By RYAN MCCRACKEN on February 26, 2021.
The following story was written for publication in the March 13, 2020 edition of the Medicine Hat News, however the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the cancellation of last year’s WHL season, and with it Bob Ridley’s 4,000th game. Nearly a full year later, Ridley is once again knocking on the door of that milestone, now scheduled for Saturday when the Medicine Hat Tigers host the Red Deer Rebels at 7:30 p.m.
It would take a little more than an hour to count up to the massive total in seconds, nearly three days to reach it in minutes and 50 years to arrive at the incredible milestone behind the mic in the Bob Ridley Broadcast Centre.
“I hope I can achieve something like that in my life,” said (former) Medicine Hat Tigers centre Elijah Brown, who (would have been) on the ice at the Canalta Centre for Bob Ridley’s 4,000th game against the Swift Current Broncos (on March 14, 2020). “I heard that’s 10 years of straight games every day, so that’s unbelievable.”
It’s actually closer to 11. And if you multiply those 4,000 games by an average of three hours per broadcast, Ridley has spent nearly three per cent of the last half-century – counting every single second of those 50 years – at the mic for the Medicine Hat Tigers.
“Words can’t really describe what he’s done. Fifty years,” said Tigers assistant coach Joe Frazer, who also spent two seasons with the team as a player. “When you talk about the Tigers, it’s always Bob Ridley – he’s such an icon. He makes it so easy to work with him, when he’s doing interviews he takes it pretty easy on you. He’s an unbelievable person and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”
Ridley joined up as Medicine Hat’s play-by-play man for the team’s first season in 1970. A couple years later, Ridley even took on the added responsibility of driving the team bus – a unique dual-role that provided him with a way to get to know players outside the game.
“I did it through kind of necessity at the time, not realizing that while you were doing both jobs – doing the play-by-play and also driving that bus – that you were cementing some pretty good friendships and relationships, but that’s exactly what happened,” said Ridley, who gave up driving the bus full time a few years ago, but continues to call every game. “I think you have a tendency to cement some relationships because they look to you as kind of a mentor a little bit. They don’t talk hockey that much. They talk about life and growing up and their families and everything else. I think that’s what kind of brings you a little bit closer to the players, is you get an understanding for what they’re all about.”
A walking encyclopedia of Tigers history, Ridley has seen it all – the inception of the franchise, its peaks, valleys and personalities, old barn and new. In fact, the 75-year-old broadcaster has called all but one game over the past 50 seasons – when he was tasked with covering a curling assignment. In that time, Ridley has relayed every memorable moment, including two successful trips to the Memorial Cup and five WHL championships – capped off with an unforgettable call on Brennan Bosch’s double-overtime goal to win the 2007 Ed Chynoweth Cup.
“That’s certainly one I’ll never forget,” Ridley said of Bosch’s goal. “After all 45 years in (the Medicine Hat Arena), there were just so many good things that happened. There were some highlights with the fans – they’d get involved a little bit – and the players on the ice. Just the general atmosphere in that building was just electric, it was fantastic.”
When the Tigers made the move from The Arena to Canalta Centre (now Co-op Place), the team made the decision to name the press box in Ridley’s honour – and he’ll be right there in his booth when the puck drops on 4,000, and beyond.
“It’s hard to really describe the feelings that went through my mind when they put that (Bob Ridley Broadcast Centre) sign up there,” said Ridley. “It’s just fantastic. I appreciate that they appreciate what I’ve gone through over all these years.”
Those indescribable feelings will likely return when the Tigers honour Ridley’s accomplishment and dedication to the team in a pre-game ceremony on Saturday.
“It’s pretty special to see what he’s done, to see him come up on 4,000 games here,” said Tigers centre Ryan Chyzowski.
“It’s pretty special for me, and obviously everybody in the dressing room to be part of his time here. Just a small little bit obviously, but I think it will be cool to experience that 4,000th game.”