Millions' season nears end even if Flames not doused

PETER MAHER

, Last Updated: 9:03 AM ET

EDMONTON -- The last time Rogers Millions broadcast play-by-play of a playoff hockey game was before the Flames won the Stanley Cup.

Tomorrow night in St. Paul, Minn., the Flames television voice on Rogers Sportsnet and Flames pay per view, will broadcast his 54th and final NHL game this season.

It'll be a bittersweet evening for the Waskada, Man. native: On the one hand, a good feeling of successfully working a career-high number of NHL contests during the 2007-08 season; On the other, disappointment again of missing out on the thrill and added excitement of calling an NHL playoff game.

Millions' last playoff PBP broadcast was in 1988 when he was the radio voice of the WHL's Saskatoon Blades.

He's not the first Flames television PBP broadcaster to follow the team through the regular season and then step aside when the post-season began.

For the late, great Ed Whalen, it was an annual rite of spring to miss out on what he called "the chocolate and cherry on top of the ice cream."

Whalen, who passed away in 2001, called Flames regular-season games for 18 seasons but never experienced the excitement of working a playoff game.

The reason they -- Millions now and Whalen then -- don't get playoff PBP work is because the NHL's post-season television rights are held by the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada and TSN. The radio rights holder, presently The Fan 960, covers all the games.

Whalen, at this time of year, would always come to me and say something like: "I'm very envious of you. You get to keep broadcasting all those important playoff games. You don't know how fortunate you are."

It is, indeed, a major plus. In the past, it's been a consideration in electing to stay on the radio side of broadcasting.

When the Flames went through that infamous seven-year run without a playoff game, it really hit home what Whalen experienced and what Millions will be going through next week should the Flames gain a post-season berth for a fourth consecutive season.

Millions concedes he'll have a different feeling tomorrow than he's had for the previous 53 tilts he worked this campaign.

"When it's over, you know that's the end of your season," Millions said. "It's tough knowing that the team and organization, which supported you as you followed them all season, is moving on. It's tough, but that's the way it is."

Millions, whose last broadcast of a playoff game of any kind was the National Lacrosse League final in 2002, doesn't have any one highlight from this season: "Watching the team play over .500 on the road; Coming together as a unit; Seeing Jarome (Iginla) continue to be such an outstanding player; And the maturing of Dion Phaneuf and seeing him become a superstar on defence.

"He's already done things that Bobby Orr, Denis Potvin and Larry Robinson achieved in their great careers. And as he keeps getting better, he may exceed some of their accomplishments. To think it's only his third season."

Millions has been a playoff reporter, working Western Conference finals in past springs.

"It's much different. Telling stories for our Sportsnet audience with a national theme," Millions said. "Not regional as it is in the regular-season. It's not close to being the same as play-by-play work."


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