SUN Hockey Pool

Recipe for a nightmare

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 11:08 AM ET

If you see a guy walking around town with a mournful look on his face, mumbling about "Ryan Smyth wheeling to centre" and "Ty Conklin's Herculean save," don't be alarmed - it's only Rod Phillips going cold turkey in a Cold War. After 32 straight winters in the booth, describing virtually every goal, save and fight in Edmonton Oilers' history, the Hall of Fame broadcaster finds himself with nothing to call and nowhere to call it.

"In my worst nightmares I never thought it would go this far,'' said the only radio voice the NHL Oilers have ever known.

"But it's one of those things that you don't have any control over. There's nothing people like us can do but wait it out.''

Nothing but a stubborn staredown that makes the NHL the first league in North America to cancel an entire season because of a labour dispute. Needless to say, his first winter off since 1972 is a shock to his 63-year-old system.

"You try to keep busy with things around the house and I go into the office a couple of times a week and check on everybody there, but it's frustrating.

THAT'S THE ROUTINE

"You wake up first thing in the morning and catch the first sportscast to find out if anything is going on or happened overnight, and you watch the last television sports cast before you go to bed. That's the routine. Get up, work out and look for something good to come out of the east - and nothing good ever comes out of the east.''

Phillips attends most Road Runner home games, but it's no substitute for getting behind the mic and doing what he's done as well as anyone in the business for three decades - especially when it's what he loves doing.

"I want to see hockey and I want to watch the kids in the Oilers organization play,'' he said. "That's helped a little bit, but the bottom line is I'm not going to work every day, and that's just not a good feeling.''

If this happened 10 years ago he could hang around the house and play with his kids, but they've long since flown the coop: six-foot-five son Devin is on the UNLV swim team and his daughter Quinn works at Global Sports in Lethbridge.

BACK IN THE BOOTH

"They're doing great,'' he said. "It's just the old man who hasn't got a job to go to.''

No matter how long the stoppage lasts, Phillips will be back in the booth when it's over. But it breaks his heart that players he watched break in as rookies might never get their final tour.

"To see guys like Mess and Stevie Yzerman not be able to finish, to have their careers end because of a lockout would be so sad,'' he said.

"That's not how it should finish for them. They've been great players and meant so much to the game; for them not to get an opportunity to take a last bow just isn't fair.

"It's frustrating and it's heartbreaking in so many ways. The game itself is taking an absolutely unmerciful pounding. It's really very, very scary. You don't read or hear anything positive about the game of hockey and you haven't since last September.''

And he fears you might not until at least this time next year.

"I've heard the Players' Association say it could go to at least January of next year. To me that is absolutely frightening. Eventually it's going to get settled, but I pray that it doesn't take till next January.''

It can't take that long because he's running out of recipes.

"My wife comes home from work every day and dinner is ready and the house is clean,'' he said. "It keeps me busy doing that sort of stuff ... but enough is enough. I wasn't meant to be a cook.''


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