Now, to be honest, I was not a fan of Lynch’s work back in the early 1960s. But some context is needed.
As some VLM readers will know, I was born in 1953 and raised in a very small village just across from Detroit (outside of Windsor, Ontario). A lot of my early influences—social, political, cultural, musical—were shaped by my proximity to the American border. I loved Motown music, followed American political conventions on television and saw the inequity and inequality in how people of different races were treated only minutes from my front door.
In sports terms, my love for the Maple Leafs trumped just about everything else back then. I followed other sports very closely, too, but hockey was very much at the heart of my young life. Whereas I had a deep and abiding rooting interest in the Leafs, I hated the Montreal Canadiens most of all (my Dad and older brothers, who were passionate Hab fans, made sure of that…) but I had left over distaste for teams like the Hawks and Red Wings. (Later, when they “got good”, the Rangers, Bruins and Flyers were part of the mix, too.) And because the Red Wings were so close by, it was their games that graced our old radio dials. I think the Red Wings were on WWJ radio in Detroit, but I could be mistaken. Lynch was the earliest voice I remember doing Red Wing games, probably starting around 1960 or so. (I guess he was doing games on local TV before that, but my memories of that are pretty sketchy…)
I remember Dad telling me Lynch was a Canadian war veteran and I think he went on to become a dual citizen, working as he did in Detroit. Budd loved the Wings and especially seemed (on air, at least) to adore Gordie Howe, the long-time Red Wing great. One night, toward the end of Howe’s illustrious career with the Wings, Lynch was describing the action during a game at the old OIympia, Detroit’s home rink for decades before the Joe Louis Arena was built in 1979. I remember Lynch’a words that night quite vividly. “…Howe has the puck at center ice….Gordie falls down….(pause)...Folks, the ice is slippery tonight…..”.
It couldn’t be that Howe just fell down, like mere mortals do. In Budd’s world, he had to explain that, if not some supernatural force, then slippery ice was the only thing that could make the Red Wing legend leave his feet. My buddies and I (who also also hated the Red Wings) laughed about Budd’s description for years afterwards, but that was Budd. He was a great voice on the radio, had that sure, confident presence in his delivery—and he was devoted to the Red Wings at all times. It was his job to be partial, to be a “homer”, but it was a job he clearly loved doing - and was great at.
After he left broadcasting in the 1970s, Lynch became the public relations guy for the organization, and in more recent times, the P.A. announcer at the Joe Louis Arena. He was a beloved figure in Detroit, and rightfully so. He had a large family himself, and became a huge part of the Red Wing family, too.
I heard so many Red Wing broadcasts on the radio in those days, and it brings back great memories. Often when we were on our way home from a family visit to my aunt’s place in Windsor, we would be in the car, praying (reciting the rosary) while Dad kept the game on in the car radio just loud enough so he could multi-task and know what was happening in the game while we prayed. Dad loathed Gordie Howe, because Dad was so loyal to “the Rocket”, Montreal’s Maurice Richard. Every goal in the early ‘60s brought Gordie closer to breaking the Rocket’s all-time NHL record for career goals. Every once in a while, when we were driving home with the game on and Budd calling the action, from the back seat, I could hear Budd’s voice rise. Our quiet prayer would be punctuated by the sound of Dad’s fist hitting the button on the radio in anger—which usually meant that Gordie had just scored another one…
By the mid-60s, Budd and his partner, the outstanding play-by-play man Bruce Martyn (I loved his work) also did TV broadcasts on something called a UHF (ultra high frequency?) station in Detroit. I think Dad paid money - which was a big deal for him - to buy an outdoor antenna for our roof so we could get those new channels. The UHF channel allowed us to see Red Wing away games from then on and that opened up the hockey world for me even more. Where I lived, we only had one game a week on television, the Saturday night Hockey Night in Canada broadcast, so the extra games on TV were a real treat.
Of course, Lynch was just one of the many memorable voices and names from that golden era in hockey. I used to try to listen to other NHL team’s broadcasts in the ‘60s. I think it was Lloyd Pettit who used to do Blackhawk games in his unique style... “a shot, and a goal…”. A very young Marv Albert did some Ranger games, through I’m trying to remember who his predecessor was. (Games on my broken down and very old radio in those days would come and go because of poor reception. The signal would be OK for a few minutes, then die off. It was murder trying to follow a Leaf game when that happened.) In Boston, I remember Fred Cusick, though I think that was more late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Dan Kelly in St. Louis was a wonderful and familiar voice in the late’s 60s as well.
I’ve often spoken here of Foster Hewitt and Danny Gallivan and also (in French) Rene Lecavalier in Montreal. Their play-by-play was done for a national (as well as local) audience. Those men were gods to the rest of us, the individuals who weaved the story—and a little magic—in their broadcasts. But I’ll always have a special and fond place in my heart (and memory bank) for the local voices like Lynch—the people who cheered on the home team during their broadcasts, with varying degrees of subtlety. They made all the games sound like something special, even when they often weren’t.
I know modern-day Leaf fans (dating back to the early ‘80s) have a fond place for Joe Bowen, who has been the team’s radio voice for 30 years now. Hard to believe, eh?
My guess is many of you have your own memories of Lynch or other local broadcasters that made the game come alive for you, past or present. By all means share your recollections…