He’s the enduring voice you think about when watching the Tampa Bay Lightning on television. He’s the unflappable personality who always knows the right words, when to be serious, when to be dramatic, when to explain the situation and when to add a dash of humor.
Now, it’s time to put down the microphone, slow down a bit, count his blessings after 42 years in broadcasting and enjoy his life in Lutz.
It was Rick Peckham’s plan all along to call it quits after this past season with the Lightning, where he served as the television play-by-play announcer for 25 seasons.
Who knew he would have this kind of exit?
The National Hockey League season was halted in March by COVID-19, then resumed in August at the Canadian virus-bubble cities of Toronto and Edmonton. Peckham’s last official call — Brayden Point’s overtime game-winner at the clinching Game 5 against Columbus in the Eastern Conference first-round series — was working off a video screen from an Amalie Arena studio.
When NBC’s national team picked up the remainder of playoff coverage and the Lightning clinched the franchise’s second Stanley Cup championship, Peckham was exchanging high-fives with his postgame-show broadcast partners at Amalie, then on the air to provide perspective. And, when Lightning players returned to Tampa for the championship celebration, it was Peckham who emceed the proceedings at Raymond James Stadium.
“All of it was truly amazing and I consider myself so fortunate to have been a part of it all,’’ said Peckham, 65.
Peckham, a graduate of Kent State University, worked minor-league hockey in Rochester, New York, then with the NHL’s Hartford Whalers before joining the Lightning in 1995-1996. Peckham and his family — wife Vickie and their two sons — settled into Calusa Trace in 1996 and have lived on a lake at Wellington Manor for the past 13 years.
Lutz feels like home.
“When we got to the Tampa Bay area, everything seemed to be growing out in this direction,’’ Peckham said. “It seemed like a convenient place to be, and it turned out to be a great decision. Everything about it suggested a great family area — kids playing in the neighborhood and riding their bikes to school — and we have loved being here.
“There has been growth, maybe too much growth in the minds of some people, but it has brought a lot of conveniences. I’m so glad we chose this area because we have made a lot of memories and now I’m looking forward to what’s to come.’’
Peckham might still be involved with some special events with the Lightning and he could play a role with the franchise’s alumni player group. For the most part, though, he’s looking forward to picking up even more rounds of golf, his beloved pastime, and maybe discovering some new hobbies.
Either way, he’s ready for a change of pace.
“When you start in minor-league hockey, you’re doing broadcasting, sales, public relations, working about 80 hours a week in season, but it’s a wonderful learning experience,’’ Peckham said. “In the NHL, there’s the constant travel. I’ve ridden a lot of buses and planes.
“You leave after the game and you’re doing a lot of unpacking at 1:30 in the morning at a hotel. In your 30s, it’s cool. In your 40s, it’s OK. By your 50s, you’re getting tired of it. In your 60s, you’re not sure if you can keep doing it. So being at home will be just fine with me. I was fortunate to see about all I needed to see and meet some great people along the way.’’
Peckham, admittedly a creature of routine who’s accustomed to a hockey schedule, said the COVID-19 shutdown opened his eyes even more to the beauty of the Lutz area.
“The funny thing is, when hockey season is roaring along, you’re so busy that sometimes you don’t realize how fortunate you are to be in Florida,’’ Peckham said. “When the game’s weren’t being played, we could get outside and the weather was just gorgeous. I took full advantage of playing golf. Other than that, we coped the best we could, and it was great that the season was able to be finished.’’
Peckham said he’ll forever be grateful for the circumstances of his final call. It was an exciting game, a dramatic overtime winner from Point, and a swirl of gratitude and emotions from others that overwhelmed him.
“It was an announcer’s dream,’’ Peckham said. “To have a game like that, a clean game-winner and an exciting finish, it could not have worked out more perfectly. There were emotions for me, sure, but overall, I tried to approach it like any other game.’’
That approach has served Peckham well for decades.
“You always tried to be honest, accurate, under control, but you always wanted to be aware of the reaction of the fans,’’ Peckham said. “The fans here really care. They’ve gone through a lot to be recognized as a hockey market. They got to win the Stanley Cup in 2004 and they’ve been so close in recent years, then they got another one.
“All of those things go into how you present the game. I’ve been fortunate to have a great situation and lots of stability. Jeff Vinik (Lightning owner) and everyone in the organization make you proud to work for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Everything has been done in a first-class manner. The way it happened for me, I couldn’t write a story and have it end any better.’’
By Joey Johnston
Published October 07, 2020