It took cooperation from the National Hockey League and USA Hockey to keep Bob Chase quiet for two weeks.
On Aug. 28, while driving his pick-up truck and towing a massive fifth-wheel RV, the Komets broadcaster was dodging the traffic flying by on I-65 in Tennessee. Chase and his wife Murph were riding home from visiting family in Huntsville, Ala., when the cell phone rang at 10 a.m.
``Bob, it's somebody for you,'' Murph said, handing him the phone.
``Is this Bob Chase?'' the voice on the other end said. ``Thank goodness I finally found you. I've been trying for over a week the get in touch with you. This is Gary Bettman.''
Instantly, Chase, 86, started wondering why the NHL commissioner would want to talk to him.
``I wanted to be the first to let you know and congratulate you,'' Bettman said. ``You have been chosen to receive the Lester Patrick Award for 2012,''
Starting in 1966, the Lester Patrick Award is presented by the NHL and USA Hockey as a lifetime achievement award for service to the sport in the United States. Past winners include Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, former NHL commissioners and Olympic Gold Medal-winning teams. Previous winners are basically a Who's Who of the Hockey Hall of Fame. This would be comparable to an actor receiving a lifetime achievement award at the Oscars.
``While we're talking, everybody is going 70 miles per hour and I'm trying to keep the truck on the road with tears streaming down my face,'' Chase said. ``I just kept driving because there was no way to get off the road.''
One thing most of the winners have in common is they have been interviewed by Chase during his 59 seasons calling Komets games which is the longest run with any professional hockey team, breaking Foster Hewitt's run with the Toronto Maple Leafs from 1927 to 1963.
Because the NHL waited until today to make the announcement, the Chases have told only select people, which has been a blessing because Bob's favorite word has been ``Wow.'' Every five minutes or so, he just says ``Wow'' and shakes his head as if he's a boxer who recently caught one on the chin.
It was definitely an uppercut.
``I've said `Wow' so many times, thank God there is that word,'' he said, laughing with joy. ``When you look at who's won that award and the significance they had on hockey, they are all National Leaguers! It's almost kind of scary that they considered me. I'm still processing because I can't believe it. I'm still trying to assimilate what has happened to me.
``I have a hard time placing me on that list. In terms of prestige, I have to be the most minor person on that list.''
Two weeks later, he's still shocked. Maybe it won't fully hit him until he's standing in Dallas to accept the award on Oct. 15 at the 2012 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner. He'll share the award with Washington Capitals president Dick Patrick, grandson of Lester Patrick. This year's Hall of Fame class is Lou Lamoriello, Mike Modano and Eddie Olczyk.
There have been only four media members previously honored with the Patrick Award, broadcaster Dan Kelly, writer Stan Fischler, broadcaster John Davidson and Chase protégé Mike Emrick.
``This almost validates his entire career,'' Komets General Manager David Franke said. ``It doesn't get any bigger than this.''
The Chases already have one major banquet to attend, Sept. 22 at Northern Michigan University where Chase has been named the school's distinguished alumnus for 2012. He figured that was the crown jewel of his year, though his 60th season with the Komets starts Oct. 12 and the team plans to top it with a few surprises.
``You can't believe the stuff that has filtered through my mind since I heard this,'' Chase said. ``Ever since he told me, I've been overwhelmed. It is hard to comprehend. It's humbling. I don't have the words.''
He better figure out what to say before Oct. 15.
Lester Patrick Award
The Lester Patrick Award is an annual award presented for outstanding service to hockey in the United States. Eligible recipients are players, officials, coaches, executives, and referees. The winner is selected by an award committee consisting of the President of the NHL, an NHL Governor, a representative of the New York Rangers, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Builder's section, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame Player's section, a member of the U. S. Hockey Hall of Fame, a member of the NHL Broadcasters' Association and a member of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association. Except for the League President, each member is rotated annually. The winner(s) receive a miniature of the trophy.
The Patrick Trophy was presented by the New York Rangers in 1966 to honor the late Lester Patrick. Patrick was a longtime general manager and coach of the Rangers, whose teams finished out of the playoffs only once in his first 16 years with the club.
Lester Partrick Award winners
1966: J.J. Jack Adams
1967: Gordie Howe, James Norris Sr.
1968: Gen. John R. Kilpatrick, Walter A. Brown, Thomas F. Lockhart
1969: Bobby Hull, Edward J. Jeremiah
1970: James C.V. Hendy, Eddie Shore
1971: William M. Jennings, Terry Sawchuk, John B. Sollenberger
1972: Clarence S. Campbell, John Kelly, James D. Norris, Ralph Cooney Weiland
1973: Walter L. Bush
1974: Weston W. Adams Sr., Charles L. Crovat, Alex Delvecchio, Murray Murdoch
1975: William L. Chadwick, Donald M. Clark, Thomas N. Ivan
1976: Bruce A. Norris, Stan Mikita, George A. Leader
1977: Murry A. Armb, Johnny Bucyk, John Mariucci
1978: Phil Esposito, Tom Fitzgerald, William T. Tutt, William Wirtz
1979: Bobby Orr
1980: Bobby Clarke, Fred Shero, Edward M. Snider, 1980 men's U.S. Olympic team
1981: Charles M. Schultz
1982: Emile P. Francis
1983: Bill Torrey
1984: Arthur Ross, John A. Ziegler Jr.
1985: Jack Butterfield, Arthur M. Wirtz
1986: John MacInnes, Jack Riley
1987: Hobey Baker, Frank Mathers
1988: Keith Allen, Fred Cusick, Bob Johnson
1989: Dan Kelly, Lou Nanne, Lynn Patrick, Bud Poile
1990: Len Ceglarski
1991: Rob Gilbert, Mike Illitch
1992: Al Arbour, Art Berglund, Lou Lamoriello
1993: Frank Boucher, Red Dutton, Bruce McNall, Gil Stein
1994: Wayne Gretzky, Robert Ridder
1995: Joe Mullen, Brian Mullen
1996: George Gund, Ken Morrow, Milt Schmidt
1997: Seymour H. Knox III, Bill Cleary, Pat LaFontaine
1998: Peter Karmanos, Max McNab, Neal Broten, John Mayasich
1999: 1988 women's U.S. Olympic team, Harry Sinden
2000: Mario Lemieux, Craig Patrick, Lou Vairo
2001: Gary Bettman, Scotty Bowman, David Poile
2002: Herb Brooks, Larry Pleau, 1960 men's U.S. Olympic team
2003: Willie O'Ree, Ray Borque, Ron DeGregorio
2004: Mike Emrick, John Davidson, Ray Miron
2005: Now award presented
2006: Steve Yzerman, Red Berenson, Reed Larson, Glen Sonmor, Marcel Dionne
2007: Brian Leetch, Cammi Granato, Stan Fischler, John Halligan
2008: Bob Naegele Jr., Brian Burke, Phil Housely, Ted Lindsay
2009: Mark Messier, Mike Richter, Jim Devellano
2010: Dave Andrews, Cam Neely, Jack Parker, Jerry York
2011: Mark Johnson, Jeff Sauer, Tony Rossi, Bob Pulford
2012: Bob Wallenstein/Chase, Richard Patrick