Peter McNab in a video from his 2021 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction. (USA Hockey on YouTube.) Peter McNab in a video from his 2021 U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction. (USA Hockey on YouTube.)

The hockey world lost a notable figure this weekend. That would be Peter McNab, who played in the NHL from 1973-87 and then went on to decades of work in broadcasting.

McNab’s broadcasting career included work as the Colorado Avalanche‘s primary television analyst since their first season in Denver in 1995-96, eight seasons as the TV analyst for the New Jersey Devils before that, and national work (especially around the Winter Olympics) for TSN in Canada as well as U.S. networks NBC and TNT. He was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last December.

McNab was diagnosed with cancer last September. His  cancer went into remission in February, but it eventually returned. His passing at 70 sparked a lot of tributes; here are some of those.

McNab was born in Vancouver, B.C., then moved to San Diego at 14 because his father Max (a former NHL player with the Detroit Red Wings who then went on to coaching and executive roles) had taken a role as the head coach of the newly-founded San Diego Gulls of the Western Hockey League (the former professional minor league, not the current major junior league), following previous time with that league’s Vancouver Canucks and San Francisco Seals. The whole McNab family eventually wound up playing prominent roles in the NHL; Max’s career included time as the general manager of the Washington Capitals and Devils, plus time as the president of the Central Hockey League, and he was awarded the Lester Patrick Trophy for contributions to hockey in the U.S. in 1998. Meanwhile, Peter’s brother David spent 43 years as a NHL scout and executive with the Capitals, New York Rangers, Hartford Whalers, and Anaheim Ducks, retiring last May after 28 years in the Ducks’ organization.

As for Peter McNab, he initially shone as a baseball player, and went to the University of Denver on a baseball scholarship. But he then wound up playing three seasons as a center on the Pioneers‘ hockey team, leading them to top-four finishes each year and a national runner-up finish in 1972-73 (a year where he scored a team-high 72 points with 32 goals, was named first-team all-WCHA, and was named to the NCAA All-Tournament Team).  He then became a rare-for-that-time NHL draft pick out of the NCAA ranks, with the Buffalo Sabres selecting him 85th overall in 1972.

Following that draft, McNab started his professional career in the minor-league American Hockey League, and led the Cincinnati Swords in scoring (with 34 goals and 39 assists) in 1973-74 despite only playing 49 games with them while also playing with the Sabres. He’d play for the Sabres through 1975-76, then for the Boston Bruins through 1983-84, then with the NHL version of the Canucks for a season and a half, and then finished his playing career with two seasons with the Devils. He also played for the U.S. national team at the 1986 IIHF World Championship. He finished his NHL career with 363 goals and 450 assists across 954 regular-season games, and his 813 career points are the 21st-highest of anyone U.S.-born or U.S.-representing.

McNab then went on to a remarkable run as a broadcaster. He started as a color analyst with the Devils on SportsChannel (the U.S.’ first regional sports network, and one that actually won the NHL’s national TV rights from ESPN beginning in 1988) in 1987, working alongside Gary Thorne. He spent eight years there, then joined the Avalanche broadcasts in their inaugural season in Colorado in 1995-96, first on Prime Sportsnet Rocky Mountain/Fox Sports Rocky Mountain and then on Altitude beginning in 2004.  He also worked on national Winter Olympic hockey coverage for TNT (game analyst in 1998), TSN (host and studio analyst in 2002), and NBC (game analyst in 2006). And he left his mark on many. Peter Baugh of The Athletic had a nice tribute to him Sunday, including a closing section on how McNab was still gracious and eager to talk to fans this year despite his health struggles:

One day back in training camp, I brought up his sickness. I had previously tried not to bother him about it, other than to say I was sorry after his initial diagnosis. But I had watched over and over as people came up to him to tell him he looked great, not knowing the cancer was back. He was always so warm in response, as hard as it must have been. So I told him his graciousness impressed me beyond words. It takes a rare type of person to show such exceeding goodness to anyone who wanted to say hello and wish him well. I wanted him to know that.

There were difficult moments, he replied. It’s hard when the conversations with family become real. When they become about what happens after you’re gone. It was heartbreaking to hear, and I couldn’t quite figure out the right response.

He saved me the trouble. He said something about hockey, and that had our attention once again.

Our thoughts go out to McNab’s family and friends.

[The Athletic; photo from USA Hockey on YouTube]

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.