PHILADELPHIA – These past few seasons won’t go down in the Flyers’ record books as anything very special.
Yet if you listen to games on the radio and hear the familiar voice of long-time play-by-play announcer Tim Saunders, at least you’re going to get some honest enthusiasm when the situation deserves it.
And now that there appears to be some light at the end of this three-year tunnel, it’s nice to have someone like Saunders behind the microphone to look for a few bright spots.
At Saturday afternoon’s Flyers-Detroit Red Wings game at the Wells Fargo Center, Saunders was presented with a commemorative for 25 years of outstanding work.
Saunders, who began his broadcasting career at minor league stops such as Cleveland, Tulsa and Muskegon, was all smiles as he recounted how it was no sure thing he was ever going to make it to the big time when he interviewed for the position in Philadelphia back in 1997.
“When you’re in the minors, you’re just praying to get an NHL job somewhere,” he said with a chuckle during a second-intermission interview. “Did I think I could be one of those guys doing that job? Well, when we started, I was newly married, two kids, a mortgage and I pulled the rug out.
“I had my fingers crossed. It worked out. Did I dream I would be here 25 years? No.”
No doubt, Saunders’ love of the game has played a big part in keeping him going. That, and the good luck to have worked with so many great partners, including Brian Propp, Chris Therien and Steve Coates, who is about to retire after 43 years in the business.
“To do the job, you have to be all in,” said Saunders, who covers all 82 games season after season. “My attitude is, if you can’t have fun doing this – if I’m not enjoying myself and having fun doing it, why would anyone have fun listening?”
Perhaps the key is to take the everything somewhat seriously but keeping in mind it’s just a game. It’s a sport, entertainment if you will.
“This has been a dream my whole life,” he said. “Get to the NHL and sit in this chair.”
Saunders arrived about five years after another veteran announcer, TV man Jim Jackson, entered the Flyers’ scene.
“I learned a lot from JJ, watching his preparation and realizing you worked your butt off to get here, now what are prepared to do to stay here?” Saunders said. “So watching professionals both in this role and even players who have stayed around a long time. They know the routine and they stick to it. I think that’s the key.”
The 60-year-old Saunders, who resides with his family in Somerdale, N.J., has witnessed some great moments in Flyers’ history, including the five-overtime game at Pittsburgh in 2000 and the run to the Stanley Cup Final series in 2010.
He says those are nice but the real memories he will take from this game are the day-to-day memories he will experience along the way.
“The most joy I have is just sitting in the booth, knowing I’m doing this for a living,” he said. “More than the big games, it’s the experience.”
Unofficially, Jackson and Saunders are the second-longest TV/radio tandem in the NHL. Yes, they can finish each other’s sentences and share an irreverent observation from time-to-time.
“Just a great announcer, his call (“He SCORES!”) is just awesome,’’ Jackson said. “He’s very quick-witted, he’s funny. And he’s got a great attention to detail for what he does.
“I remember filling him for once when I had been on TV for awhile. And I recall being out of breath. I turned to Brian (Propp) and said, ‘I need some oxygen!’ Because there’s a difference between television and radio.”
Finding talents such as Saunders and Jackson to stay with one franchise so long is rare these days.
“Bottom line, 25 years is nothing to sneeze at,” said Jackson, who just hit the 30-year mark with the Flyers. “You just can’t find announcers who have been in the league that long but stay with one team.
“That’s what I think Tim takes a lot of pride in.”
>Laughton rolling along
Scott Laughton had already set new career highs for goals, assists and points prior to Saturday’s game. But he added his 18th goal and now has 23 assists for 41 points.
His previous highs were 13 goals, 20 assists and 32 points (different seasons).
The only player wearing a letter (an “A” for alternate), Laughton is doing it all, from playing in all situations to being a vocal leader in the room.
Carter Hart is one of Laughton’s biggest fans.
“He’s been unreal this year,” Hart said. “He’s got a lot of skill, he’s an underrated player. He plays both ends of the ice tremendously well. Probably the biggest leader on our team for a guy that’s willing to block shots, step up for guys, scrap if he needs to and says the right things around the room. Just carries himself around the room very professionally. A huge part of our team.”