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Peter Maher’s Hockey Blog
Wednesday, October 10th
When I retired as Flames play-by-play broadcaster I was asked about writing a book and quickly answered, ‘no’.
Now four year later my name is on a book as co-author.
It’s collaboration with pal and long-time Calgary sports writer, George Johnson. The title “If These Walls Could Talk – Calgary Flames”. It’s put out by Triumph Publishing as part of a series of books with play-by-play broadcasters of National Hockey League, National Basketball Association, National Football League and Major League Baseball teams.
I agreed to do the book with George since he was part of the media following the Flames through almost my entire 34 seasons calling the team’s games. The feeling being that George was familiar with team developments following the Flames as closely as I was over that time. Plus, George is an outstanding writer.
Being involved in writing a book requires much time consumption and George along with his wife, Rita, put in huge amounts of time in helping put it all together. I had the easy part, talking stories into my smart phone and then sending them off to the Johnson’s where they transcribed my babbling, editing and selecting the parts best suited and the writing.
It’s a hodgepodge of stories from my career with primary focus on my time following the Flames but also touches on my early entry into broadcasting as well as my time broadcasting Toronto Maple Leaf games both on radio and television.
The book isn’t controversial, which was the first condition I expressed to the publisher when approached. It is a collection of behind-the-scenes narratives about Flames’ memorable seasons, games, trades, events, trips, characters, etc.
The highlights are the three seasons the Flames advanced to the Stanley Cup final with behind-the-scenes looks at the runs in 1986 (upsetting Edmonton), 1989 (winning it all in Montreal) and 2004 (shocking the hockey world by going to game 7 of Cup final in Tampa Bay with the Game 6 controversy).
Insights from trades involving top players like Lanny McDonald, Joe Nieuwendyk, Doug Gilmour, Miikka Kiprusoff, Theoren Fleury, Jarome Iginla and others.
Broadcast insights including how covering the Flames changed greatly over the three-plus decades reflecting back to a time when half the team’s games weren’t on television. I also mention how I turned down an offer to return to Toronto in the 80’s. As well as how my signature yell “Yeah Baby” came to the airway. Plus, the great assistance I got from others including the three colormen with the Flames –Doug Barkley, Mike Rogers and Peter Loubardias.
It was an awesome plus having Jarome Iginla write the book’s foreword considering that he was the player playing more games than anyone with the Flames and who I had the pleasure of watching and calling all 16 seasons he toiled with the team.
On Wednesday when discussing the book for the first time on XL103 in my ‘Maher in the Mornings’ segment with Buzz, Coach and Heather, it was suggested by Coach that the book would add Pulitzer Prize winner to my Hockey Hall-of-Fame credentials.
“If These Walls Could Talk – Calgary Flames” isn’t of that stature but hopefully Flame fans will enjoy the stories included in the 300-plus page paperback.
NOTE – The book is now on sale in Calgary and throughout Southern Alberta at all the popular book stores like Chapters, Indigo, Cole’s, Owl’s Nest Books in Britannia, Calgary as well as Amazon.ca/ifthesewallscouldtalk
Wednesday, October 3rd
I won’t repeat and here’s hoping the Flames won’t either.
A year ago, on the opening week of the National Hockey League season, I wrote in this blog that the Flames and Edmonton Oilers would be the top two teams in the Pacific Division.
Since, perhaps it jinxed both Alberta teams who finished out of the playoffs and nowhere near the top, I’ll refrain from predicting this time around.
But, I’ll hope.
Hope the Flames bounce back and gain a playoff spot.
The Oilers? Who cares? Of course, it would be nice if the provincial rivals both had good seasons and the Battle of Alberta came back to what it was a couple of decades ago. Again, a hope.
The key to the Flames hope transforming itself is that the moves made by General Manager Brad Treliving during the off-season turn out to be as good as they look on paper.
As Treliving himself told me, “on paper I like how our team looks but it’s on the ice where it needs to produce.”
Clearly, the addition of James Neal, Elias Lindholm, Derek Ryan and Austin Czarnik gives the Flames added depth on the forward ranks for new coach Bill Peters, who is preaching a more up-tempo, puck pressure style.
It’s intriguing that two rookies impressed enough during the pre-season to be in the Flames opening night line-up. Defenseman Jussi Valimaki and forward Dillon Dube were so good that blueliner Brett Kulak, who played 71 games here last year, was traded to Montreal and winger Curtis Lazar, a 3-year NHL veteran, was assigned to Stockton.
The coach feels he has three solid scoring lines and strong checking fourth unit. If that materializes it’ll be a huge upgrade from last season when the Flames had the worst third and fourth lines in the NHL and really had only one line and part of another generating acceptable offense.
It was that lack of productivity, a questionable defense and suspect goaltending after Mike Smith was injured that led to the departure of Glen Gulutzan as head coach after two years.
Last season commenced with many assessing the Flames had the second-best defense collection in the league. It concluded near the bottom prompting the departure of top scoring defenseman Doug Hamilton to Carolina in the package that brought Lindholm and this season’s high expectation blueliner Noah Hanifin to the fold.
Instead of lofty anticipation this time the defense corps comes in as uncertain. Hanifin with three seasons of NHL experience at the age of 21 affects two other rearguards. He’ll team with Travis Hamonic as one defense pairing looking to help the former New York Islander have a bounce back season. Hamonic’s partner most of last year, T.J. Brodie, is now back
with captain and stalwart Mark Giordano after a two-year absence. The optimism is Brodie will revert to top form after two campaigns below his earlier standard.
Valimaki, the team’s first round pick in 2017, starts on the third pairing with veteran Michael Stone.
The most important position on the team is goaltending and if 36-year-old Smith stays healthy and performs as he did over the first half of last season then it’s in good hands. Otherwise, it’s conundrum as neither David Rittich or Jon Gillies stepped up when Smith went down missing a month last February. Neither had strong pre-seasons this year either. Riitch got the upper hand to start as Smith’s backup while Gillies goes to Stockton.
As with all teams there are question marks. For the Flames, if hope comes to fruition playoff hockey will return to the Scotiabank Saddledome in April.