“You’re from where? And you came here for this?”
I’ll always remember those words Peter McNab yelled to me over the barricade from his platform overlooking City Hall the morning of this year’s Stanley Cup parade. I had ventured out into the city earlier than most parade-goers that Thursday morning thanks to my body clock still being on east coast time.
I’m usually up at 6 a.m. here, so when the alarm clock showed 5 a.m. local time, I was already pretty much wide awake… to my chagrin. So I decided to leave my 17th Street hotel on the route and scope out where the rally would be at the end of the parade. After meandering around Civic Center Park and seeing all the people there, I walked off to the side and saw where the Altitude broadcast was setting up.
To my amazement, there he was in a red shirt and blue hat… Peter McNab! I stood there for a minute not really knowing what to do next. I tell myself that I don’t get starstruck and I try to respect people’s privacy. I’ve met a lot of famous people in my travels thanks to my job, but sometimes it’s people you least expect — or others would recognize — that make you fall back into childish ways.
I yelled up, “Hey Pete!” He looked down and gave me a smile and a wave. “Great day for a parade, eh?” I yelled up to him. He leaned over the railing and that smile got even bigger before saying “This is going to be a great day!”
I laughed and gave him a thumbs up, perfectly content if that was our only interaction. It wasn’t. He followed up with “So where’d you come from for this?”
“I flew in yesterday from New Hampshire,” I called back.
“You’re from where? And you came here just for this?”
“I wasn’t missing this… and my wife said I could,” I answered.
“You sound like a great fan and she sounds like a great woman!”
We exchanged small talk for another minute, but I could see that his on-site producer was trying to get his attention. Peter brushed him off for a second to keep talking with me, but I didn’t want to be a distraction from his job so I said goodbye. Before leaving I did manage to say to him, “Hey, you’re looking great! We watch you every game and we’ve been thinking about you. Stay well.”
He patted his heart and mouthed ‘thank you’ before turning around to once again focus on the thing that made us all love him: his work.
I was so excited that I texted my buddy Nick to tell him that I met and talked to Peter McNab. I texted Nick because he would appreciate it and, most importantly, know who he was!
In Dater’s piece earlier, he said that for everyone over 35, they have the ability to remember Peter McNab as a hockey player. I’m 37 and that’s just not true. To me, a kid from New England and in Bruins territory, Peter McNab will always be the voice of the Avalanche.
He worked with John Kelly, Mike Haynes and, most recently, with Marc Moser in 27 seasons of Avalanche hockey. Aside from Joe Sakic, Peter McNab was the face of the Colorado Avalanche to many fans. The constant voice for a franchise since Day 1.
I remember him most as a kid from the Landslide home video chronicling the run to the 1996 Stanley Cup. That hair, that voice, those insightful stories… what a stud.
As a kid, my memories of watching the Avalanche are mostly intertwined with the voices of Gary Thorne and Bill Clement during the national broadcasts and the occasional Steve Levy west-coast games. It wasn’t until college and the introduction of streaming services that I could fully appreciate the greatness of Peter McNab in the booth.
An annual subscriber to the NHL.tv app allowed me to watch some of the worst seasons of hockey in franchise history (2007-14). It was painful some nights to turn in at 9 p.m. and watch those games. The saving grace for a bad performance from some of those Avs teams was listening to McNab talk about the game.
I’m a hockey lifer. I played it. I worked in it. I lived it. I don’t need the color guy to explain it to me like I’m new. Peter McNab didn’t do that. But he didn’t cater to people like me either. He walked a line that explained the game to people who don’t consume it like me, while also giving diehards the depth of analysis that we expected.
It was why my wife — a non-hockey fan before we met — could watch games and not be turned off by its coverage. We laugh at the Ryker’s hair and suits, Keefe’s intermission bewilderment at the circus he’s very much a part of, Moser’s insane goal calls and JML’s wine-cellar lifestyle.
And, amidst all that craziness, we respected the patriarch of the broadcast. A man whose love of the game and this team was above reproach. Although he was the US Hockey Hall of Famer and an NHL-lifer with playing and broadcast careers that give him instant and unquestioned credibility, he wasn’t above the hijinx of his coworkers. Peter McNab understood that hockey is a kids game played amongst teammates and friends. This crew we all watch nightly on Altitude was now his family and teammates and he was going to have fun with them.
Today, I thought back on that beautiful sunny Denver morning and how lucky I am to have a story like the one above to share about the great Peter McNab.
My only regret was not asking him how great it felt to punch a Rangers fan…
I texted my friend Nick tonight once again about Peter McNab. Our brief conversation was more somber than the one back in June. That’s what happens when you both feel a sense of loss for a man you didn’t truly know… but you felt like you did.
Rest easy, Peter. And thank you for sharing your love of hockey with so many. And to his family and in the words of John Kelly: ‘THANK YOU!’ for sharing him with us. We appreciated it.
I snuck a selfie in after our conversation… backwards hat guys stick together.