks for the memories!

  • The Fish

    I’ll be listening to this game with my two young boys tonight and educating them on what a great broadcaster Rod has been for 37 years. They won’t have any idea what the hell i’m talking about as one is 2.5 and the other is 10 months, but nevertheless.

    • positivebrontefan

      Same with me but i’ve got two girls, 5 and 7 and the oldest one loves hockey and has her box of hockey cards and will sit up with me and listen to the game tonight flipping through the cards like I did.

      Grew up in the country and had no TV and Rod was the guy that painted the pictures, it was like you were there. When i was young I would stay up to listen with my Dad until it got too late, then I would listen in bed and my Mom would come in and tell me to turn it off, and I would hear Dad down the hallway say ” Ah, let him listen honey, he wont sleep till the games over anyway, besides they’re only down by two with ten minutes left, they’ll come back and win it yet.”

      As far as my favorite call; it was at Kurri’s retirement and Gretz was there and it was “Kurri, to Gretzky, back to Kurri, Kurri SHOOTS, HE SCOOOOOORRRRRES!!!

      I cried like a baby.

  • Jodes

    A wonderful and emotional trip down memory lane with that podcast – thanks Robin.

    I grew up in Lacombe, was 7 years old when the Oilers joined the NHL and I’ve been a fan for the subsequent 31 years. Listening to Rod’s voice has been the one constant over that time, and as much as I can appreciate what Jack Michaels brings to the broadcast booth, there can only be one Rod Phillips and he will be sorely missed indeed.

    All the best Rod, and thanks for giving voice to a lifetime of hockey memories.

  • I’ve been an Oiler fan since WHA days. I remember watching Jim Harrison play in the old Edmonton Gardens. What a talent he was.
    Initially, I acutally couldn’t believe Bryan Hall didn’t get the call for the Oilers but Rod quickly got rid of that inkling.

    I lived out of town for a few years in the early 80’s. Used to stay late at work just so I could listen to him on the drive home.

    The only thing I had with him was fights. He made them interesting but I always tried to catch the replays just to see what really happend. lol

  • I just thought I would add a couple of memories to the vault. First off, I don’t think younger listeners can realize just how important Rod was to those of us who followed the team back in the WHA and the early glory years in the NHL. Remember, back in those days relatively few Oiler games were televised, so Rod’s voice was our only contact to the action much of the time. My friends, Oiler fanatics all, would gather at someone’s house and we’d sit around, playing cards, listening to that singular voice which would capture all the excitement and heartbreak, the many highs and occasional lows of that era. His voice was truly the soundtrack of that time in a way it could never be now, with all the games televised, (no disrespect intended toward Jack Michaels, a broadcaster I enjoy immensely). His importance could be seen at home games where dozens of fans could be observed listening to transistor radios, following his call while watching the live action. You never see that nowadays.
    Anyway, my all time favorite call occurred back in probably 1980 – the Oilers were playing Quebec, I think, and a line brawl broke out. In the midst of it, Kim Clackson, the Quebec tough guy (I think he played for Winnipeg in the WHA for a few seasons as well) suckered an Oiler and Rod, in a fit of disgust, declared, on air, “That Clackson has all the brains of an unflushed toilet!” We couldn’t believe he said it, but it became the insult of choice for all my friends for years after!
    Another memory is more personal, and reflects Rod the man more than Rod the broadcaster. I had the good fortune a few years back to play in the Oilers charity golf tournament, and the Oiler celebrity we drew to play with our foursome was none other than Rod himself. We had a marvelous afternoon – Rod was great company, hilarious and personable, (although a terrible golfer who as I recall didn’t help us out once on a single hole, but I would never hold that against him). Afterwards at the banquet, I smuggled my 12 year old son(an Oiler fanatic himself) to our table and introduced him to Rod, who was gracious and friendly, signing autographs and introducing my son to Oiler players seated at other tables. It was an extraordinary night, one my son still talks about.
    But the rest of the story came about 6 months later. My son and I had travelled to LA to take in an Oiler game at the Staples Center against the Kings. Our seats were in the upper bowl, quite near the broadcast booths, which in the Staples Center are located right next to the seating area. Just before the game, my son and I were out on the concourse, when a door opened from the broadcast area and out came Rod. He recognized us immediately, greeted me BY NAME, and started chatting with my son like we were old friends. Remember, I had met him once at a charity golf tournament 6 months earlier. Over the years, how many thousands of hockey goofs like me have said hi to Rod like they actually knew him? Yet there he was, being gracious and welcoming, like Oiler fans were the most important people in the world to him. A better ambassador for the Oilers I cannot possibly imagine.
    So it is with sadness and great nostalgia I salute Rod on the occasion of his last broadcast. His was a singular voice deserving of being in the Hall of Fame, but just as enduring as my memories of his calls of the great moments of Oiler history will be my memories of a gracious, classy gentleman. I wish Rod all the best in retirement. Thanks for the memories.

  • The Farmer

    I just got in from checking cows, and with 10 minutes to go instead of running in to catch the end of the game on tv I just sat back and closed my eyes and listened to the legend finish off an amazing run.

    It took me back to when I was just a kid and I would stay at my grandma and grandpa’s house, they were too old school to watch tv so we would sit in their living room and listen to Rod. They have since passed on and I will admit I cried listening to the third period, it’s like losing another link to my past, and I will deary miss it.

    Thanks for the memories Rod

    ( Would have been nice to hear one last goal call, but ahhh such is life as an oiler fan these days)