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Jotting it Down with Jesse: Cheers to Rick Peckham

Thursday, August 20th
Jotting it Down with Jesse: Cheers to Rick Peckham

As someone who grew up spoiled in the New York tri-state area, able to listen to the calls of such legendary broadcasters such as Sam Rosen, Doc Emrick, Kenny Albert and Howie Rose, I always relished the start of the season, when my family’s cable provider offered a trial of the NHL Center Ice package. I frequently found myself watching Lightning telecasts featuring the play-by-play of Rick Peckham, and any time he handled national broadcast duties on Versus or NHL on NBC telecasts was a treat as well.

Wednesday’s win for the Tampa Bay Lightning was cause for celebration, as the Solar Bears’ NHL affiliate exorcised the demons that haunted them for over a year following the stunning four-games-to-none sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets, thanks to Brayden Point’s 5-4 overtime-winner.

Peckham’s call of Point’s goal? Right on the money.

Selfishly, I was hoping the series would be extended to Game 7, if only because it would have given us two more opportunities to watch a game called by Peckham, who skates off into retirement following the conclusion of the first round, and 24 seasons in the booth with the Lightning. As NBC Sports has exclusive broadcast rights to the second round and beyond of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Game 5 marked the final Lightning TV broadcast of the season on the regional Fox Sports Florida/Sun cluster.

I had the pleasure of meeting Rick briefly a few years ago when I observed the broadcast operations of the club during the 2018 playoff run, and he was as every bit the consummate professional as the various tributes and anecdotes from fellow broadcasters and colleagues that have rolled in over the last 24 hours have attested to. As a hockey announcer, he is one of those gold standards to which developing broadcasters such as myself aspire.

His induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame as this year's recipient of the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award is well-deserved.

If there is a silver lining to this, it’s that Lightning fans will still get to enjoy Peckham’s presence on the team’s Morning Skate show which will continue to air for the duration of the Bolts’ playoff run.

Cheers, Rick.

The next wave

Stick-taps to my fellow ECHL broadcaster Everett Fitzhugh, who is getting called up to The Show as the first broadcaster hiring for the NHL’s newest expansion team, the Seattle Kraken.

Both of us joined our most recent ECHL organizations in the 2015-16 season, with Everett in Cincinnati and myself making the move from the Ontario Reign to Orlando; we were both linked by our mutual experience of working with Anthony Noreen, who coached in Youngstown of the United States Hockey League the season prior.

Not too many ECHL broadcasters are able to make the jump directly from the double-A level to the NHL in a play-by-play role — I believe the last to do it was Jack Michaels, who went from the Alaska Aces to the Edmonton Oilers. Former Aces broadcaster Josh Bogorad joined the Dallas Stars as a studio host and had to wait several seasons before he was elevated to the play-by-play slot. I can say confidently that “Fitzy” fits that same mould, while bringing his own style to his call.

The ECHL is not just a developmental league for players and coaches, but staff as well; Seattle is getting a good one.

Bear Tracks with Blake

Had a chance to catch up with defenseman Blake Kessel for this week’s episode of Bear Tracks. If you haven’t listened to it yet, be sure to fire it up. He’s got a few amusing stories, including the first time he took his wife (at the time, girlfriend) Courtney on a tarpon fishing trip, and as a player potentially nearing the end of his career, offers plenty of reflection on what has the group assembled for the 2020-21 season set up for success.

Former Solar Bears goalie earns NHL contract

Some cool news for former Solar Bears goaltender Zach Fucale, who signed an NHL contract with the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

The deal is a one-year, two-way deal, and with a lack of goaltending depth in the Capitals organization, it’s likely that Fucale will spend much of his time in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. However, Washington could re-assign Fucale to their ECHL affiliate, the South Carolina Stingrays, but since Fucale is no longer on his entry-level contract (his first NHL contract that he signed with Montreal back in 2013), the Capitals must first get Fucale’s consent to an ECHL assignment, a provision of the NHL Collective Bargaining Agreement.

Russian exodus

In the past week Oleg Sosunov was placed on waivers by the Tampa Bay Lightning, for the purposes of terminating the final year of his entry-level contract. The news was first reported by James Mirtle of The Athletic.

The towering defenseman was assigned to Orlando for parts of the past two seasons, and while he was someone whose size made him an intriguing prospect, the Lightning have clearly made the decision to move on.

I will always remember being awe-struck when he joined the rush to covert on his first goal with the Solar Bears in January of 2019.

Sosunov would be free to sign with any club; my guess is unless he receives an offer from an NHL team that he will likely return home to his native Russia, as fellow Solar Bears and countrymen Mikhail Shalagin and Ivan Kosorenkov have already done.

Potential additions

As far as projecting who the the Solar Bears may receive through the Tampa Bay/Syracuse pipeline in 2020-21, one name that might be mentioned is Nikita Pavlychev, who is slated to turn pro after wrapping up a four-year career at Penn State University. The Pittsburgh Penguins originally made Pavlychev their seventh-round selection in 2015, but let their rights to him expire, giving the Crunch the opportunity to sign him to an AHL pact this week.

Over the past two seasons, the Crunch have loaned three AHL-contracted forwards to the Solar Bears: Troy Bourke, Peter Abbandonato and Mikhail Shalagin. While Shalagin never found his bearings adjusting to the demands of the North American game, it’s likely that Pavlychev will have a leg-up on his fellow countryman, as the forward has been skating in North America for the past nine seasons, and is already described as a player who has a grasp of what it means to play in all three zones of the ice. 

One thing’s for sure: at 6-foot-7, if Pavlychev makes his way to Orlando this season, it won’t be difficult to spot him.

The Solar Bears could also see defenseman Sean Day. The former New York Rangers draft pick was bought out this spring, and as is the case with many former Blueshirts, he’s made his way down south to Tampa. The Lightning signed Day last month, and the left-shot blueliner has seen some time in the ECHL with the Maine Mariners and earned an ECHL all-star selection in the 2018-19 season.

However, like Zach Fucale, Day is no longer on his entry-level contract, so the Lightning would require Day’s approval if they attempt to send him to the Solar Bears.

Jesse Liebman is the director of communications and broadcasting for the Orlando Solar Bears and enters his sixth season behind the microphone as the team’s play-by-play voice for the 2020-21 season. Use the form below to shoot him your questions, comments or blog ideas.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando Solar Bears. All opinions expressed by Jesse Liebman are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Orlando Solar Bears or their Hockey Operations staff, partners or sponsors.

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