His parents named him Frank Joseph James Lynch – but everybody knew him as Budd.
He passed away this week, at the age of 95. No, you can’t call that a tragedy, but you can call it a loss – one that thousands are feeling.
In a week that included no Big Ten teams being ranked in the top 25 for the first time, the amazingly idiotic NHL lockout and, far worse, Jerry Sandusky’s sentencing, I’d rather spend my few minutes with you today honoring a man who lived as long as he lived well.
Lynch was born in Windsor, Ontario, during World War I. He got his start in radio in Hamilton, Ontario, but World War II interrupted his young career in 1939, when he volunteered for Canada’s Essex Scottish Regiment. Five years later, on D-Day, he stormed the beaches at Normandy, and survived unscathed. But a few weeks after that, a German rocket took his right arm.
When Lynch returned, he worked for the Red Wings, back at the old Olympia Arena – which was still pretty new at the time. Over the next six decades, he held a variety of jobs, but they all involved a microphone, the Red Wings, and his smooth, redolent voice. He saw his job as “simply relaying information to the crowd, not to act as a cheerleader.” He was a pro’s pro.
He was as beloved by Red Wing fans as Ernie Harwell and George Kell were by Tiger fans. Like his peers, Lynch was remarkably humble. The Associated Press’s Larry Lage recalled that, although the guy could have walked through the cramped Joe Louis press box like he owned the place, Lynch always turned sideways, and waited for some young buck like Larry to pass, with a smile.
I got to know Mr. Lynch in the 1990s, when I was writing sports features for the Detroit News. He always remembered my name, and liked to chat up my latest article – which I believe he did for all the young writers. He was a voracious reader.
During that time, a Red Wings coach told me a story about a center I’ll call Ken Patrick, “a very good player who thinks he’s a great player – and that’s the problem.” Patrick would get ticked off, for example, if the refs failed to credit him with an assist he felt he deserved. After one game, he complained about this very thing to his teammates – which is never a good idea, prompting a few of them to ask Mr. Lynch to come down to Joe Louis the next day.
At the end of practice, in an empty arena, they heard Lynch’s voice suddenly boom over the P.A. system: “A correction to last night’s third goal. The assist should be credited not to Kris Draper, but to Ken Patrick. Ken Patrick.”
Most of the players had no idea Lynch was going to do that, and erupted in laughter, smacking their sticks against the ice and high-fiving each other. Patrick, however, didn’t find it so funny, and stormed off the ice, sulking.
And this is just one reason why I loved Budd Lynch. He took his work seriously, but not himself, and he wasn’t afraid to partake in a little good-natured ribbing if somebody had it coming.
Budd Lynch didn’t invent anything. He wasn’t doctor, or a lawyer, or a captain of industry. He wasn’t rich and he probably wasn’t too well known outside of Michigan, but he didn’t care about any of that.
Lynch did care about his family – six daughters survive him – and service to country. USA Today’s Kevin Allen recalled the unique way Lynch introduced the national anthem: “Please rise and remove your hats. Active duty and retired military may keep their hats on while rendering the military salute. Please join the Red Wings own Karen Newman for the U.S. national anthem.” People listened.
Budd Lynch was a bona fide war hero, a talented man who was inducted into just about every Hall of Fame a hockey broadcaster can be. He cared about his work, and the people he worked for – the coaches, the players and the fans. Thanks to the Red Wings’ wisdom, he was still at the microphone this past season – his 63rd – and sounding great.
I’ll remember Budd Lynch as a very good man. And this week, that’s worth remembering.
About the author: John U. Bacon is the author of the New York Times bestseller “Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football.” He also co-authored “A Legacy of Champions,” and provided commentary for “Black and Blue: The Story of Gerald Ford, Willis Ward, and the 1934 Michigan-Georgia Tech Football Game.”
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