TAMPA — Rick Peckham set a timeline for himself a few years ago: he’d retire at age 65.
Through last season, as he approached that benchmark, Peckham thought about that timeline. He’ll turn 65 in March, a natural time to hang up the headphones.
The Lightning’s play-by-play announcer will retire after this season. The team announced his decision in an edition of “In their own words,” a recurring segment on the team’s website.
Peckham’s final season will be his 24th with the Lightning, which are only 27 years old. Before Tampa Bay, he spent time with the Hartford Whalers and AHL’s Rochester Americans.
“I’m not going to do this forever,” Peckham said by phone Monday. “You start thinking, ‘When is a good time to get off the train and start doing other things.’”
The announcement went live while Peckham was on a boat, away from his phone. When he got back to land, he had emails, texts and voicemails from friends wishing him well. Peckham heard from friends he hasn’t talked to in while, who aren’t connected to the team or broadcasting but wanted to send their regards.
Fans quickly reacted on Twitter, with versions of “NOOOOOO” and sad gifs (The Office’s Michael Scott being a recurring theme).
Peckham will miss the games, the excitement of watching and reporting what unfolds.
“When we’re announcing a game, that’s sportscasting in its truest form,” he said. “You don’t know what’s going to happen, who is going to win the game. You don’t know who it’s going to turn out.”
That love of the unknown possibilities makes Peckham a sports fan beyond hockey. He’s looking forward to watching more sports.
He already has plans to go to the British Open next July. He wants to see some college football, maybe a regular-season Packers game at Lambeau Field (he’s been to a preseason game).
Everyone once in a while now, when NBC is broadcasting a game, Peckham and wife Vicki, sometimes their oldest son, catch the Lightning from the stands of Amalie.
Peckham won’t be going anywhere after this season. There’s a lot more of that in his future.
“We really enjoy it,” he said of watching games as a fan. “I could see myself enjoying the Lightning that way.”