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Rick Peckham talks pinch-hitting stint with Lightning, Hockey Hall of Fame induction weekend

The former play-by-play broadcaster spent 24 years with the team before retiring in 2020.
The Lightning honor former play-by-play commentator and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Rick Peckham before a Nov. 26, 2021, game at Amalie Arena.
The Lightning honor former play-by-play commentator and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee Rick Peckham before a Nov. 26, 2021, game at Amalie Arena. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published Jan. 4

When the Lightning’s TV play-by-play announcer, Dave Randorf, went into COVID-19 protocol ahead of Thursday’s game against the Panthers, the team had only one call to make to find a temporary replacement.

Rick Peckham, who spent 24 years with the team before retiring in August of 2020, was more than happy to pinch hit in the booth.

“When you have a Hall of Famer right up the street, and especially the type of guy that he is ... he’s a fan and still feels very connected to the Lightning and always will the rest of his life,” said Brian Engblom, who worked alongside Peckham as the Lightning’s TV analyst starting in 2015-16. “It was just pretty amazing how he just slipped right back in.”

The Tampa Bay Times caught up with Peckham after his three-game stint back on the call. (Answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

How’s retirement going? Have you settled into Lightning fan mode? How’s the golf game looking? (The team gave him a special Lightning-engraved putter during a November pre-game ceremony at Amalie Arena).

“I’ve settled into fan mode for sure. I think back to the playoff run (last season) and just night after night, and just following that march to the (Stanley) Cup and being in the stands when they clinched it in Amalie Arena, it’s just something I’ll never forget it. ... Just very unique for me to be able to sit there and watch the game and be as tense as everybody else in the building and not have to worry about. ‘Okay, well, what am I going to say’ and have to look at it professionally, and just soak in all the big moments.

“As for golf, I added it up. In 2021, I had 87 rounds on 38 courses. It’s been a lot of fun and the game has been holding up pretty well. (The putter’s) in my bag. I kind of eased it in because I’ve been putting well with my other one and splitting time with it, but now the last couple of rounds, I’ve been full time with the engraved putter and it’s gone very, very well.”

Rick Peckham was the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award recipient in 2020 for his outsanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster.
Rick Peckham was the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award recipient in 2020 for his outsanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

You also called a game for the Predators on Nov. 16 while you were in Toronto for your Hockey Hall of Fame induction (he was the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award recipient in June 2020, but the ceremony was delayed due to the pandemic). What sparked that?

“My family and I were in the process of flying to Toronto on the (Nov. 14). The luncheon and so forth was going to be the 15th, and I was aware Nashville was going to play in Toronto the next night because Bill Wickett, the former Lightning spokesman, and Gerry Helper from the Predators, I invited them to be at the luncheon.

“But we get to the gate on Sunday in Tampa and I get a text from Wickett, and he’s like, ‘You won’t believe this, but radio play-by-play announcer Pete Weber had a medical issue, had to leave the game the night before (Saturday) and is not going to be able to travel to Toronto for the game. Is there a possibility you could do it?’ And it was stunning because it’s literally the last thing that you would expect to have happened.

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“Bill made sure that I got what I needed in terms of notes and that kind of thing and I just was primarily focusing on the lineup and making sure I was familiar with the players and all of that.

“And it was just going to have to be one of those things where you just wing it because you haven’t been following the players. And you had no time to prepare but it’s just a situation where you’ve got a friend involved, they need some help and let’s jump in. But my son, Alex, says at the airport, ‘Well, dad, they can’t take the award away from you if it doesn’t work out.’”

Was it easy to jump right back into the Lightning games?

“I was happy I could step in, in a situation where they needed somebody and they needed somebody quickly. And the circumstances of doing those games worked out very well in terms of I think Bally Sports had decided that the way things were going (widespread COVID cases and postponements throughout the league), they weren’t going to travel for road games. They would work out of the studio, which is located near the airport. And the studio was set up beautifully. Everything was great.

“It was great to be back with a crew. As I told them, I said, ‘This is like putting on a pair of very comfortable shoes.’ Work is very comfortable in the surroundings with the people you’re with and great camaraderie with everybody involved with it.”

The Lightning dedicated the broadcast booths in the press box in Rick Peckham's honor.
The Lightning dedicated the broadcast booths in the press box in Rick Peckham's honor. [ MARI FAIELLO | Times ]

What was it like getting to call the New Year’s Eve game against the Rangers in the Rick Peckham broadcast booths? How nice was it to call a (possible) final Lightning game with fans, again, since you missed out on that before retiring?

“It was great to be calling a game with the crowd in the building. And doing it live, it took some adjusting to get used to it again but ... you’re feeling the excitement of the game and that was a lot of fun.

“A couple of people reminded me (I was calling the game in my own booth) and pretty much on game night, I was focused on just trying to get the job done right, but at the same time, you know, you walk out of the booth, you walk back in and you see that the big sign — you can’t miss it, right?”

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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