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Calgary broadcaster ready for Olympic challenge

Thursday, 12.24.2009 / 11:14 AM / All-Access Vancouver

By Todd Kimberley - NHL.com Correspondent

"I'm pretty excited about it. I've never had the opportunity to even go to the Olympics ... When I think about it, going back to my days in New Brunswick, I've broadcast the Allan Cup, the Memorial Cup, the Hardy Cup, a little bit of college hockey, the NHL, the World Championships, All-Star games, and the Stanley Cup Final. This is pretty much the last step." -- Calgary Flames broadcaster Peter Maher

CALGARY -- The clock is ticking, and members of Flames Nation wait on pins and needles to find out who'll be selected to participate in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Salt Lake City gold medalist Jarome Iginla? Well, duh. But who else -- Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr or Dion Phaneuf on the Canadian blue line? Olli Jokinen or Miikka Kiprusoff for Finland? What about Eric Nystrom as a long longshot for the Americans?

Well, one Calgary Flames employee is already guaranteed a spot at GM Place. The best seat in the house, in fact -- 90 feet above ice level.

Iconic Flames play-by-play man Peter Maher has been chosen to call the action for Team Canadian games for the Rogers Broadcasting radio network, a division of Rogers Media Inc., at the Games in February.

The native of Campbellton, N.B., will be heard from coast to coast in Canada, on 51 FM and AM stations, calling the entire Canadian men's slate of preliminary-round games, the men's medal round, and the women's gold-medal final.

For Maher, a Hockey Hall of Famer, it's the missing piece on a dazzling resume.

"I'm pretty excited about it. I've never had the opportunity to even go to the Olympics. Even when they were here in Calgary (in 1988), we were on the road most of the time," says Maher, 61, the voice of Flames radio rights holder FAN 960.

"So to have an opportunity to broadcast an Olympic Games ... yeah, it's probably about the last thing I haven't done in my career, when you think about it," adds Maher. "When I think about it, going back to my days in New Brunswick, I've broadcast the Allan Cup, the Memorial Cup, the Hardy Cup, a little bit of college hockey, the NHL, the World Championships, All-Star games, and the Stanley Cup Final. This is pretty much the last step."

In fact, there hasn't been much of an opportunity like this for Maher or his broadcast-booth counterparts. NHLers weren't allowed to participate in the Olympics en masse until 1998, and there wasn't a Canadian network radio broadcast established at Nagano, Salt Lake City or Torino.

"It looks like this is the one chance, ever," notes Maher, "because right now, it doesn't appear the NHL players will be participating (at Sochi, Russia in 2014)."

Maher will be joined in the booth in Vancouver by color commentator John Garrett, a former NHL goaltender and longtime TV analyst for Rogers Sportsnet. Howard Berger, of Toronto's FAN 590, will host the broadcasts.

Maher knows the NHL like a book, of course. So the biggest obstacle will be a he-said, she-said sort of thing.

"Right now, the biggest challenge is going to be broadcasting the women's game. I've never broadcast a women's game," says Maher. "I've already talked a bit to (former Canadian team captain and Hockey Night in Canada broadcaster) Cassie Campbell about it, and she tells me the terminology is pretty much the same. The girls like to be called defensemen, not defensewomen, so that helps.

"I think the biggest challenge there -- and I'm not sure I'm going to be able to conquer it, though I'll give it a good try -- will be saying 'she' instead of 'he,' " adds Maher with a chuckle. "I've been a broadcaster for about 36 years, now, and it's always been 'he.' Hopefully, if I slip up, people will understand."

Maher and his trademark "Yeah, baby!" cry have been an integral part of Flames lore since the club moved to Calgary from Atlanta in the fall of 1980.

Maher, who'd spent the previous three seasons as the voice of the Toronto Maple Leafs, joined the Flames radio broadcast team during Calgary's maiden 1980-81 season as the host of Flames games and post-game call-in shows.

He took over the mic from Bart Daly to begin the 1981-82 season -- and, nearly 30 years later, still hasn't missed a broadcast. That's a string of 2,373 straight Flames regular-season and playoff broadcasts, not counting pre-season and international exhibition games, through the perils of strep throat and North American air travel.

In November 2006, for his dedication and contributions to the game, Maher was recognized by the Hockey Hall of Fame as a media honoree, and given the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award.

And speaking of Hewitt ... NHL fans from the Big Smoke may recall that Maher was the broadcaster who replaced the legend of the Canadian airwaves during the 1977-78 NHL season, after a rights holder bidding war between rival stations.

"Things happened so fast, there, that I didn't even have a chance to think about what was going on," recalls Maher. "It was really such a surreal feeling. I learned about the Toronto job being available on the Labor Day weekend. I called on the Tuesday ... two weeks later I did an audition, and (six days later) we did our first live game.

"It was only later that I had a chance to sit back and think about it. That was probably the best way for it to happen. If I had a lot of time to think about it, I don't know how I would have handled it."