The voice of the defending Stanley Cup champions knows what he’ll be doing on the first weekend of August, and it won’t have anything to do with hockey.
“I’ve been texting all my buddies who work on the CFL on TSN saying, I can’t wait to hold my first barbecue by the pool down here and watch ‘Friday Night Football’ from Tampa,” says Dave Randorf.
Randorf is in his first season handling play-by-play duties for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Fox Sports Sun, but back in his home country, he will forever be synonymous with the Canadian Football League. The Vancouver native and Ryerson University graduate spent 14 years as part of TSN’s CFL coverage, calling games in 1999 and 2000 before serving as studio host from 2001 to 2013.
“I know that I still have a lot of followers that are Canadian football fans, and it’s really nice to know that I’m remembered fondly,” Randorf says. “I hosted that show for 12 years, I hosted six Grey Cups, and I’m super proud of my days there when the league was kind of struggling a little bit, we as a group took that and took it to the next level TV-wise.”
Randorf says he remains friends and keeps in touch with everyone from the CFL on TSN. During his host tenure, regular panelists included Jock Climie, Matt Dunigan, Paul LaPolice, Milt Stegall, and the late Chris Schutlz, who passed away in March at age 61 after suffering a heart attack.
“I had a great time with those guys and I miss Chris Schultz dearly,” Randorf says. “Those days are near and dear to my heart.”
There may not have been a happier person in the Tampa Bay area than Randorf when it was announced Monday, June 14) that the CFL will kick off its 2021 season on Aug. 5. Opening night features the Winnipeg Blue Bombers hosting the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in a rematch of the 2019 Grey Cup, which was the last CFL game that took place before the global pandemic wiped out the entire 2020 season.
“It seems like forever since we saw (former Winnipeg quarterback) Chris Streveler and the Bombers win the Grey Cup,” Randorf says. “I can’t believe how long it’s been but I’m really thrilled the Board of Governors approved everything the other day, and we’re going to kick things off in early August.”
Randorf spent the previous six years with Rogers Sportsnet as the play-by-play commentator for nationally telecast NHL games, before being hired by the Lightning to succeed Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster Rick Peckham, who retired in 2020 after 24 years calling Tampa Bay NHL games.
“The whole past six months has been a whirlwind, but it’s been a great ride,” says Randorf. “I’m very grateful and I’m absolutely loving working for this team and this fanbase. On top of everything else, the fans have been super-nice to me. Rick was beloved, and a very important part of their ritual here, so I’m very grateful to be as well-received as I have.”
Tampa Bay is currently taking on the New York Islanders in the semi finals of the Stanley Cup playoffs as the Lightning look to win a second straight championship. The team recently increased its capacity for home games at Amalie Arena to 14,800, the largest number of spectators allowed since the pandemic.
“It is an adjustment to get back into these social situations … but you won’t believe how much you’ve missed that social interaction, and to do that at a CFL football game, to me, that’s the icing on the cake,” says Randorf.
CFL games are set to be the first sporting events to take place before large crowds again in Canada. On Wednesday, June 16 Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe said there will be no attendance restrictions for Saskatchewan Roughriders games at Mosaic Stadium in Regina.
“I think it’s poetic that the Canadian Football League is going to usher in full houses again in some of the great stadiums we have in our country,” says Randorf.
“I can’t wait to see those pictures and I can’t wait to see those communal scenes of people doing the beer snake in Winnipeg and chugging beers in the end zone in Ottawa, and all the madness that goes on in Regina. I can’t wait to see all of that.”
This article is a guest contribution by Edmonton-based reporter Brian Swane. You can follow him on Twitter here.