Guest blogger: George Grimm … remembering Win Elliot

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(Editor’s note: Special thanks once again to George Grimm for a terrific guest blog. I don’t remember Win Elliot as the Rangers’ announcer, but I have had the great luck to become good friends with the legendary Mr. Bob Wolff. … also, as we head into the homestretch of the off-season, this is the final guest blog I have in the hopper. So if anybody wants to do one in the next two weeks, or even later on, please drop me a note at rcarpini@lohud.com.)

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Remembering Win Elliot

By George Grimm

Very often our first memories of a sport are accompanied by the faces and voices that brought that sport into our homes. For me Win Elliot was definitely one of those faces and voices.

Before the days of national mega-buck broadcasting contracts, cable, 24/7 coverage or any of the advanced broadcasting techniques available to us today, New York Rangers fans considered themselves lucky to see the Blueshirts in action on their home TV screens once a week. Those rare games on WPIX and WOR were usually on Saturday nights and often on tape delay as part of the Schaefer Circle of Sports. “Schaefer, the one beer to have when you’re having more than one”. And one of the voices that brought them into our homes belonged to Win Elliot who alternated with Bob Wolff depending upon the station that held the rights to the broadcast and the sponsor.

He was born Irwin Elliot Shalek in Chelsea, Mass., but changed his name early in his career. A zoology major and a hockey goaltender at the University of Michigan, Elliot took a communications class to get the credits he needed to graduate, and an impressed professor suggested sportscasting as a career. He also served in the US Maritime Service from 1939 to 1941.

During his heyday he was one of the busiest announcers in the business, but I guess he had to be since he had a wife and 11 children to support. Elliot anchored World Series and Super Bowl pre- and postgame shows, covered boxing and horse racing, and was the host of radio call-in shows as well as the “Schaefer Circle of Sports” on television. He also reported for Sports Central USA on the CBS Radio Network as well as hosting early television game shows like “Tic Tac Dough” and “On Your Account” and the radio variety show “Borden’s County Fair.”

But it was Elliot’s nearly 20 years as the voice of the Rangers on both radio and TV for which he is most remembered by New Yorkers of a certain age.

In those black and white, single camera days, Win WAS the Rangers to many of us, serving as play-by-play announcer and color analyst as well as between-periods host.

Elliot’s warm, friendly, almost folksy voice and manner made him a welcome guest in our living rooms on those long ago wintry nights. Despite the fact that the Rangers racked up a lot of losses during Win’s time in the booth he still made the games exciting and enjoyable to watch. I remember Win for his storytelling, even while the game was going on. He always imparted a bit of hockey lore along the way. “The game of hockey was invented by Canadian Indians,” Win would say. “And the game was named after the word the Indians would shout after getting hit with a frozen road apple – ho-gee, which meant ‘It hurts.'” He also recounted the tale of former Rangers netminder Steve Buzinski who after making a glove save, flipped the puck behind the net only to discover he had misjudged his position and tossed the puck into his own goal instead.

Between periods interviews were conducted from the penalty box or the Rangers bench using the lone press box position camera on a long shot. And in the era before video tape and replays, Elliott, with bow tie, glasses and crew cut would re-enact goals on screen using just the gifts with which he was born, his voice and body movements. Yes it was all very primitive, but it was all we had and we loved it and looked forward to it every week. It was the earliest form of “Appointment Viewing” for New York hockey fans.

Away from the arena Elliot was friendly and approachable. I was fortunate enough to meet him on a number of occasions, once while walking up Eighth Avenue towards the “Old” Garden with my father. Here I was this kid bothering Win while he was rushing to work, munching a hot dog, yet he patiently answered every question I had.

Bob Wolff worked with Win and remembers him fondly. “Win loved hockey and for many years we worked as a team together and I enjoyed that tremendously. One year I found out that his job was in jeopardy for a very unusual reason and I was very happy that I could come up with a solution to keep his career going. It was not a question of Win’s talent, it was a question of his honesty. The people who hired him at the Garden didn’t listen to him calling the Rangers home games because they were at the game. So they only heard him when he was on the road. And all good sports announcers go up with the crowd roar and stay silent when there was no noise. The problem that on the road, Win was going up with the crowd’s roar when the Red Wings or Leafs scored but was silent after the Rangers scored, and the people at the Garden were asking ‘doesn’t Win love the Rangers anymore?’ So I told him, ‘Win when you’re on the road you’ve got to get equally or more excited than the crowd when the Rangers play well than when the home team does well.’ Win realized that I was right and after that it was smooth sailing. It was funny because nobody was more passionate about the Rangers than Win was.”

Win’s brother Biff Elliot also went into show business and became the first actor to play Mike Hammer on film. But Win also had a flair as a showman. “One day Win was walking down the street with me in New York and he was wearing this funny looking beret on his head.” Wolff recalled. “I said, Win why are you wearing that beret? He said ‘it helps’. How does it help? ‘Well people stand and look at me don’t they? It’s cheaper than an ad in Variety!’

Win passed away in September of 1998 at the age of 83.

When once asked how he wished to be remembered, Win simply answered, ”As a great dad.” But to those of us old enough to remember he was also a great announcer and storyteller and a reminder of a simpler time and long ago, cold winter nights.

George Grimm is the former publisher of Sportstat, The Ranger Report and columnist for the Blueshirt Bulletin. He currently writes the Retro Rangers column for Insidehockey.com and is working on an oral history of the Emile Francis era New York Rangers.

Photo by Icelebs.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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190 Comments

  1. Onecupin74yearsandcounting on

    As a kid I remember the Ranger telecasts in channel 11 and channel 9.
    Sometimes the telecasts were preempted by Progresso soup compnay showing Italian movies with english subtitles which delighted my grandma but not me.
    Win was prone to a mistake or two which used to tee my father off.”what the hell are you watching?” my father used to say.
    As far as tape delay goes :
    One night we’re watching a ranger montreal game with the rangers leading going into the 2nd period . Well the telecast begins and its suddenly the 3rd period with the rangers losing. Again my dad went nuts “we didn’t have WTF in those days just “What The &^%$”. Then a commercial break and back to the start of the 2nd period.
    But Win used to come up with the Indian story quite frequently. He said the Indains invented hockey and hockey got its name from the Indians saying HO GHEE (I don’t know the correct spelling) so from HO GHEE to Hockey .

  2. Great story once again, George, thanks!!! I too am of an age when I only got to see Ranger away games on PIX or WOR. The play-by-play guys were Tim Ryan & Bill Mazer. I assume they came after Win & Bob Wolf, right Carp?

  3. Nobody in my house ever talked about or watched hockey. I found the Rangers also on PIX and WOR. I don’t remember win but thanks for the story.

    Growing up I played basketball and baseball but realized hockey was the most exciting sport of all.

  4. I remember Ho Gee like it was yesterday—I remember hockey coming on after wresting either from Sunnyside Garden in Queens or from someplace in Washington DC….I also remember the games being delayed-so I would listen the radio (cant remember if it was the broadcast or just the sport news segment of 1010 Wins–as the game was usually delayed 30 minutes…and I remember hanging out at Skateland on Hillside Ave in Queens to meet my heroes..including Harry Howell..whose son Danny played roller hockey with us at PS 186…

  5. BTW–great, great piece George…my son and I had the same experience with Marv Albert..Marv arrived at the game (that Feb Pres Day afternoon contest-the only day game every year) just before the puck drops–he is rushing to unloading his briefcase and spots my son directly behind him looking to say hi..he stops everything he’s doing and says to Marc, asks his name and chats with him for a few secs as if he has all the time in the world…still blows me away to this day..20 years later I can see the moment..

  6. Thanks again George for another interesting article . Nice to read about some of the old days and how we got to where we are now in the technology age

  7. Thanks for another wonderful story from the past, George! I do remember those games, particularly the radio games. I used to pretend to be doing my homework and listened to those games on my small, hidden transistor radio under a pillow…don’t remember as much about the televised ones, as they were far and few between in those days, and competed with some more attractive offerings for kids of that age. Also had to share with my siblings…my father had taught us the value of “compromise” so we had to decide ahead of time on time sharing for the programs each of us wanted to watch on the sole TV at home back in those black and white days. I think I also remember Winn Elliott as a sports commentator doing the sports segment on the news, but my memory could easily be failing me after all those intervening years!

  8. Rob in Beantown on

    Assuming alternate captains will be the same this year? Richards and Staal? They wouldn’t take Richards’ A away from him, would they?

  9. Gravy, Just Gravy on

    Carp, I think a pre-camp Charp is in order so that I can figure out if it will work for me. It’ll be a sad day if I can’t see them live.

  10. Gravy, Just Gravy on

    Guest bloggers do rock!

    I was able to open the last Charp replay (but it wasn’t live), so I’m going to remain optimistic.

  11. Gravy, Just Gravy on

    Had a proud papa moment the other day. I had flipped the Mets game on, which I’ve done pretty rarely this summer. My 6 year old son asked when hockey was coming back. I told him training camp was in 2 weeks, and he seemed happy because he remembered me saying October after they were eliminated.

    I think I may be helping cultivate the next generation of Ranger fans. Please don’t call CPS on me.

  12. Rob in Beantown on

    It seems like revisionist history, or the opinion of somebody who didn’t really follow the team, to suggest that Torts scapegoated Richards at all. On the basis of their personal relationship Tortorella gave Richards a longer leash than anybody in the league would have given him. You could **see** the anguish in Torts eyes when he had to publicly announce that Richards would be out of the lineup. Now we’re just supposed to forget all that and pretend that Torts hated Richards and that was the problem?

  13. Gravy, great story, I wonder, if we really loved our kids we would force them to be anything but Rangers fans.

    Rob, exactly!

  14. Great story.
    Those Saturday night games always seemed to be from Montreal and the Rangers always got crushed. I think there were blue laws in those days so that the Canadiens couldn’t play at home on Sunday so they always played on Saturday night. I also remmember the Bert and Harry Piels coomercials with Bob and Ray.

    My only personal contact with Win Elliot was after a Ranger game at the old Garden by the players entrance. As we waited for autographs Win Elliot emerged form the door and one of my fiends yelled out “Is that the famous Win Elliot?” His only response was a sheepish grin. He never took himself seriously unlike another announcer of that time. The one who worke with “Ralph number 13 Branca”

  15. Rob in Beantown on

    Has there ever been a greater tweet than:

    “Hey Ilya hope u live comfortably in Russia w the money u made from the 23 million u stole from the devils Again I’m right in my analysis.”

  16. It’s so funny, right?

    I also love the Horton comment: “With 8, you turn it sideways and it means forever.” – N. Horton, when asked if he was going with No. 8 as a Jacket

  17. Rob in Beantown on

    Uh oh. I just got to the bottom of that article. Dear sportswriters: don’t pick us again this year!!

  18. This summer I live out of the timestream – no difference to me between yesterday and tomorrow – all same, byfuglien days without hockey.

  19. Apparently Elliotte Friedman of CBC Sports. says that the cap will actually hit $80M in 4 years. I stand corrected.

  20. I have a hunch that George Atkinson is going to have a large year running the ball for the Irish.

    Hunch Back of Notre Dame

  21. Franklin Kistner on

    1950s Nj Mom, Dad and big brother were Knick fans. So I became a Celtics fan. They were Yankee fans so I became Dodgers fan. We watched Rangers together on WPIX together. There was no other team. Win was good, Jim Gordon was very good and Sam Rosen was and is the best ever. LGR

  22. George, Thanks for remembering. That was when I first learned of hockey I seem to remember, that one season they showed the last 5 minutes of the 1st and 2nd periods and all of the third period. You had to watch whatever WOR had on their program schedule which as us oldsters remember wasn’t good because 2,4,and 7 were the prime NY stations. I read this blog every day and very rarely post, but you revived hockey for me during the dog days of summer. Thanks again

  23. Rob in Beantown on

    PSA: If you signed up for NHL GameCenter last season and your credit card is on file, on September 4 you are going to be auto-renewed to the tune of $149 unless you opt out. GameCenter was discounted last year cause of the lockout, but it is full price this year.

  24. Rob in Beantown on

    Sadly, I need to stay subscribed or I won’t see any Rangers games. But it seems a little underhanded that it auto-renews with little to no warning, especially when a lot of people probably subscribed last year because it was relatively cheap.

  25. That’s pretty brutal. I heard that if you have an Apple TV or whatever you can buy the online package (cheaper) and then stream it on your TV.

  26. Yeah..I remember Win…no, actually, I don’t…wasn’t born yet but great story! Thanks

  27. Great post George and it brought back great memories of being huddled by my little black and white TV listening to Win Elliot announcing saying about the Rangers Larry Jeffery: “Jeffrey in the corner with the puck, come on Larry would you do something?” Answering the question above, I recall that Bob Wolff succeeded Win Elliot on Channel 9, then Tim Ryan with Bill Mazer followed by Sal Marchiano and then Jim Gordon, who had previously did the games on cable which back around 1970, was mostly in Manhattan and was non-existent in the Bronx. Also recall that Norm McLean did some color work for them during the early 70’s as well before Bill Chadwick moved over from radio.

  28. Rob – these automatic renewals happen a lot and in a plethora of areas. Thanks for reminding us. One good reason to always pay with a check if possible.

  29. Thanks to all for your kind comments. Thanks also to Carp for publishing my column. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
    George Grimm

  30. Kristo, Fast, Hrivik and Lindberg.

    That has me excited. They will get a good look in camp.

    Rangers were pretty good after the trade. They had some injuries that hurt. That will get remedied plus the additions, they are in a good spot.

  31. Cross Check Charlie on

    When we first got cable back in the dark ages in upstate NY, we used to get WPIX and WOR. I started getting interested in hockey and watched Ranger games on WOR and Win Elliot was the announcer. I thought he was great, but he wasn’t around long. Soon after, I believe Woolf replaced him (and I didn’t care for him much as a hockey announcer).

    Does anybody remember the last year that Elliot announced Ranger games?

  32. Gravy, Just Gravy on

    Richards was tied for 53rd in the league in scoring, and that’s all fantasy really takes into consideration.

  33. His stats really haven’t been the problem. I think he was third on the team last year but we all know he wasn’t their third best skater.
    My hope is that AV takes over this team with no pre conceived ideas of who belongs where and decides for himself based on their play. I hope BR improves and maybe less ice time for #19 would be the answer.

  34. Rob in Beantown on

    Richards also benefited from some crazy puck luck at the end of last season inflating his numbers a bit. I think that’s in part why a lot of people who didn’t watch the games closely defended him.

  35. Gravy, Just Gravy on

    Hopefully Richards bounces back.

    I’ll never understand why people would root for a player/the team to do bad. Maybe it’s to justify their opinion, but I want every player on the team to do well – even if I’m not a huge fan.

  36. Rob in Beantown on

    I totally agree Gravy. I hope Brad Richards has a bounce back year and centers the first line. I would never root for him to fail, or anybody on the team.

  37. In my ongoing quest to compete with Mannu’s VIP pass to the *Orchid show* I missed whatever hockey news didn’t happen yesterday evening due to my presence at a *cupcake tasting event*

  38. Gravy, Just Gravy on

    How disappointed was it when you realized that rotisserie drafts didn’t include chicken and that fantasy leagues didn’t involve rolling around in gravy with your sister-in-law? #AskBrodeur

  39. I will say this – I live very near where Richards is training with St. Louis, and given who they are training with and how I know they work, Richards will be in amazing shape to start the year. I think he will have a great year and if he doesnt it certainly wont be for lack of effort or conditioning.

  40. Not funny, ilb :)

    Peter, I have little doubt Richards will be much better this year. … hard to believe he was finished just like that. But they will still have to say sayonara in the summer. And IMO should have done it this summer. (and in the opinions of many on the hockey staff of the hockey club).

  41. I heard from a source I have at Amazon.com that Richards recently ordered and received a copy of the “Jane Fonda Workout” tape

  42. Selanne 76 goals as a rookie, 28 goals in 32 Olympic games. Great Googamooga! And a John Ferguson draftee. Go figure.

  43. Btw, IMO, best toupee (small wig or hairpiece used by men to cover a bald spot) in sportscasting……Bobby Ojeda.

  44. When in France, Jane developed an enlarged heart from heavy drinking. Her doctor said, “Absinthe makes the heart grow, Fonda.”

  45. Foghorn Leghorn on

    If, I say, if Dylan McIlrath, the 10th overall pick, that is, is going to live up to poten-, I say, potential and assume the role of a shutdown, physical blueliner, defenseman, that is, there ain’t no better, I say, better coaches to work under than Beukeboom and Samuelsson. Jeff and Ulf, those are.

  46. Coos, you should lay off those puns for a while…they are pack more wallop than absinthe

  47. Rob in Beantown on

    RICHARDS: How much time til the season starts?

    IZZY: Not enough to make a man of you, daffodil.

  48. So, you think that good looks, impeccable manners, tens of millions of dollars, a 2014 Aston Martin One-77, a 1 handicap, and an Ivy League PhD makes you better than us? Boy, are you delusional.

  49. “Don’t worry, when I retire they’ll have all that cap space … oh, wait, I forgot about that recapture thing.”

  50. Richie says Vinegar’s system will free him up from having to play defense. (Like he ever did.) LOL

  51. If the offense is going to be free to play Offense and the D is going to be free to play Offense, who will be available to play Defense?

    Fully expecting 5 or 6 odd man rushes against per game against. Its just easier if you expect it.

  52. Did youse guys see that old No. 16 is out of the restaurant business … so you don’t have to go to Warren 77 anymore, or the other place.

  53. Seee, that’s gotta be good for increasing blog comments, no?

    Lots more “Game over, season over, fire everybody” comments.

  54. If Henrik gives up 5 or 6 a game because of paltry back-checking and inefficient D Man play, Sather’s dilemma on the goalie extension will be solved. :)

  55. Though I do think that with a full season out of Stall our D 1-6, will be the best its been in a few seasons, perhaps since the Sauer injury. We’ll need it.

  56. I am actually on my way to Warren 77 to meet with Blogmom and Tiki for some afternoon fiesta! Anybody in the city want to join us? :)

  57. Can never forget Congressmen and staffers lining up before hearings, jostling to get Clemens’ autograph. Pathetic.

  58. Thanks, Wick. I’m not (ever) really mad at her.

    Tell her I said Good Morning, Sally! … and also Good Afternoon, Sally!

  59. Did you see Dubinsky tweeting a golf photo of himself with Gretzky?

    Between them they have over 900 goals and 2000 assists!

  60. Dubie to kids in 20 years: “That’s me playing golf with the Great One.”

    “You knew Tiger?”

  61. iWicky "Frag Out!!!" on

    Carp
    This is from Sally

    Good morning and afternoon, Carp! I’m driving through Pittsburgh. Crosby sucks!

  62. And yet another truncated golf season wherein my ankle hurts, my handicap increased, and now, even healthy, I have trouble reaching the long par 4’s except with an erratic fairway wood. Brutal.

  63. If Knuckles Nilan hadn’t stolen my Tommy Bahama jams, I could have at least spent more time at the beach.

  64. Free? I wish! That place is pricey!

    Just read a hilarious comment about Avery retiring from restaurant business: “He threw his spatula in the Hudson River.” LOL

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