Jeff Rimer stood on Nationwide Arena ice Thursday and was honored for the 2,000 games he's announced in the National Hockey League in a 27-year span. It was a moment to acknowledge someone who has poured his life into sports, and specifically hockey, as a broadcaster, an ambassador and a teacher.
"As a broadcaster, you go through the highs and lows of a franchise," said Jackets president of hockey operations, John Davidson. "You travel as much, if not more, than the players because it's very seldom that you miss games. You do a lot of work, and Jeff does a lot of homework as most good broadcasters do. Jeff's never lost that aspect of his game for sure, and that's so important."
It's rare to show up at the Arena during the hockey season and not see Rimer around. He's always gathering insights from players, visiting teams, and coaches. Wen he's not focused on the game itself, Rimer is out and about in the community connecting with the people of Central Ohio.
"One thing I didn't understand as a player is that the broadcasters really are one of faces of the organization," said Jody Shelley, former Jacket and current broadcaster partner to Rimer. "People like to connect and want to hear about their team, and they feel that through us they can get that.
"Jeff always has lots of time for any fan that wants to talk to him, which is good. I think that's what the Blue Jackets are all about."
What else has Rimer done for the organization? As Davidson says, Rimer has built up an "impressive rolodex" of contacts through his decades working in sports having previously called games for the Washington Capitals and Florida Panthers before joining the Jackets in 2005.
Having that network of people means that Rimer can spread the word about the Jackets throughout the league, including to people like long-time friend, Davidson, who Rimer has known since they attended high school together in Calgary.
"He had told me for a long time what a great city Columbus is," Davidson said. "He told us a million good things about it, about ownership, about the franchise. When you get along in your career and you're trying to figure out what you want to do, I wasn't sure if I wanted to start over again with a franchise, it's hard.
"But the challenge was there, and the ownership was great just like Jeff said, and the city is even better than what he said and it all adds up. He was very helpful in telling us how wonderful Columbus is and what the franchise is all about and how the people would respond if we got going and got playing well, he's been right on all of those."
There are so many stories Rimer can share about his life in sports. If you sit with him for any amount of time you're sure to get a few. Davidson recalls the story of Rimer interviewing Muhammed Ali when he was just a kid in Calgary. There's also the time Rimer had a wrestling match with Pete Rose in the dressing room in Montreal with the Expos.
Video: Jeff Rimer honored at Nationwide Arena
Some of Rimer's best stories, however, come from those he shares with the greater hockey community every game night during one of those 2,000, and counting, broadcasts.
"Every night I listen to (Rimer and Shelley) and their different stories if I'm not on the road," Davidson said. "There's always new people or younger people watching the games so they are teaching the game at the same time. I think viewers want to be informed and told different things about players, not just where the puck was or if we scored a goal, they want a little bit of everything."
And when he's not concentrating on hockey? Rimer is concentrating on relationships. Rimer is known for his love for his family. His wife, two children and three grandchildren are never far from mind. There's always a new photo or video to share or a story about what a grandchild is doing. And he never forgets those he's met along the way to 2,000-plus games called.
"If you know Jeff and you watch him go around the league, he has a lot of friends," Davidsons said. "Whether they are hockey people or high school people or whatever it is. He has a lot of friends. He goes out of his way to get to know you as a person, even more so than as a hockey player, which is cool. Whatever it's over for him, he'll have a lot of friends in this game for sure."