Bob Chase, a certifiable legend of the broadcast booth and one of the legendary play-by-play voices in hockey, has passed away of congestive heart failure at 90.
Chase’s influence has been widespread throughout the world of hockey, and he was influential in no place more than Fort Wayne, where he was the play-by-play voice of the Komets for 63 seasons. The only professional sports broadcaster with a longer career was Vin Scully, the legendary baseball play-by-play voice, who retired earlier this year after his 67th year with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Born Robert Wallenstein on Jan. 22, 1926, the Michigan native took the surname of his wife, Muriel Chase, when he arrived at Fort Wayne’s WOWO in 1953 because it was shorter, according to the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel’s Blake Sebring. Upon arriving in Fort Wayne, he landed the gig as part of the crew covering the then-IHL Komets, and by the team’s third season in 1954-55, Chase was the lead voice of the broadcast team.
“He was the voice of Komet hockey my entire life,” said Komets CEO Stephen Franke said in a statement. “He knew more about the history of Komet hockey than anyone. He was a good man who made life a little more special for the rest of us.”
Chase never left the Komets, either. Throughout his career, he would get several opportunities to try his hand at making the jump to the big leagues, including the chance to call the action for the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Minnesota North Stars, California Golden Seals and Boston Bruins, but he remained faithful to the Komets.
“Some people think it was bad (I never left), but in the end, it always ends up for the best,” Chase said of his time with the Komets, according to the Journal-Gazette’s Justin A. Cohn. “You don’t always understand it, but it works out.”
The impact Chase has had on the game goes beyond his nightly call of the Komets, though. He delivered the game to and taught many about hockey, and, for some, Chase’s voice is likely the prevalent one when they hear the sounds of a game. Chase also influenced one of the modern greats in the field, NBC’s Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick.
Emrick, an Indiana native who grew up listening to Chase, was mentored by the Komets broadcaster and the pair wound up calling a Komets game together for in 2012.
“He’s a wonderful human being, who’s very good to people,” Emrick said in 2012, according to the Journal-Gazette. “He was to me as a college kid just trying to break in, sitting down in the corner section there on Wednesday nights when I didn’t bother anybody broadcasting a game into a tape recorder by myself. He was very patient with me because I was very anxious and excited about what I thought would be a career ahead. He kept me calm and that was not easy to do. So I’m forever beholden to him.”
Over the course of Chase’s career, he was the voice of 12 regular season championship teams, nine title-winning Komets squads and called more than 4,500 games. He lent his voice to the 500th post-season game of his career in 2014-15, and his final game came in May 2016. He was honored by the team for his 40th and 50th anniversary with an in-arena banner and team Hall of Fame induction. Ahead of his 60th anniversary with the Komets in 2012-13, Chase won the Lester Patrick Trophy for his contributions to hockey in the United States.
“Bob Chase was Komet hockey,” Komets president Michael Franke said in a statement. “He put Fort Wayne and the Komets on the map with his deep voice penetrating 28 states and half of Canada on WOWO radio. More than anything I will miss him. He was a father figure to us all. Things will never be the same.”
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