The Legendary Voices of Hockey

February 28, 2009 by Tyler  
Filed under Hockey Columns


This is a guest article from author Kyle Roussel. Please feel free to catch up with Kyle at

There are some voices that are etched in your mind forever. Is anyone ever going to forget Danny Gallivan‘s “Lafleur, coming out rather gingerly on the right side…” or Gary Thorne‘s call of Gretzky’s 802nd goal. What about Mike Lange’s myriad of bizarre calls? Or just about any Rick Jeannerette call, as homeriffic as they are.

There are some guys that you grew up listening to game after game. Their description of the game, their personality, knowledge and energy was important to the enjoyment of the game as the skill and speed of the guys on the ice. Win or lose, there are some guys who just make things cozy, entertaining, intense and exciting for the fans. They coax you back for more, even if your team stinks.

For me there was no stronger reminder of this than this past February 21. I was relaxing on the couch, enjoying Hockey Day in Canada, when Dick Irvin came on to tell another one of his great stories from hockey’s incredible past. We don’t hear much from Irvin anymore. He called it quits as a full-timer in 1999, but he used to be a fixture on Habs CBC games, on local Montreal news, and as the play-by-play guy for CJAD 800.

When we’re younger, we tend to think that these guys will be around forever. But they’re not. As much as they love the game, they also look forward to their own retirement. And so that came to pass for Irvin in 1999.  I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, which I guess is a testament to the quality of the guys that replaced him. But you soon realize that the old familiar voice, the one that was so comfortable and so much a part of your hockey life was suddenly gone. That’s why I was so happy to see him during CBC’s Hockey Day in Canada. For a brief segment, that great voice, the great stories, made their way back in to my living room.

It forced me to think about the other guys in hockey who’s voice I truly appreciate, but had never really acknowledged in any form, even in my own mind. Off the top of my head, here are some of hockey’s voices:

Love ‘em

Pierre Houde (bonus Kovalev highlight reel – see #10, 8, 6 &4)
Jim Hughson
Chris Cuthbert
Doc Emrick
Ron MacLean
Gord Miller

Like ‘em

Bob Cole (without Harry Neale)
Mark Lee
Gary Thorne
Paul Romanuk (he deserves better than the Spengler Cup!)

Please, no more

(I won’t make you suffer with clips from these guys)

Mike Milbury
Dean Brown
Craig Simpson
Harry Neale
The vast majority of the guys on FSN

Some of these guys are closer to the end than to the beginning (Hi Mr. Cole), but the next 20 years look like they’re set with the likes of Hughson, Cuthbert and Miller. However it’s still a bummer to know that someday sooner than later, guys like Cole and Irvin will disappear from the airwaves completely. They’re a direct link to hockey’s golden age. They were there for the Howes, Richards, and Orrs of hockey’s past. Every night that these guys are on the air is a chance to learn something new and amazing from them.  As for today’s game callers, what do you think about them?

Not to make you feel any older, but…

Put it in the perspective of your children, who will think this way about our contemporaries years from now. Will they feel the same for Gord Miller as we do for Bob Cole? I can still hear my grandfather telling me that nobody was as good as Danny Gallivan. Will I be saying the same about Chris Cuthbert? Hard to imagine isn’t it? But that time is coming, so take the time now to appreciate these guys. They’re an integral part of the sountrack of your life.

Remember back to a few years ago when the broadcasters went on strike and for a brief time hockey games had no play-by-play. It was horrendous – imagine Star Wars without John Williams’ score! This clip isn’t quite the same with the score as without it, is it?. And so it is with hockey voices. They breathe life in to the game and make it come alive. It’s their voices that stand out more than the images.

Think about it – you probably can’t separate the memory of a goal from the call that accompanies it.   If you were going to create a time capsule for yourself, which hockey voices would be a part of it? In a 100 years from now when it was opened, who’s voice would you want representing you and the game of hockey as you would want it portrayed in the early 21st century?


5 Comments on "The Legendary Voices of Hockey"

  1. Tyler on Sun, 1st Mar 2009 4:20 pm 

    Dick Irvin is such a classic and classy guy. to me his voice and the voice of Paul Romanuk are the most recognizable in the industry.
    Of course Mike Lange and Rick Jeannerette are by far the most “creative” if you will…the one-liners can be priceless!

  2. Jason Klakoff on Mon, 2nd Mar 2009 10:36 am 

    Great topic. Love the discussion on this.


    I just can’t go with you on the Doc Emrick call. I can’t stand his voice. Hearing him call a game is like taking a 5/8 inch augur drill bit to the left temple while chewing tin foil at the same time.

    Conversely, for me, it doesn’t get better than Gary Thorne. You have to move him up to the Love ‘Em category.

  3. Kyle on Mon, 2nd Mar 2009 1:20 pm 

    I’m almost ashamed to admit it, but I totally forgot to include Don Wittman on my list. He did a lot of games for the Western teams, so if you wanted to hear him, you’d have to tune in for HNIC’s double header.

    Here’s a 9+ minute clip from the last game in Winnipeg, called by Don Wittman:

  4. Chris Nadeau on Wed, 4th Mar 2009 8:01 am 

    My favourite line in your post is “The vast majority of the guys on FSN” You are so bang on there. They make RDS guys look like hockey geniuses. :-)

    Some definite greats there and I was lucky enough to hear Danny Gallivan when I was real young. Still sticks with me along with Dick Irvin.

    I would have to say Cuthbert is the leader now, but I do like Mike Emrick from NBC/Versus and Devil land.

    Great post!

  5. nhldigest (Tyler @ NHLDigestcom) on Tue, 4th May 2010 10:02 pm 

    Twitter Comment

    RT @kyleroussel: In tribute of Dick Irvin on HNiC tonight, an article I wrote last year on @nhldigest ‘s site: [link to post]

    Posted using Chat Catcher

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