Sunday, October 16, 2005

Hey, Hey Hockeytown: This Budd's For You

(the following column can also be viewed at, where a new column from yours truly appears each Sunday or Monday. They will also appear here for your reading pleasure. For archives of my columns there, go to and click on "Columnists")

So the NHL is going to have its referees wear microphones and announce penalties to the crowd and television audience just like the National Football League officials do. Perhaps you've already seen it.

Just as long as the refs don't announce goalscorers. Or which youth hockey teams are in the building. Or the attendance figure. Or how to qualify for the between-periods contests.

For that is Budd Lynch's domain, and we can't have the league messing with that.

Lynch, 87, is in his 56th season with the Red Wings. Mostly, he has spent that time booming his baritone voice into a microphone, in one capacity or another: radio, TV, public address announcing. He spent some time in the team's public relations department. For all I know, he's helped pop the popcorn and made sure the pucks were properly frozen before the game, too.

Budd Lynch: 56 seasons and counting

I grew up watching the Red Wings in the early 1970's, and back then the television team was Bruce Martyn and Budd Lynch. Talk about a booth graced with greatness. It was like a cockpit populated by Charles Lindbergh and The Red Baron. I am telling you, it was a marvelous time to watch -- and mostly listen to -- the Red Wings, back when there wasn't much to get excited about on the ice, so you got your fun from the cracking voice of Martyn and the dramatic voice of Lynch.

Martyn is retired now -- been that way for eight years or so and enjoying his time up in Gaylord, I presume. But Budd Lynch is still kicking it with the Red Wings, from providing the 20,000+ regulars at the Joe with the pregame lineup changes to thanking them and wishing them a safe trip home. In between there are goals and penalties to announce, in a way only Lynch can: succinct, no-nonsense, and always baritone. Then, of course, are those seven words that define the NHL P.A. announcer: "Last minute of play in this period." Lynch has them all beat there, too.

I had the pleasure of meeting Lynch on two occasions -- 14 years apart and one of those as a child. In 1973, my folks had taken me to my very first Red Wings game at Olympia Stadium -- the old Red Barn on Grand River and McGraw -- and to my amazement, before the game, there was one-armed Lynch (he lost his right arm during WW II), presumably on his way to the broadcast booth. Even at nine years of age, I knew who he was, and my father asked him to sign my program. I stood, dumbfounded, program dangling, totally unfit for Lynch to sign, so my folks quickly slammed it on a nearby table and the autograph was received. Then, in 1987, working in local cable television, I met Lynch again, as a guest on one of our shows. I was much more conversive on that occasion. We got to talking about the greatest player of all time. Naturally, there was only one choice in Budd's eye. "There was none better than #9," Lynch said, referring to Gordie Howe. "And there never will be."

Lynch started with the Red Wings in 1949, which makes him a seven-decade man for the club. He makes Gordie Howe's longevity with the Winged Wheel look like the run of Magic Johnson's late night talk show.

If you're wondering why Budd Lynch isn't retired in Florida, catching NHL games on the dish, let it be known that he has tried. The team just wouldn't let him quit. In 1975, Lynch tried retirement #1, but then-GM Alex Delvecchio convinced him to stay on as the team's publicity director. Then, in 1985, retirement #2 failed when Marian Ilitch urged him to continue with the club as public address announcer.

That was 20 years ago. I think Lynch has given up trying to quit the Red Wings.

"Budd's been such a tremendous ambassador for our team and the game," Wings general manager Ken Holland said in an interview with the Detroit Free Press in February, 2004. "He's been such a big part of our history and a bridge between the eras. He's just a great human being."

Part of what makes Budd Lynch a great human being is the charity golf tournament he hosts on Grosse Ile every August. The Budd Lynch Celebrity Golf Classic benefits the Guidance Center, a behavioral health and human services organization dedicated to the mental well-being of residents in Wayne County. Only Lynch doesn't just host it. Even without a right arm, Budd plays, too. But that's nothing new. In a good summer, he'll play golf two or three times a week. He shoots in the high 80's to low 90's. Basically, his age, and then some, on a bad day.

"I don't worry about long drives," Lynch quipped to the Free Press. "I play three five-iron shots and hope for a tailwind on the long holes. Like everybody else, it's a challenge." Yeah, like everybody else with one arm gone.

Lynch started with the Red Wings in 1949, which makes him a seven-decade man for the club. He makes Gordie Howe's longevity with the Winged Wheel look like the run of Magic Johnson's late night talk show. He's been there for the glory days of the 50's and early 60's, the slapstick of the 70's and the rebirth of the club in the late-80's. Then there were the 90's, and now the 00's, and...I'm getting tired just writing about it.

Lynch is Canadian by birth, but has been living in Wyandotte for years. "My downriver liver," is how he explained it to me. For those who know, downriver is a hotbed of hockey - youth, high school, you name it. It's a fitting nest for a man whose life has been mostly sticks and pucks and rinks.

Another NHL season is underway, and that means the old One Arm Bandit - the nickname is Lynch's own for himself - is doing his thing, keeping the JLA denizens informed. He could never be replaced by a referee with a wireless microphone.

"Last minute of reading in this column."

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