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Voice of the Saskatoon Blades Les Lazaruk 'fortunate' to call 2,000th WHL game


On Tuesday night, Saskatoon Blades play-by-play broadcaster Les Lazaruk will call his 2,000th WHL game.

The 62-year-old says the milestone conjures a few feelings.

“Humble is a good word, but fortunate I think to a great degree, because it means that my voice is held strong, my eyes are still decent,” he said.

“Longevity I think is something to be proud of really. The fact that you've been able to do something for a long time, and do it with reasonably good ability, let's put it that way, I like to think that I do a good job doing it.”

“To put 2,000 games under your belt is just an astonishing achievement at any level, in any capacity, in any industry," said Tyler Wawryk, director of business operations with the Blades.

“When you think of Blades hockey, especially when you think of the sound of Blades hockey, it's Les Lazaruk.”

“I think it's pretty it's a pretty special milestone for him,” said goaltender Nolan Maier, who’s been with the Blades since 2017.

“Ever since I've been here Les has been here, and just all the stories you hear about him and how long he's been around teams and just been doing what he does now, you can tell he loves it.”

Lazaruk says his first WHL game was in September 1994 in Regina as the Blades took on the Pats, a call that featured some equipment malfunction.

“Plug it in after setting everything up properly, and no power. There's nothing,” recalled Lazaruk. “We're like half an hour away from game time, 15 minutes from being on the air with the pregame show.”

Lazaruk was aided by an engineer from CKRM Radio in Regina, who was able to lend a hand with some fresh equipment.

“He went back to their studios, came back with a whole set up. A mixer, and an old-style red broadcast phone, and hooked it all up for me, got me on the air,” he said. “Unfortunately it was already the second period and the Blades were already ahead something like 5-1 on the way to beating Regina 8-3 on opening night that night.”

“For a lot of folks who listen in, to hear that sort of a story they think to themselves back then ‘Who's this new guy, and can we get rid of him because he obviously doesn't know what he's doing.'"

Over those years Lazaruk has crafted a signature brand of play-calling, including trademark phrases and calls that have become synonymous with his name.

“I think my favorite’s always ‘Winner winner chicken dinner’”, said Maier. “That's just one of his classic go-tos that he has.”

“I just love that he has that uniqueness and consistency,” said Wawryk. “A couple weekends ago we got up to nine goals, so you get to hear some of the funky ones that get a little bit higher up. I think the ninth goal scored he shouts out ‘Gordie.’”

“Not every sports broadcaster has something like that, but that's his brand.”

That many games spanning that many years means countless hours spent travelling on the bus, where Lazaruk says relationships with players and staff can be forged.

“Especially with the people up front; the coaches, the trainers, the athletic therapists, the equipment managers, those are the people that you probably get closest to in the course of your dealing,” said Lazaruk, who has seen several players dawn a Blades’ uniform and go on to bigger and better things.

“You just think of those guys and you think to yourself how wonderful that is that they went from being scared, timid, unsure, uncertain, 16, 17-year-olds, to growing up right before your very eyes, and then moving on to what they now do.”

“My first year on the team I was at the front of the bus and he was a guy sitting right in front of me on road trips,” said Maier. “We would always talk and we'd always kind of just kind of go back and forth with each other, so it's pretty cool to see him get that milestone.”

“He has a knack for sleeping on the bus,” said Wawryk. “It doesn't matter what the weather's like and how loud it is and what position he's in, he can always find a way to grab a couple of Z's on the bus.”

“I have a few videos of him sleeping upright, and he snores like a chainsaw.”

Wawryk says the Blades plan to honour Lazaruk on Friday night when they host the Edmonton Oil Kings.

“It'll be exciting to honour him and congratulate him on that milestone because he’s certainly put in the work over the years,” said Wawryk.

“He's really compassionate and caring, and he really takes the time to get to know the players and our staff, and always has time to chat and share some memories. He's that guy that everybody sees around the rink and has for a lot of years.”

And Lazaruk isn’t done calling games yet.

“I have too much fun doing this, this part of the job is what gets me going,” he said.

“This is my passion, this is what I really like to do, so for as long as people will continue to have me do it and most importantly, the most important person is my wife. If Verna says, ‘If you're enjoying it, and you're still having fun with it, and you want to continue to do it, and I give you my blessing’—if she gives me her blessing to continue to do it, I will do it.” Top Stories

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