In Philadelphia, we have been spoiled by amazing broadcasters calling our teams’ games for decades. From Harry Kalas to Merrill Reese, the sounds of the local broadcasts have left an indelible impression on the minds of the Delaware Valley for generations now. And here’s a little secret — Philadelphia Flyers play-by-play man Jim Jackson is pretty close to joining this club, if he hasn’t already.
To put this into context and talk about myself for a second, I am 38 years old. ‘JJ’ first came to the Flyers as part of their radio team in 1993, when I was just turning nine years old. After a couple seasons there, Jackson took over for the legendary Gene Hart as the Flyers’ play-by-play voice on TV, and he’s been there ever since. Through the ups and (many) downs, Jackson has provided excellent coverage of the team, walking the fine line of being on the local fans’ side while also not being overly ‘homer-ish’ like some broadcasters often tend to be, an issue that seems especially rampant in hockey, for whatever reason.
I bring this all of this up because the recent passing of Buffalo Sabres broadcaster Rick Jeanneret puts things into perspective about the connection between a broadcaster and a team. Jeanneret was with the Sabres for 50 seasons, and it’s doubtful that Jackson will get that far with the Flyers, as few have that kind of legacy. But it’s been three decades now and, dang it, that’s something to celebrate. With no end in sight, the 60(!)-year old Jackson brings decades of experience and a sense of gravitas to broadcasts. No wonder that the Phillies “borrowed” him for several years until the pandemic put an end to that. Jackson has also worked national broadcasts, showing how highly he is regarded in the industry, but the Flyers will always be his home.
Jim Jackson has now been a part of Flyers’ broadcasts for longer than Gene Hart was. Let me repeat that — Jim Jackson is the longest-tenured broadcaster in team history. For the ‘legacy’ Flyers fans out there, this is probably pretty surprising. (And don’t even get me started on the fact that we are about two years away from the Wells Fargo Center having been the home of the Flyers for longer than the Spectrum was.)
Think about all of Jackson’s great calls from the past quarter-century or so. From the Legion of Doom through Jeremy Roenick, Simon Gagne, Keith Primeau, Claude Giroux, and more, Jackson has etched himself in the minds of area hockey fans who still get chills when watching the videos or even just daydreaming about some of the great Flyers action from years past, longing to get back to that point.
All of this is not meant to be overly morbid. When we say “while he’s still here”, we don’t have to jump to conclusions about what that means. Jim Jackson might simply decide to retire at any time, or there’s always the chance — unlikely though it may be — that he decides to go to another team or entity. The point is, Jim Jackson has been the defining voice of the Flyers for anyone under about 40 years old who bleeds Orange and Black. Hopefully, we all recognize that we have been fortunate to have him, as nothing is guaranteed and no good thing can carry on indefinitely. Look to retired 76ers broadcaster Mark Zumoff, who retired in 2021 after 27 years of play-by-play duties, as a case in point. Let’s appreciate what we have while we have it.
In just a few short weeks, we will be strapping in for another season of Philadelphia Flyers hockey, with Jim Jackson at the mic. And although the Flyers are in the midst of a rebuild and don’t figure to be Stanley Cup contenders anytime soon, Jackson’s calls of the games should not be dismissed. If you are a fan of this team, and the great game of hockey in general, you are shortchanging yourself if you can’t find enjoyment in listening to Jim Jackson, a seasoned pro who just might attain legend status by the time all is said and done. It’s a worthy follow-up to Gene Hart, and Jim Jackson belongs in Philadelphia’s rich pantheon of sports voices.
Want your voice heard? Join the Broad Street Buzz team!