April 29th, 2014 | Posted in Commentary
By: D'Arcy McGrath
While I’ll be the first to admit that Glam Band lyrics shouldn’t be the first thing you see in a story about a hockey play by play legend retiring, they had it right in the late 80s when they waled “Don’t Know What You Got Til it’s Gone”
The Calgary Flames lose their favourite son, and legend Peter Maher when the long and distinguished career of one of the game’s if not the game’s best radio men hangs up the mic after calling every single game in Calgary Flames history.
Think about that.
Every single game.
Didn’t miss one, amazing. The man is paid for a voice and a personality, an energy. And no matter what was going on inside his body with the Flu, a cold, allergies, or inside his head with personal problems at home, with his children, with his friends, his family kept him from missing a game. That will never happen again.
He and the late Ed Whalen put a stamp on an exciting time in Calgary in the early 1980s when they took to the television and radio airwaves to introduce a bustling city to a team full of hockey players that most of us had never heard of. Calgarians flocking to the city for work through the 70s were from British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Ontario and the United States. Our favourite teams were from Toronto, Montreal and Boston. Our favourite players were Guy Lafleur, Darryl Sittler and yeah that guy named Lanny McDonald in Toronto.
A warm voice introduced us to the names of Kent Nilsson, Jim Peplinski, Eric Vail, Willi Plett and we bought it hook line and sinker.
Ten at the time, I was the perfect age to have an adult life time with Peter Maher. The Flames would play 80 games in those years but only 25 or so would be on the television. TV games were special, but the majority of the time the game was cast into your head by Maher on the radio.
For whatever reason road games seemed foreign to me, it wasn’t the Coral or the Saddledome, and we didn’t get to see what it looked like all that often. It seemed darker, mysterious, dangerous. Maher fleshed out the games and the buildings so you could see it in your head, understand what was happening and feel when you went to bed at the end of the night that you saw the game and were able to dial into the vibe that happened so many miles away.
Playoff hockey was different, as the games were on TV, and the radio wasn’t on. For those games Maher was the soundtrack for the team, the sound bytes added to important moments of history, and then the guy that had the anecdotes and historical reference points from behind the curtain.
As is often the case, my strongest memory of Peter Maher isn’t a game that would make the radar for any one else. It wasn’t the 1986 Yeah Baby in Edmonton when the Oilers were defeated, nor the one in Montreal when the Flames won the cup.
It was a Sunday afternoon in the early 1980s. The Flames were closing out their regular season schedule before the playoffs with an afternoon game in Winnipeg. I rolled the window down in my father’s Cadillac, set up my hockey net with those nasty sponge showdown targets, and fired a mud puddle blackened tennis ball again and again at the targets in what felt like the first warm weather in a year. In the background the Flames were pounding the Jets and Peter Maher filled my head with sights and sounds.
Just like the man.
Best of luck Peter, all the best to whatever challenges you seek in this next chapter to your life. Don’t be a stranger to Fan960 radio, the city needs to be let down easily.
They’re about to find out what they had now that it’s gone.