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Peter McNab, 1952-2022: He Lived Life To The Fullest, And For Him Hockey Was Life

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Peter McNab

Have I got one for you“. Whenever Peter McNab said that to me, and he said it quite frequently over the 27 years that I knew the man, I knew I was about to a) Get some really good nugget of information about the Avalance or the NHL in general that I would be able to use for a story and b) Get a further education in the game of hockey that I knew would serve useful down the road.

With the exception of Scotty Bowman and Ken Hitchcock, two people I’ve been fortunate to know, I personally can’t think of anyone in the business who loved the game of hockey more than Peter McNab.

Peter McNab was taken from us today, after a lengthy fight with cancer, at 70. This is a dark day for the Avalanche and anyone who was fortunate enough to know him. And that was a LOT of people. Peter was totally obsessed with hockey and the Avalanche, but he had a big, warm personality too. Anybody – anybody – he ever met at the rink, on the street, at the hotels, wherever, he would always give a smile and shake hands and make genuine conversation with that person. And, he would really listen to the other person, too. He made you feel like the big shot, not him. He had these great big, bear paw hands. When he shook your hand, it felt like you had just put your own hand into a vise. Hockey players are known for firm handshakes, but Peter’s hands were like granite.

Peter was always a gentleman. That’s the word I’ll always best remember him. He especially loved kids, and talking hockey or whatever with them. He met my own son a couple of times, and really engaged with him, about his hopes and dreams, etc. One of the first greetings I got in recent years from Peter was always “How’s the kid?”

People under, say, 35 probably have no memory of Peter McNab the hockey player, but those over 35 like me, and who grew up in New England as big Boston Bruins fans? We well remember what a damn good player he was. I mean, you can’t just score 363 goals in a career, like Peter did, and be chopped liver. Peter had a great instinct for getting the puck in scoring areas, and when he had just a few inches of space to shoot, he didn’t miss much.

Peter McNab

(AP Photo/Clem Murray)

It was with the Bruins that he had his true heyday as a player, but he also played with Buffalo, Vancouver and New Jersey – and he always had great stories about playing with those teams. Peter always had a great story about his career, or more precisely, about teammates or opposing players from his career.

One of my favorites was when he and the Bruins were playing in Edmonton the first year Wayne Gretzky played there in the NHL. Don’t forget, back then players rarely got to see other players if they didn’t directly compete against them. On this night, Peter and many of his Bruins teammates had never seen the Great One play yet, and before the game there was some scoffing about the “overyhped” kid and “how good can he really be, he looks like a broomhandle?”

Then, in Peter’s telling of the story, this was the Bruins locker-room chatter after the first period: “So, first ballot Hall of Fame or later ballot?” That’s how fast their opinion changed after just one period against him.

People forgot that Peter starred at the University of Denver as a player too. He always had great stories about legendary coach Murray “The Chief” Armstrong, and he always kept in touch with his ex-teammates. He actually spent most of his teenage years in San Diego and really learned the game there.

Peter always spoke reverently of teammates such as Terry O’Reilly, Stan Jonathan, Gerry Cheevers, John Wensink and many others. I think O’Reilly, who he always called “Taz”, was his closest friend in the game. But Peter had so many friends.

Superstreak Bonus!

And yet, there was a mystique to Peter as well. At the rink, he would talk to anybody and everybody. Away from the rink? You almost never saw him. In the 27 years I was around him covering the Avalanche, I never once sat down with him for a meal or a beer or anything. I never saw him doing that with anyone else from the Avalanche or television entourage. A lot of us called him “The Fog” in that sense. Once the work day was over at the rink, Peter just went where Peter went and did what Peter did, and none of us questioned him about it. That was just Peter – magnanimous and outgoing in public, but intensely private away from the job. One thing I feel confident in saying Peter was always doing away from the job, at home or in the hotels, was just watching more hockey. It seemed like he always knew every detail of the rest of the games in the NHL the night before, and would want to talk about it back at the rink.

Peter was such a kindly gentleman to everybody and had perfect manners. But my favorite Peter McNab was the guy who would lean in closer to your ear and tell you what he really thought about anything and everything. The thing is, if you wrote any of it, you would get a look that would kill, and in my earliest days I learned that the hard way. If he really trusted you, too, he would talk in real hockey-speak, which means: lots of profanity. For him, that was a sign of endearment.

As I said, I know of few people I’ve come across in the biz who just were obsessed by the game more than Peter. Everybody said he got that from his late father, Max, who was a longtime coach and GM in the game. I had the good fortune of being introduced by Peter to Max at a game one time, and Peter was the spitting image of him in every way. Max talked hockey nonstop, but had the same friendly, gentlemanly air to him.

Yet, Peter was also a doting father. While you didn’t ask him about his private life much, he would sometimes bring up his daughter, unprompted, and what she was doing and he always spoke with a lot of pride about her. And, of his grandkids.

Peter was a great analyst with the Avalanche. He was always, always well prepared. At or after the morning skate, you’d always see Peter writing all kinds of things in his ever-present notebook, on the lines and special teams formations or researching a gazillion different stats that he’d use on the broadcast. He loved to share those personally-researched stats with his viewers, and even to lazy print schmucks like me. Hence, the “have I got one for you” reference. If you could, on the rare occasion, manage to give him a stat that he already didn’t know, his face would light up and he’d use it on the air too.

He had so much energy for the job too, like he had 50 Red Bulls before every game. He just loved being at the rink, watching and talking hockey. We, as hockey neophytes in Denver when the Avalanche first came here in 1995, were the beneficiaries of that. It just won’t be the same anymore without Peter McNab doing the color to the games.

And, how much does it say to the quality of his work, right up to the end, that he was the one who saw that the puck was in the net first, on that huge Nazem Kadri overtime goal in Tampa Bay in the Cup Final, and everybody else didn’t know?

“It DID go in!,” McNab correctly observed, well before anything was made official. Here watch for yourself. This was a guy still battling cancer, who was working on the radio for Altitude, not TV, and still was the most prepared, observant guy of any media working that game.

I know I speak for a lot of us who had the good fortunte of meeting the man and consuming his work:

Thank you, Peter.

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies, Avs Insider with 104.3 The Fan. Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report alum, author of seven books.

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Ryan Krueger

RIP, he will be missed.

Christopher Clack

so sad. RIP Peter, always enjoyed your contributions.

mtgirl21

I feel a hole in my Avalanche community, experience and heart. I was certain he would be ranting and raving about the global games and Avs in Finland and wondered. What a true fan and professional, right up to the very end. Rest in peace and eternal hockey Peter.

toma19

🙁

MC Gonzalez

He will be missed!!!

Todd Sears

Great column Adrian. Huge fan of Peter. May his memory be eternal

Lew Barr

I was shocked to hear this. Very sad RIP.

Glendon Gulliver

Thank you AD for this article. It was a shock to see the first news of this today. I thought he had beaten cancer and was on his road to recovery. I moved to Denver in 1995 and instantly became an Avs fan, like so many others. One of the great pleasures of watching the Avs over the years was listening to Peter. Over the years, the players have changed and so have the some of the TV announcers, but Peter was the one constant. Unfortunately, it has been several years since I have been able to watch him. His… Read more »

snekky55

Being Norwegian, it’s generally hard to follow hockey properly from my country.
But being a fan since the Quebec days, Peter is to me voice of the Avs. Play-by-play commentators have come & moved on, but Peter was always there. I will miss his voice, laugh & brilliant stories. RIP Peter, I will genuinely miss you ❤️

SCOTT POPE

My heart aches at the hearing of this news. Peter was truly one of the good guys. What a fine man!!!

DiegoM

Listening to the Avs games just won’t be the same without him. Loved the Avs broadcast with Peter McNab

Justin Ames

Rest In Peace, Peter. I have been watching the Avs since 1996. What a great man and he will be missed!

dp10

What sad news! I gotta be honest, during those years when the Avs were total dogshit it was sometimes hard to listen to McNabb’s unflappable optimism. But that was his job and at the end of the day, he really had some of the most insightful things to say. But most importantly he lend a particularly human, kind of old school touch to the Avs organization and a game that has gone perhaps a bit too moneyball in recent years. He was also hilarious in the way only people who don’t realize how funny they are can be. As a… Read more »

Last edited 29 days ago by dp10
Sherry Legrand

Thank you for the best commentary I’ve read on Mr. McNab. What a legend. Heartbroken in Longmont.

Dana Golightly

So very sad peter brought the game another level i miss his voice and experience on the broadcast rip. My deepest sympathy to his family

Robert Ridenour

I am grateful to have never known an Avalanche team without Peter in the booth. My son’s both know his voice, having listened all their lives to Avs broadcasts with me. I never thought anything other than the man was a class act, and Dater thank you for reinforcing the sentiment. Avs broadcasts will never be the same. Rest in peace Peter and enjoy the view from up there.

NMAvs

There never has been an Avs season without Peter doing color commentary.

Golden Boy

This is heart-breaking. Peter on the broadcast was always a joy: upbeat, funny, self-deprecating. And yes, extraordinarily knowledgable and prepared and, therefore, informative. It was clear how well-liked he was in the NHL community. He liked to share,on-air, things he heard from the dozens of people who stopped him to chat at the arena pre-game: scouts, executives, media types, whomever. They all seemed to perceive him as an old friend with whom they wanted to catch up.

I miss him already.

Cal

This is really good stuff, Adrian. I had been waiting for your response, and you did not disappoint. This is why I am a subscriber. I am going to miss Peter. What a great hockey player, man, and announcer. Thank you!

h00pak

RIP, Peter. You’ll be missed.

Matthew Sturdy

This is the worst news. Peter was always the best guy on the broadcasts. Consummate pro and just a damn good man. Avs games will feel a bit less special from here on. It is nice to know that he got to see the boys bring home one more cup before he skated off into the sunset. You will be sorely missed, Mr. McNab.

TMB

Adrian Thank you for sharing your memories of Peter McNab. This is devastating news.

Scooty

What a great guy on and off the ice. I remember back in 1979 I believe, Peter and several other Bruins teammates went into the croud at a Rangers game after a fan threw something at their bench. Awesome old time hockey.

BarryL

Peter McNab was the commentator with Doc Emrick during the NJ Devils first Stanley Cup run in 1995. If I remember correctly, Peter left NJ to support his wife’s career opportunity in Colorado and joined the Avalanche’s broadcast team. Peter made the Devils’ surprising run to the Cup all the more enjoyable with his expertise and wit. He will be greatly missed. Rest In Peace.

Matt Briggle

Sincerest condolences to the McNab family. Thank you Peter for everything you have done not only for the Avs but for the game of hockey. Your energy and passion for this great sport were infectious. May you rest in peace.

Michael Connelly

Legend. Gentle optimist. Avs’ greatest fan.
Only media member ever to skirt that line in the sand with no complaints from jealous others.

“Mooosh!”

Mimicking the Bob Newhart Drinking Game, I will miss drinking a shot of my beer 🍺 every time during games when he would energetically say to his on-air pal: “Mooooossshhh!”

A Denver hockey Pioneer in every way.

Wish his name made it onto Lord Stanley’s Trophy. He is a champion.

Ted Grycel

Peter was one of those men that you hope your son grows up to be like, respected, honest, hard working, and always doing it with a smile. He loved the Avs and even more, the Avs fans. You surely will be missed Peter !

NMAvs

When the Avs had some rough years it was a bit hard sometimes to listen to Peter on the broadcasts because he seemed to be so excited over opposing team’s players. But the thing was he loved the sport so much and loved seeing good hockey so much that the sweater and logo was secondary. Then when Colorado regained impressive skill of their own there was no one more excited to see it and cheer it on. I have always felt nbc or espn or tnt was missing out, along with most hockey fans, by not ever having him work… Read more »

Scott Brown

Adrian, That was actually a real Heartfelt Tribute to ,yes ,One of the great Hockey Player/Personality’s we Colorado Neophites Could have ever known! I will miss Peter’s color commentary and all the stories….My condolences To the McNabb’s and extended Hockey Family.
Scott

Fritz Kerr

Thank you Peter. You’ve been a gem. RIP

Chris DeMott

AD, Thank you for this. My love for this game came from watching those San Diego Gulls games referenced in your linked Tribune story as a toddler. My father was the PA announcer for the team and as such, an acquaintance of Max’s. Long before Gretzky came to the Kings, Peter’s father Max was indeed an ambassador for this game in Southern California. In fact, I believe it was Max who brought in Willie O’Ree to be a player/ coach for those Gulls. I have vague memories of his son with his sun bleached hair and surfer shell necklace, but… Read more »

Mark D

Season ticket holder year 1. I’ve been here for the whole show as was Peter. Hard to imagine him not on the broadcast. Great article. He will be missed.

Michael Wray

Thank you for this piece Adrian. Extremely well done. Rest in Peace brother, Rest in Peace.

Nicole

A sad day. He will be sorely missed.

anavsfan86

With love, thank you Peter!

Bob Neal

God bless you Peter. RIP. You were one of my favorites. I’d love to hear what he had to say about playing for Grapes.

DANIEL

When I was 12 or 13 years old, we got cable television for the first time. The year was 1979. I’m guessing I was watching ESPN one night but can’t remember. At any rate, I was watching my first ever NHL game on TV. It happened to be the infamous Bruins vs Rangers game where Peter McNab went into the stands to fight a bunch of Ranger fans after one fan started a fight with one of the Bruins. I had no idea who Peter McNab was then, but as I got older and made the connection between that game… Read more »

John Hansen

One of my favorite times watching a game was a brief stretch on-air of him singing along to “All the Small Things” – such a happy moment, he might not have even realized he was doing it.

Catatafish

Very nice text AD. RIP Peter.

Kevin

Met Peter and his father Max in St. Catherine’s when he was a rookie in the Sabres organization. Later that year we had he a d his wife to dinner at our home in Cincinnati where he played for Sabres farm team. He was a great guy and always asked how I was doing in hockey when we’d see each other. Great article in a great man who will be missed. RIP Peter.

Shanahan

Good player, even better person, Rest in peace, Peter McNab

Colorado's premier coverage of the Avalanche from professional hockey people. Adrian Dater, Editor-in-Chief. Part of the National Hockey Now family.

This site is in no way associated with the Colorado Avalanche or the NHL. Copyright © 2019 National Hockey Now and Adrian Dater.

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