Maher rightfully takes his place among broadcasting greats

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:11 AM ET

On this day, it's appropriate for all Flames fans -- all hockey fans in Calgary -- to try their hand at Peter Maher's famous phrase.

On the day the Flames play-by-play caller will be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame, it's suitable he be lauded by the city, too.

So, take a moment and scream it out with pride: "Yeah, baby!"

It'll feel great and, if only for a brief moment, rekindle and remind all of what's great about the NHL.

And, it'll give everyone a taste of what truly makes Maher one of the best ever to be, as he says, a messenger.

It's an unadulterated passion and love for the game.

Today in Toronto, where Maher's NHL play-by-play career began, he'll be lauded with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, an annual honour for a broadcaster.

Through nearly 2,200 Flames regular-season and playoff games and another couple hundred pre-season, Maher still has a fervour most wish they had for their jobs.

Says the man who began calling Flames games in the 1981-82 season (after one season with the Maple Leafs) doing his job never becomes tiring.

"I think I'm the luckiest guy on Earth. There are others who feel the same,

I know that, but I'm really fortunate and blessed. I can't think of anything else I'd rather be doing than broadcasting hockey games," said Maher. "I don't have to work to hard to build up for a game. From the minute I wake up in the morning, I'm excited. I don't have to manufacture it, it's there in me."

It shows. Listen to those around the league and it's easy to realize why Maher is one of the greats.

Whether it's a Flames player or someone from the opposition scoring the goal, throwing the hit or making the save, Maher has always prided himself on giving that player his due credit.

He always allows the listener into the building by giving the crowd -- through its cheering -- its chance to tell the story.

Those touches are why he'll be put in the same category as such luminaries as Foster Hewitt, Danny Gallivan and Dick Irvin, as humbling as that is.

"I have a hard time grasping it, this little guy is going into the same position as those illustrious guys. Those were all guys I idolized ... I even got to know some of them later on and now I'm in the same category," Maher said. "I have a hard time feeling I'm worthy."

Maher, who has never missed a game due to illness or even family reasons may find it hard to believe he belongs -- and it's not false modesty -- but that humility is one of the reasons he's truly deserving.

Any young reporter or broadcaster who walks into the Saddledome is welcomed with a smile from a man always willing to relay help and advice.

Maher won't let the accolades come his way without mentioning those who've been part of those broadcasts, be it Red Storey and Billy Harris during his time in Toronto, Doug Barkley -- his compatriot through 21 seasons in Calgary who will introduce Maher today -- or Mike Rogers.

Nor will he leave out the fans, whether they've gone through the rollercoaster ride since the early 1980s or just those who hopped on the bandwagon in recent seasons.

So, remember, in honour of one of the true greats and true gentlemen in the game, let out a "Yeah, baby!"

He won't mind.

"On my tombstone," he says, "I'm sure there'll be a 'Yeah, baby!' on there."

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PETER MAHER

Flames legendary play-by-play man will be inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame today in Toronto:

- Originally from Cambellton, NB., he began his media career as a sports writer and was broadcasting junior and senior hockey games.

- Spent one season, 1978-79, calling Toronto Maple Leafs games.

- Came to Calgary as the host for the Flames broadcasts, before becoming the play-by-play voice of the Flames for the 1981-82 season.


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