CALGARY, AB -- When Rhett Warrener retired from the National Hockey League in 2008 after a 12-year career, he never planned on pursuing a career in radio and television.
That’s exactly what has happened though as Warrener can be heard from Monday to Friday on Sportsnet 960 The Fan’s morning radio show in addition to being seen an intermission panelist between periods of Calgary Flames games broadcast on Sportsnet.
“I got over the sourness of not being able to play and now being around a little bit through the media gets the competitive blood flowing again,” said the married father of two boys, who now calls Calgary home. “You wish you were out there but you can accept the fact your time is done.”
Warrener played 231 of his career 714 career NHL games as a defenceman with the Calgary Flames before officially hanging up his skates following the 2007-08 season.
“When you retire it’s not easy,” admitted Warrener, who also played for the Florida Panthers and Buffalo Sabres. “You start to wonder who you are and what you are and where you are going and all this stuff. For a while you are excited to have the freedom and then you go, ‘this is great but I am not accomplishing anything.’ You have to have a sense of purpose.”
At first, Warrener took a job with the Flames as a scout, but quickly found that wasn’t for him.
“It’s a lot different world going to the rink as a scout than as a player and it was still a little too close,” said the native of Shaunavon, Sask., who was drafted in the second round (27th overall) by Florida in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft. “It was fresh and I wanted to be on the ice. I certainly didn’t want to be in the stands critiquing the guys I was playing with and at the time it just wasn’t a good fit.”
Warrener decided to take some time away from the game, but quickly found that he missed it. When he received a call from Sportsnet’s Roger Millions asking if he would become a panelist, Warrener readily accepted.
Dean “Boomer” Molberg then asked him to appear in a segment on his radio show entitled “Warrener Wednesdays.”
“Then it was three days a week and then this season it started out five days a week,” Warrener explained. “It just kind of happened. It’s kind of fluky that it came together. I have enjoyed it, but I certainly wouldn’t say it was planned. I wasn’t looking to get into the media side of things. I hadn’t thought a lot about it, but I am glad that it has come together.”
Current Flames assistant coach Dave Lowry isn’t surprised to see that Warrener found a hockey-related job following his playing career.
“Hockey becomes one of the only things you know and you’ve done your whole life,” said Lowry, who was Warrener’s teammate with both the Panthers and the Flames. “It’s just a natural progression. He’s a very smart, intelligent hockey mind. Broadcasting is the way that he wants to go and good for him.”
Following three seasons of playing in the Western Hockey League for the Saskatoon Blades, Warrener made the jump to play in the NHL with the Panthers in the 1995-96 season. After playing 28 games in the regular season, Warrener went on to suit up for 21 more post-season games as the Panthers made a memorable run all the way to the Stanley Cup finals before eventually losing to the Colorado Avalanche.
“It was a bit unexpected,” Warrener admitted. “Everyone gelled together and played a system that at that time worked and was durable. I’m not sure you would have much success in today’s day and age but at the time we had the perfect team to do it and everyone played really well.”
Warrener made a return trip to the Stanley Cup finals in 1999 with Buffalo when the Sabres were eliminated by the Dallas Stars. Brett Hull’s goal in triple overtime of Game 6 gave the Stars a 2-1 victory and their first-ever Stanley Cup championship.
“It was still a bitter pill because I don’t think we lost,” said Warrener, referring to the fact that Hull’s skate was in the crease when the goal was scored. “Everyone in the world knows that the goal that was scored that ended that series, during that year, wasn’t a goal ... plain and simple. They can say whatever they want, but anyone with two eyes and watched hockey that year knows it should have been called off.”
Five years later Warrener once again had a chance to win the Stanley Cup with the Flames, who were eventually eliminated in Game 7 of the finals by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
“I think he’s the downfall of it all,” joked Lowry, who suffered through the agony of getting so close to winning a Cup with Warrener in both 1996 and 2004. “He’s the unlucky guy because he also was there in Buffalo.”
Looking back on it, Warrener said he definitely feels fortunate to have had three memorable playoff runs with three different teams.
“Certainly not satisfied with just being there, but it’s too late to change that,” he said. “You think about playoff hockey and the enjoyment. You might think it’s nerve-wracking and stressful but I found it nothing but exciting and enjoyable. So I have fond memories of that, but ultimately not fond of the end results. I would guess that most guys would have liked to be in my situation but it’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow too.”
One definite positive is that his experiences in the NHL have given Warrener a chance to share his viewpoints as a panelist on Sportnet and lots of interesting stories to talk about during his morning radio appearances.