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.
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.