Longtime voice of Flames hasn't forgotten his roots

RANDY SPORTAK, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:28 AM ET

All the way out here in Calgary -- on the other side of the country -- Peter Maher knows the excitement is building in his hometown.

Campbellton, N.B., is the host city for today's CBC Hockey Day in Canada celebration, and Maher -- the voice of the Calgary Flames -- is well aware of the buzz.

"Everything is revved up to a fever pitch," Maher said, noting spirits are high despite the cold and snow that's greeted all on hand.

"I would say this is probably the biggest stage Campbellton has had from a national point of view.

"It's a great chance for people across Canada to see how passionate Campbellton is for its hockey."

Today's CBC party includes a triple-header of games that concludes with the Flames-Oilers tilt tonight in Edmonton (8 p.m., CBC), but the real fun takes place in the host city.

The network stars -- Don Cherry and Ron MacLean, especially -- have arrived there to celebrate the game.

Maher, a member of Campbellton's sports hall of fame, has been walking down memory lane leading up to the big event. He's the subject of a feature that will air on CBC, and it allowed him to reminisce about his beginnings.

He started at the local radio station at age 15, first for local sports reports and then as the morning show sportscaster, which he did before going to school.

"I can say without growing up in Campbellton, I wouldn't be where I am today," Maher said. "There's no question in my mind about that. The opportunity to be on the radio at the age of 15 doesn't happen in many places, if any.

"The manager thought I had potential and a strong voice, and then I eventually moved into doing play-by-play, and that happened at the right time since Campbellton had the best teams it had ever had."

Maher's abilities as an up-and-coming play-by-play man and timing couldn't be better. After cutting his teeth in his hometown for several years, his big break came in the fall of 1978, when the Toronto Maple Leafs radio rights were purchased by a new station, taken away from the station with the legendary Foster Hewitt.

Maher sent a tape with the faint hopes he'd get a shot, and was soon headed to Toronto to call an exhibition game. Within a few hours of returning home, he'd been offered the job.

A couple of seasons later, he moved to Calgary to be the host for Flames broadcasts for the first season the club played at the Corral and he's been behind the mic ever since.

But a big piece of his heart has always remained in Campbellton.


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