Rod Phillips has berated his last referee.
The play-by-play voice of the Oilers for an astonishing 37 years called his final game last night. Unfortunately, this miserable collection of borderline NHLers passing for the Oilers today couldn’t even muster one lousy goal for Rod’s last game. These guys have no respect.
Rod has been appropriately feted for his stellar career over the past week, and he deserves every kudo thrown his way.
I listened to probably hundreds of Rod Phillips games, beginning in the old World Hockey Association. I loved his excitement, the way he painted a mind’s-eye picture of the game. I laughed at how often he used the word “unbelievable”, although it always came out as “onbelievable”. And I especially liked the way Rod was unafraid to call a lousy call a lousy call — usually “the worst call I have ever seen”, which happened dozens of times a year. Sure, he was a homer; most home-team play-by-play guys are. But he was a colourful homer, a guy who loved his team and wasn’t afraid to show it. And, to his credit, I heard many a game where Rod expressed his frustration at lousy Oiler play. That was the fan in him talking, which is what endeared him to his listeners.
Good play-by-play is a skill that few pretenders have (Kevin Quinn, anyone? And who can listen to Flames guy Peter Loubardias for more than three seconds? Why didn’t anyone tell this guy he has a terrible broadcasting voice?), and Rod really was a delight to listen to. There won’t be another Rod Phillips, and not just because the current crop of mouthpieces are so poor. There won’t be another Rod because the importance of radio play-by-play guys has diminished. When the Oilers graduated to the NHL, they were pretty much shut out of national CBC broadcasts, and there was no such thing as TSN and Sportsnet, so Rod was pretty much the only way you could keep tabs on the Oil. If you wanted to know what was happening to the Oilers, you HAD to listen to Rod. Today, does anyone except convenience store clerks and truckers listen to Oilers on CHED? I can’t even name the guy who’s taken over for Rod. All I know is that he’s an American, which says a lot about how poor Canadian play-by-play guys are that the Oilers had to go to Alaska to find their new voice.
The era of the radio play-by-play man has passed. Rod Phillips was the last of his kind. I wish Rod an “onbelievable” retirement.