Lightning TV play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham went through his normal routine Wednesday preparing for what would be his last day calling hockey games.
He gave little thought to doing this and that for the “last time,” instead focusing on the task ahead. It wasn’t until the postgame show on Fox Sports Sun that emotions finally hit him.
“I was just happy to have that kind of opportunity to go out with the game as it ended,” Peckham said of the Lightning’s Game 5 5-4 overtime win against the Blue Jackets that clinched the first-round series for Tampa Bay. “With that kind of thing, you can’t script that. That’s just the perfect way, the perfect opportunity to go out to end a career.”
And thanks to him, Lightning fans might have a new nickname for shutdown center Brayden Point.
“Out of the reach of (Vladislav) Gavrikov in front, it’s Point! He scores! Brayden Point has won the series for the Lightning! 5-4 in overtime!” Peckham shouted on Wednesday’s broadcast. “Brayden Point scores at 5:12 in the first overtime. Jon Cooper and Tampa Bay moving on in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Unbelievable finish for the Lightning. Point in front, Mr. Clutch, all alone. You knew he would find the back of the net.”
Peckham and partner Brian Engblom worked the series played in Toronto from a feed at Amalie Arena.
After Wednesday’s broadcast, Peckham, 65, gathered with friends at Amalie Arena to celebrate his last game. Former Lightning captain and 2004 Stanley Cup champion Dave Andreychuk presented Peckham with a Lightning jersey with No. 24 on the back to commemorate his 24-year career with the team.
“I did make a comment to (Andreychuk) about hopefully (Lightning defenseman) Zach Bogosian is not upset about it,” Peckham said, chuckling. “(Bogosian) has certainly worn No. 24 with distinction here in a short period of time.”
The group toasted with champagne, and Peckham saw a video of players paying tribute to his time with the Lightning. The celebration had been planned, but Peckham joked that people started getting nervous thinking about a potential Game 6 as the Lightning trailed the Blue Jackets with two minutes to go in regulation.
“All of that kind of was overwhelming,” Peckham said, “just from the standpoint of I’m not used to having attention showered on me like that from other people.”
By the time Peckham picked up his phone after his last call, he had at least 45 text messages and emails from family, friends and broadcasters throughout the league.
The hockey community showed its appreciation for him on social media, too.
Lightning Hall of Famer Marty St. Louis wrote on Twitter, “Great way to go out. Congrats Rick!”
Oilers radio play-by-play broadcaster Jack Michaels complimented Peckham’s career.
“(I’m) not a Lightning fan, but I can tell you that the broadcasters in this league think Rick’s a far better person than play-by-play guy, and he’s a Hall of Fame announcer,” Michaels wrote in a message. “(He was) very kind to me when I first got to the league 10 years ago, and he didn’t have to be. Think the world of Rick, and I’m not alone. Probably one the most underrated announcers in a major professional sports league that I can think of. He’s really, really good and has been for 30 years.”
Peckham didn’t have any special plans for Wednesday night or today. He planned to watch the Rays play the Yankees but otherwise had kept his schedule open in case the series extended into the weekend. He said if anything, he might play golf.
But Peckham isn’t done with the Lightning yet. He said the morning skate show with color analyst Engblom, Andreychuk and Bobby “The Chief” Taylor will continue through the Lightning’s postseason run. There’s talk of a postgame show, too, but the details haven’t been ironed out.
Peckham’s work over the years has not gone unnoticed by Lightning fans and hockey viewers. His voice and career achievements will be honored by the Hockey Hall of Fame in November with the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Professional Hockey Writers Association. The award honors “members of the radio and television industry who have made outstanding contributions to their profession and to the game of hockey.”
Fans were sad to see the Lightning staple leave after so many years. Many who have been watching the Lightning since its inception in 1992 have grown accustomed to hearing Peckham’s excitement on every call.
“He has a remarkable voice and tone, and passion,” Andrew Katzman of St. Petersburg wrote in a Twitter direct message to the Tampa Bay Times. “But he also weaves in his remarkable knowledge of the sport. His calls not only show excitement, but the work and preparation he puts into each and every telecast. He’s always prepared. Even after 4 decades, the attention to detail never wavered.”
Scott Sechrist of Seffner described Peckham as “the most professional ‘homer’ in sports broadcasting.”
“(He) truly made you feel like he wanted the Bolts to win as badly as you did,” Sechrist wrote on Twitter. “But at the same time (he) never made it seem that way for opposing fans or neutral listeners. Truly one of the greats.”
Read a Twitter thread of fans remembering Peckham’s impact here. Some of the memories are included below: