TAMPA — Dave Randorf didn’t know what to expect entering his first season as the Lightning’s television play-by-play announcer for Bally Sports Sun. Safe to say, the 2021 season exceeded his wildest expectations.
The Vancouver native and veteran broadcaster of more than 30 years started his relationship with the organization July 7, 2020, when the Lightning responded to his email inquiry about the position following the retirement of longtime play-by-play broadcaster Rick Peckham. Exactly one year later, the franchise was celebrating its second straight Stanley Cup championship on home ice.
During a whirlwind year, Randorf moved from Toronto — in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic — so he could start the season on time, lived out of a hotel while house hunting in Tampa and watched his first Cup final in person since 1994.
“I couldn’t ask for a more incredible experience as my first year here,” Randorf, 54, said. “With this stage of my career, to make a shift like this is exhilarating. And I think in itself any change is exciting, but to add all the different elements into the stew (made it) even more exciting.”
Before joining the Lightning, Randorf was a national broadcaster in Canada, coming off a six-year stint with the Sportsnet network. An already challenging transition became even more difficult due to the changes brought on by the pandemic.
For the first time, Randorf had to call away games off monitors from an empty arena or broadcast studio. It made describing a high-intensity, fast-paced game particularly daunting. But as the season progressed, he began to get used to it.
Randorf learned a few tricks, such as adding a slight hesitation before calling a play or crediting a player with a goal so he didn’t make mistakes. It helped that the regular season was limited to intradivision games among eight teams in a virus-forced realignment.
“I was relieved to find out it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be,” Randorf said. “But there were moments through the season where you didn’t see stuff correctly and just hoped you got it right.”
One of Randorf’s favorite moments was the first-round playoff series between the Lightning and Panthers, the first playoff meeting between the in-state rivals.
“It never let up,” Randorf said of the series Tampa Bay won in six games. “It was crazy, it was fast-paced, it was intense. … That game was up on two wheels the entire time.”
It was instances such as Brayden Point’s winning goal for the Lightning in Game 1 that reminded Randorf why it is fulfilling to be the voice of a team as opposed to a national broadcaster.
He tried to bring equal parts fun, analysis and fairness to his broadcasts. In some ways, the experience allowed him to become a fan again.
That was never more evident than the morning of Game 7 of the semifinal series against the Islanders. Randorf wasn’t working the game because NBC had the broadcast rights from the second round on, but he was nervous all day, particularly in the hours leading up to the game.
“It was fun as the season went on for me to really become a fan again,” he said. “I’d lost that, and when you work in the business as long as I’ve been privileged to do so, you’re a professional … but you don’t really care about who wins, and I missed that feeling.”
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