‘Too good to pass up’: Rick Ball leaves Flames’ broadcast booth for Chicago

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After a decade as the television voice of the Calgary Flames, Rick Ball will now be calling Connor Bedard’s highlight-reel moves.

The Chicago Blackhawks announced Thursday that the 57-year-old Ball has been hired as their new play-by-play man, ending his 10-season stint on Flames broadcasts on Sportsnet. 

“Definitely mixed emotions,” Ball told Postmedia. “I’m extremely excited for the opportunity. It’s an amazing city, an Original Six franchise. They have a generational player. I’m going to be working with Darren Pang, who is great. I’ve had so many great partners, and you can just put him on the list as another one.

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“So there are lots of reasons to be excited about this new job. But a huge negative is leaving Calgary, because I love it here. This has become home. It’s been 10 years. I love the people I’ve worked with. The Flames have been amazing. If not for something like this to come along, I was more than happy to work here until I retired. But sometimes you get a chance to do something like this and it’s just too good to pass up. 

“It wasn’t an easy decision. The toughest part is leaving Calgary, for sure.”

Ball’s departure is a bummer for anybody who follows the Flames — or tunes in to Hockey Night in Canada.

When it comes to describing the action on the 200 x 85, he is truly among the best in the business.

It’s a bonus that his chemistry with his analyst, whether it’s been Kelly Hrudey or Cassie Campbell-Pascall or Greg Millen, has typically resulted in some hilarious banter. 

As Chris Cuthbert, another play-by-play ace, summed up on social media: “First Chicago gets Bedard and now Rick. The Hawks are loading up! Congrats to Rick, as fine a person as he is a great broadcaster.”

Certainly, the opportunity to cover Bedard’s rise to superstardom is a big part of the appeal as Ball packs his bags for the Windy City and joins the Chicago Sports Network. 

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“It makes my job so much easier when you have a star player at that level,” Ball said of Bedard, winner of the Calder Trophy for the 2023-24 campaign. “And he’ll be just 19 years old this season. I mean, there’s going to be a lot of years where he’s going to be doing some great things for the Chicago Blackhawks. I called a bunch of Johnny Gaudreau over the years and he was a bring-you-of-your-seat guy, and I see Connor Bedard as that and even more. 

“So I can’t wait to get started.”

In this market, he will be missed.

Ball, who hails originally from Kelowna and was previously the voice of the Vancouver Canucks, doesn’t have a social-media presence, but he wasn’t oblivious Thursday to the widespread well-wishes from Flames fans.

“I’d gladly do this if nobody was listening. I just love what I do,” Ball said. “And the fact that people watched and enjoyed it, it means a ton to me. People have been sending me screenshots of some Twitter stuff and it really does mean a lot that people feel that way about what me and Kelly and Greg Millen and Cassie and Ryan Leslie, back to Roger Millions before that, all the people that I’ve worked with over the years …

“It just means a lot to me that what we did for a decade means a lot to other people. It’s been overwhelming.”   

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