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Carchidi: Retiring Coatesy Part of Iconic Philly Broadcast Duo

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Steve Coates' behind-the-scenes stories made him a Flyers treasure on radio and TV broadcasts. Photo: AP.

Steve Coates, who announced Friday he was retiring after the season, and Tim Saunders aren’t just informative Philadelphia Flyers broadcasters.

They are also one of the funniest radio duos in Philadelphia sports history.

Sample:

Three years ago, Coates — better known as Coatesy — was playfully describing Washington’s bullish Alex Ovechkin, who was pushing around the Flyers and getting off shots with ease.

Coates: “He’s built like me.”

Saunders: “Yeah, he has two arms and two legs.”

Cue the rim shot.

And so it went. One liners after one liners, with the game sprinkled in between. They make listening to Philadelphia Flyers games fun, enjoyable, unpredictable — it has nothing to do with the team on the ice, but rather their unparalleled chemistry in the radio booth.

“Coatesy and I got along famously, right from the get-go,” Saunders said on Friday.

Similar humor

Saunders said working with his Toronto-native partner is easy because they have a “similar sense of humor, and he put me under his wing from the beginning and made sure that I didn’t fail.”

“We always had the approach that, ‘God, if you can’t have fun at this job, then there’s something wrong with you,’ ” said Saunders, who has been broadcasting Flyers games for 25 years.  “And if it’s not fun to listen to us, why would anyone listen?”

Sample II:

Four years ago, Coates told listeners he was at Toronto’s parade after his Maple Leafs won their last Stanley Cup in 1967.

Saunders: “Were you in third grade?”

Coates: “No, I was 17.”

Saunders (without skipping a beat): “So you were in fourth grade.”

This has been typical of the in-game dialogue between the two, which has helped make listeners (briefly) forget the Flyers’ struggles.

“We can bust each other’s chops without fear of offending each other,” Saunders said. “I kid about his career and anything I can think of, and he doesn’t get pissed about it.”

Brutally honest

Coates, 72, isn’t just funny; he is honest. Brutally honest.

When the Flyers fell behind early in what turned out to be a 6-1 loss to Buffalo a couple years ago, Coates was on point: “Can someone go down to the bench and tell the Flyers this game has started?” he wondered.

His frankness and his amusing stories have made him highly popular among Flyers fans, enabling him to last 43 years doing either radio or TV for the franchise. He joined Gene Hart in the radio booth in 1980. Four years later, he served as a studio host for Flyers telecasts, and later spent 16 seasons as a member of the TV broadcast team before going back to radio as a color commentator for the last nine years.

While he’s stepping down, the Flyers said he will be active in some team and alumni events after this season.

Coates, who will be honored before the Flyers’ home game against Buffalo on April 1, said the organization is “unlike any other in professional sports.” He said it has “truly been my honor” to be a part of things for four-plus decades.

“This organization has given me a home and a family,” he said. “It has led me to forge lifetime relationships, and the very best of friendships with everyone I’ve had the privilege to work with along the way.”

He added that “none of this would have been possible without the incredible community of Flyers fans that I have met, and continue to meet, every single day.”

Coates, who played in the Flyers’ farm system with some players who became Stanley Cup champions, said the fans are the “heartbeat of this team, and I thank you for welcoming me into your lives.”

It was difficult not to welcome him. He was always engaging, and he seamlessly connected with people. And he never took himself too seriously — like when he told on-air tales about his brief stint with the Detroit Red Wings in the 1976-77 season.

Coates had pulled his groin, and told his coach he couldn’t play in one particular game.

Needed a body

But the Red Wings were short of players. Coates was told they just needed a body on the bench, and he would only be used in an emergency.

Sure enough, Coates was put on the ice for a shift, and the puck quickly came his way. No one was in front of him except the opposing goaltender. He had a clear-cut breakaway.

Coates, a right winger, took a couple strides, and his groin went out. He couldn’t go in on his breakaway. The crowd gasped as he fell down, dumped the puck into the corner, and hobbled to the bench.

His moment of glory was gone. Saunders likes to bring up the infamous breakaway on the air. Coates chimes right in, embellishing the story for all it’s worth.

“He’s a good sport,” Saunders said. “We’ve had a lot of fun together and it’s going to be hard to recreate it without him.”

The Flyers say they will name a replacement in the summer.

Whoever is hired, he/she will have a tough act to follow because the man built like Ovechkin (!!) is an original who can spin a story with the best of them.

Flyers-Red Wings matinee

The Flyers (27-32-12) host fading Detroit (31-31-9) on Saturday at 1 p.m. The game is on NBC Sports Philadelphia. The Flyers are trying to extend their points streak to five games, and attempting to sweep the three-game season series with the Red Wings. Detroit is in a 3-10-1 skid. Pick: Flyers: 3-2.

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