NEW YORK -- When Sam Rosen did play-by-play of a New York Rangers game for the first time, there was no one around him.
It was the mid-1970s and Rosen was working for UPI Radio Network, covering Rangers games at Madison Square Garden. He was trying to find a role in the New York sports broadcasting world so he could follow in the footsteps of his idols: Mel Allen, Marty Glickman and Jim Gordon.
"I would take one period and go off to the side of the press box and do play-by-play into my tape recorder," Rosen said.
Those tapes helped get him the full-time job as the Rangers' play-by-play broadcaster in 1984. Thirty-two years later, Rosen is going into the Hockey Hall of Fame with an honor that will indeed last a lifetime.
Rosen, 69, will be enshrined Monday as the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award winner for outstanding contributions as a broadcaster.
"Career-wise, it's the greatest achievement," Rosen said. "Everything that I've done in my broadcasting career is now being recognized as one of the best of all time. To be in this hallowed Hall with great players on one side, great writers and broadcasters on the other, down through the years you think back at how big it is, and to think that I'm being singled out, it's really an enormous honor. When I dwell on it I kind of get emotional about it."
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Rosen has been living his dream as a New York sports broadcaster since he was first assigned to fill in for Gordon on a New York Knicks game at the Garden in 1977.
He grew up in Brooklyn a die-hard sports fan, a baseball player who went on to play at City College of New York. He hung on every word uttered by Allen, the legendary voice of the New York Yankees, his favorite team growing up.
"I loved him because he had energy and enthusiasm," Rosen said. "He loved the game."
Rosen, also a big football fan, grew to love the call delivered by Glickman, who became well known to New Yorkers as the voice of the NFL's New York Giants along with the Knicks, New York Jets and occasionally the Rangers.
Rosen was also a die-hard Rangers fan who used to attend games at the Garden every Sunday night. He became infatuated with Gordon, who became his mentor and was the person who recommended Rosen to MSG Network so he could fill in on that Knicks game in 1977.
Eight years later, Rosen replaced as Gordon as the voice of the Rangers.
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It wasn't an easy time, but it was an easy decision.
"They said, 'We're going to make a change and we'd like you to take over as the Rangers' play-by-play man,' " Rosen said. "I said, 'Boy, this is tough, how do I take over for Jim Gordon, who has helped me more than anyone in my career?' They said, 'Sam, we're going to make a change and if it's not you it's going to be somebody else.' When they put it that way, I had to say I'll take it."
It was as much a career-changer as it was a life-changer for Rosen.
"Ultimately, that was everything," Rosen said.
In the more than three decades since he has become synonymous with the Rangers.
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His signature call is, "It's a power-play goal," but his most iconic call took place at the end of Game 7 of the 1994 Stanley Cup Final, when the Rangers won the championship for the first time in 54 years.
"The waiting is over," Rosen said as the Rangers poured onto the ice to celebrate. "The New York Rangers are the Stanley Cup champions, and this one will last a lifetime."
Rosen said the line came to him as the buzzer sounded.
"Everything that I had thought about was about erasing the curse, that 1940 curse, so something had to be about that, but then we had the two icing calls and it was like no, not yet," Rosen said. "Finally, there's the faceoff and now it's over, and that just came out, 'The waiting is over.' And to me, this one was going to last a lifetime. I didn't want it to be the only one, but I wanted everyone to understand that this one was so special that it would last a lifetime for anyone who had seen it."
Rosen has worked with three broadcast partners, starting with Phil Esposito for his first two years and then for the next 20 with current Columbus Blue Jackets president John Davidson, who remains one of Rosen's closest friends.
He has been working with Joe Micheletti for the past 11 years.
"It's his passion for the sport, and I don't say that lightly," Davidson said when asked what makes Rosen a Hall of Famer. "Actually, it's his passion for sports, period. Hockey is at the top of his list, but he fulfilled his dream by becoming a professional sports broadcaster and he's good at every sport he does. He bleeds Ranger blue. He does. He just loves it. He'll do anything he possibly can to make life better in New York. I think he's a New York treasure."
Micheletti said Rosen is the same now as when he first worked with him on Fox's national broadcasts in 1995.
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"If he could do three sporting events a day for 365 days a year that's what he would do," Micheletti said, "and he would approach each one the same way, with the same enthusiasm and vigor."
Rosen isn't slowing down and doesn't plan on it anytime soon. In addition to his duties with the Rangers, he also calls occasional NFL games for Fox. That takes him away from the Rangers at times in the fall, but it never stops him in his preparation.
"I look forward to the next game with the same enthusiasm, excitement," Rosen said. "Every game is something different. The people are great. The players are so great because they're such diverse personalities from different backgrounds. I think that's something that I really love about hockey is meeting people from all parts of the world. Their stories and how they got here are fascinating. It changes every year, but the game is wonderful and I love walking into the broadcast booth."
All those years of doing it has led him to the Hall of Fame, a long way from the secluded part of the old Garden press box.
"When they asked me, 'Do you have any tapes,' I handed them as many as they wanted," Rosen said. "When the opportunity presented itself I was ready for it.
"This is what I wanted."