SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers call up new announcer

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:33 AM ET

There was a point where Jack Michaels thought he would never make it to the NHL.

Eight years in the East Coast Hockey League can do that to a person.

However, Michaels was patient, hoping his opportunity would eventually come along.

"I think all of us, to a certain extent, once you hit seven or eight years, call 500 or 600 games, start to wonder if that's going to be your opportunity," Michaels said. "But on the other hand, I'm 36 years old and I just got an NHL job, which isn't bad.

"It's not that long of a wait. There are a lot of good, qualified people who work their whole lives and don't ever get that shot. I'm fortunate and blessed and everyone of those 914 games was worth it."

On Tuesday Michaels was introduced as the Edmonton Oilers new radio play-by-play man, replacing Hall of Famer Rod Phillips, who stepped out of the broadcast booth at the end of last season.

The Oilers had vowed they would leave no stone unturned in an effort to find Phillips's replacement, and eventually their search took them to Alaska.

A native of Western Pennsylvania, Michaels joins the Oilers after eight seasons calling games for the Alaska Aces of the ECHL, where he was named the league's broadcaster of the year in 2004 and has worked their annual All-star game on five separate occasions.

"First and foremost, I'm not here to replace Rod Phillips. Nobody is going to replace Rod Phillips," said Michaels. "It would almost be presumptuous of me to say I'm going to be the voice of the Oilers. I'm the play-by-play announcer. I'm going to create my own path, work with (colourman) Bob Stauffer and create a broadcast team.

"It would be foolish of me to come in here and say I'm going to take over and replace Rod Phillips. You can't replace a guy like Rod Phillips. All I can do is be myself, both on the air an in the community and establish roots in this community which I will with my family."

The hiring of Michaels culminates an extensive search by the Oilers to replace the only radio play-by-play man they've ever known.

After 37 years, dating back to their Western Hockey Association days, Phillips decided to leave the Oilers broadcast booth at the end of last season. He'll call 10 special games this season as a final sendoff.

"We had a lot of people apply for this job," said Allan Watt, the Oilers vice-president of communications and broadcast. "One of things that a lot of broadcasters can't get is a large number of games under their belt, because there's nothing like doing the games. He has over 900 games in the East Coast League, which was one of his appeal to us, among other things."

Having gone to school in upstate New York, Michaels got his start calling games for Cornell University. From there, he went to work in Colorado Springs for three years in the now defunct West Coast Hockey League before ending up in Anchorage, Alaska.

Michaels will call his first Oilers regular-season game on Oct. 7 when they host the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place.

"I'm pretty passionate on the air," he said. "As the season progresses, I think people will find, as a play-by-play guy should be, I'm a good descriptor of what's going on in the building. Hopefully, I'm not only going to be able to let the listeners know what's going on at the game, but make them wish they were there."


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