FORT WAYNE – Longtime Komets broadcaster Bob Chase, poised to call his 60th consecutive season on WOWO, will be honored with the Lester Patrick Trophy during the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction celebration in Dallas on Oct. 15.
The award is presented annually for outstanding service to hockey in the United States and has been given to people such as Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Gordie Howe, Scott Bowman and John Davidson.
Its kind of hard to explain how I feel, Chase said. I never saw this coming at all. It meant a lot when I learned. I got a call from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and he said, I want to be the first to congratulate you.
I was on the highway, about an hour outside of Huntsville, Ala., and Im surrounded by semis. And I had nowhere to go, no place to stop. My wife, Murph, looked at me and there were tears streaming down my face, and she thought someone must have died.
Also receiving the award this year will be Washington Capitals executive Dick Patrick, the grandson of Lester Patrick, who spent 50 years in hockey as a player, coach and general manager.
Dick Patrick has guided the Capitals to the postseason in 23 of 29 years. He is the teams president.
Chase, born in Negaunee, Mich., was raised in Marquette, Mich.
After serving in the Navy during World War II, he began his radio career as a student at Northern Michigan.
The school will honor him as its Distinguished Alumnus at a ceremony Sept. 22. That honor has also been bestowed to Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and former NFL coach Steve Mariucci.
Chase was hired at WOWO in 1953 and has called all of the Komets seasons except their first. He retired as WOWOs sports director in 2009 but has remained with the Komets, covering their championship last season in the CHL. The Komets will play in the ECHL this season.
Chase, 86, whose real last name is Wallenstein, has broadcast all nine of the Komets playoff championships, as well as their 12 regular-season titles.
His broadcasts are also on 92.3 FM and on the Web through www.komets.com.
He has asked the Hall of Fame to put both Chase and Wallenstein on the trophy, so that his parents are properly honored for supporting him as he pursued his dreams.
He has influenced many other broadcasters, including current NBC hockey broadcaster Mike Emrick, whom he mentored while Emrick was in college. Emrick, an Indiana native who received the Lester Patrick Trophy in 2004, helped submit Chases nomination.
Chase also interviewed myriad celebrities, such as Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley, and he broadcast the famed 1954 state basketball championship won by Milan High School. That game inspired the movie Hoosiers.
When I was told I was getting the Patrick Award, it was unreal, Chase said. I couldnt handle it. And when I look at the names of the other recipients, I still keep thinking, Wow. How did I get here? I guess I can retire now with total satisfaction. ... I just thank the good Lord for keeping me around and letting me accomplish and experience these things.