Posted at: 12/20/2012 4:55 PM
Updated at: 12/21/2012 8:57 AM
By: Robin De Wind
As our viewers know, Rich Funke retires on Friday from News10NBC.
We are proud to announce that Rich has been selected to be inducted into the 2013 Rochester Americans Hall of Fame along with former Amerk favorite Dane Jackson.
Funke is the first television broadcaster to be inducted into the Amerks Hall of Fame. He has covered this team for 38 seasons. The organization is now recognizing this true professional who loves his community and his hometown team.
Hockey is the sport Rich Funke loved most, but never played. As a young father and emerging broadcaster, he lived the sport through his son Rich Jr. who put on his skates at the age of six.
“Rich is a family guy, his son playing hockey made him invested in hockey. There is a real tie for hockey in Rich.” Jody Gage was a shy 26 year old when he met Rich for his first interview. “The guy was a fan, but he cared more about the athletes, he was warm and welcoming and it was the start of a friendship.
In the early days, Rich not only covered the team, he called the players his friends. When the Amerks made the playoffs, apartment leases had expired and many called the Funke house, home.
Geordie Robertson said, “I was a new guy when I first came. I didn't play my first nine games and Rich knew what it felt like to be an outsider and he made a point of talking to me and he didn't have to do that.”
He also made a point out of making local sports come first. Don Stevens, Amerks Hall of Fame Class 2011 said, “Every night he was talking about the Amerks. It was more than the Syracuse Orange or the Buffalo Bills, it was Rochester and it came first and was the main story and Rich was the real leader in that.
Gage said, “He's the one that put us on TV. He helped us grow the Amerks.”
During his tenure, Rich covered three Calder Cup championships but the 1986-1987 team was special. The underdogs on the ice weren't supposed to have made it all the way to the finals in Sherbrooke, Canada.
The team up in the broadcast booth, led by Rich, wanted to make sure fans back home in Rochester could see the red white and blue defy the odds. Stevens said, “The most fun I had was the combination of Rich Funke, John Bednarski and myself, it was the dream team of broadcasting.
Gage said, “When he came on the team, he was part of it. He cared. You could hear the excitement in his voice it was like he won and he did, he was a Rochester American.
A broadcaster who lives his brand is rare. Despite having a crew already at the arena, Rich would spend his work dinner hour watching a game.
He's still a season ticket holder -- Sunday night hockey games with the family are now a tradition passed on to his grandchildren.
He hosts and attends numerous hockey charities and is quick to remind anyone that hockey night in Rochester is still a good time. Gage said, “He said this team means the most. He has the most invested. I'm proud he's going into the Hall of Fame. He's very deserving. I think he's the Godfather of broadcasting. Everyone tries to emulate what he does.
Stevens said, “It made no difference on or off camera, large crowd or presenting an award, I look at Rich as the one to go to in my profession. I'm going to miss him in that respect.”
Robertson said, I'm looking forward to it. It will be great. Rich speaking will be the highlight and it will be a great night.”
Also being inducted into the Amerks 2013 Hall of Fame class, fan favorite Dane Jackson who spent half of his 11-year career with the Rochester Americans, leading the team to a Calder Cup victory in 1996.
Induction ceremonies will be held at the Blue Cross Arena on Friday, February 15.