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Maher’s streak serves as metaphor for legendary career

by Aaron Vickers / Calgary Flames

This is the NHL, the National Hockey League. Treat every game, every broadcast with respect and reverence. Remember, it’s an honour to be a broadcaster in the greatest league in the world.Peter Maher

CALGARY, AB -- In a career that spans five decades and 3,162 straight regular-season and playoff games, one could excuse an absence or two. That’s not Peter Maher’s style.

The iconic radio voice of the Calgary Flames didn’t miss a gig -- or skip a beat -- during his tenure behind the microphone.

But that doesn’t mean the Hall-of-Famer’s streak wasn’t in jeopardy once or twice.

“Perhaps the most recent one, at least with the Flames, was in ’04 in the playoff series against San Jose in the Western Final,” Maher recounted. “The first game in San Jose went to overtime and almost a full overtime period before Steve Montador scored the goal to give the Flames the win and I got enough out.

“I had a cold and when you have a cold, any play-by-play broadcaster or any broadcaster can tell you when you when you talk as much as we do and as loud as we do during a game, it takes quite a toll on your vocal cords.

“When Steve scored that goal, I was able to get that out pretty good and then when I went down to the dressing room afterwards to interview him, I could barely get a word out of my mouth and Steve took over the interview and did a good job.”

Maher survived the initial scare.

He didn’t let the second one snap his streak either.

“I was worried if I was going to make it for the second game,” he said. “I got good advice from the training staff and doctors: go back to the hotel, rest, don’t talk to anybody until Game 2 and drink lots of water. They didn’t tell me this, this is my own version of, not a cure but a way to get you through games, have sips of vinegar. So that’s what I did, and it was okay.

“It turned out, Game 2 I was back in the groove again.”

When the puck drops on the 2014-15 schedule, Maher will miss his first. The 64-year-old announced his retirement from broadcasting Tuesday.

He’s spent the past 34 seasons as the voice of the Flames.

“It’s better to leave what you do best too early than too late and that statement has tremendous impact on what my decision is today,” Maher said in his retirement speech.

“When I was a youngster, my two favourite athletes were a baseball player and a boxer; Mickey Mantle was the baseball player, Rocky Marciano was the boxer. Mickey, after all those great moments with the New York Yankees, homeruns, seven World Championships and at the end of his career was basically crippled but he continued to struggle on but didn’t have a particularly great finish. It was a little bit disappointing that that happened but he certainly did have a phenomenal career.

“With Rocky Marciano, he won all 49 of his professional fights. He left the ring as the World Heavyweight Champion and departed as one of the very few champions to never lose a fight.

“I take pride in saying I’ve been blessed to not miss an NHL play-by-play assignment after over 3,100 games. For that, I’m forever grateful and thanks to the trainers, doctors who got me through some tough, sick moments.”

Keeping his streak alive wasn’t just about showing up each and every day.

It was about cherishing the opportunity, whether it be an exhibition contest or Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“Whoever is selected to take that broadcast seat, I offer nothing but the very best with this message: This is the NHL, the National Hockey League,” Maher said. “Treat every game, every broadcast with respect and reverence. Remember, it’s an honour to be a broadcaster in the greatest league in the world.”

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