Friday, 19 September 2014

A WHL legend rides again

Cheers to Rids as he enters his 45th season as the voice of the Tigers

Play-by-play man Bob Ridley at the wheel of the Medicine Hat Tigers' bus

            It is a site that has occurred for over four decades at the start of every Western Hockey League season, and if it was possible, it would be cool if it could go on forever.
            Tonight, the Medicine Hat Tigers will step on the ice to open their 45th regular season in franchise history. At the same time, Bob Ridley will step into the broadcast booth and begin his 45th season as the team’s play-by-play voice.
            Between the regular season and post-season, Ridley has called all but one of the Tigers games. After Medicine Hat was eliminated by the eventual Memorial Cup champion Edmonton Oil Kings in the WHL’s Eastern Conference championship series in April, Ridley had called 3,545 of the Tigers games in the regular season and playoffs.
            That total includes calling 3,147 of the team’s 3,148 regular season games, all 378 of the club’s contests in the WHL playoffs and all 20 contests the team has played in the Memorial Cup tournament.
            Of course, the added kicker is the fact Ridley drove the team bus for almost all of that time outside of about a couple of years. On top of that, he also never made himself that big of deal, and took the accolades that came his way in a humble manner. In a reality, Ridley is a WHL legend and icon.
            It is almost impossible to imagine a media person working that many contests following around one team in this current day and age, and Ridley is set to build on those totals. To put his totals into perspective, you would have to cover five full regular seasons worth of games to even come close to Ridley’s WHL playoff total, and you would still be short of that by 18 contests.
            Besides having good fortune go your way in the work environment to get to that total, Ridley has never had any serious health problems that could threaten his ability to call games. Actually, his health is so good that you almost can’t imagine the day when he wouldn’t be calling Tigers games.
            The Tigers open their season by traveling to Lethbridge tonight to take on the Hurricanes to mark Ridley’s 3,546th game. On Saturday, the Tabbies return home to host the Hurricanes to start the 45th and final season for The Arena.
            That old barn that has seen a few legendary games including the Tigers’ Game 7 win of the WHL championship series, where Brennan Bosch scored the deciding goal in a 3-2 double overtime victory over the Vancouver Giants.
            It seems only fitting that Ridley will get call all the games in the final season of the Tigers long time home. When the team moves into what will be the newly built Medicine Hat Regional Event Centre before the start of next season, the press box will be named after him.
             During my 10 years in Medicine Hat, I regret I never got to visit with Ridley as much as I should have. Ridley was always so busy with his broadcast responsibilities, and I was always busy with my responsibilities working for the Medicine Hat News.
            We did get to visit after the odd game and the odd time in summer, when we were both on time off watching the Medicine Hat Mavericks of the Western Major Baseball League play at Athletic Park.
            During the team’s last playoff run, I also remember the two of us wandering the upper levels of Rexall Place in Edmonton being disappointed a few of the restaurants weren’t open for a pre-game meal just over an hour before puck drop. We both wondered if we got the game start time wrong, and we might have been at the rink a little too early. It makes for a good laugh now.
            I did make sure to treasure those visits I had with Rids, and I loved listening to the vast collection of stories he has to tell. To you Rids, my friend, here is hoping you collect a whole pile more stories in the Tigers 45th season, and it turns out to be another memorable and special campaign.
            I hope there are still many more seasons to come.
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