Bob Chase, longtime radio broadcaster for Fort Wayne of the ECHL and the man who mentored NBC's NHL play-by-play announcer Mike "Doc" Emrick, died early Thursday. He was 90.
Chase called Fort Wayne games for 63 seasons on WOWO-AM. He started at the station in 1953 and retired as its sports director in 2009, but he continued to call games until last season.
While dreaming of a career of broadcasting hockey, Emrick, who grew up in nearby La Fontaine, Indiana, would attend games at the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, sit in an upper corner of the rink and call the action into a tape recorder.
Chase agreed to review those tapes with Emrick. The two men were reunited in 2012 to call a Fort Wayne game.
"To actually share a booth with your icon, it probably will sound dramatic, but it's like the two guys playing catch at the end of 'Field of Dreams'," Emrick told The Journal Gazette at the time. "This was the guy I grew up listening to.
"He's a wonderful human being, who's very good to people. He was to me as a college kid just trying to break in, sitting down in the corner section there on Wednesday nights when I didn't bother anybody broadcasting a game into a tape recorder by myself. He was very patient with me because I was very anxious and excited about what I thought would be a career ahead. He kept me calm and that was not easy to do. So I'm forever beholden to him."
Emrick was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy, presented for outstanding service to hockey in the U.S., in 2004. Chase received the award in 2012.
Chase was born Jan. 22, 1926 in Negaunee, Michigan, and grew up in Marquette, Michigan. He joined the U.S. Navy in 1943 and served until 1947, then attended Northern Michigan University, graduating in 1952. He began his radio career in Marquette in 1949, moving to Indiana four years later.
"Bob Chase was Komet hockey," Fort Wayne president Michael Franke said in a statement Thursday. "He put Fort Wayne and the Komets on the map with his deep voice penetrating 28 states and half of Canada on WOWO radio. More than anything I will miss him. He was a father figure to us all. Things will never be the same."
Chase called more than 4,500 Fort Wayne games, including nine league championships.
He was inducted into the Indiana Broadcasters Association Pioneers Hall of Fame in 2000 and into the Indiana Sportswriters and Sports Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2004. He was named ECHL Broadcaster of the Year for 2013-14.
The Komets planned to present a video tribute to Chase prior to their home game Thursday against Kalamazoo.