Everywhere Steve Coates goes, fans want to talk about the Philadelphia Flyers. They shake his hand, take pictures with him and ask for autographs.
When loyal fans think about the Flyers, the Egg Harbor Township resident often comes to mind. The 59-year-old has broadcast Flyers games on radio and television for the last 30 years. He has hosted the popular Coatesy’s Corner segment since 1999.
He has all the qualifications to be Mr. Flyers, even though he has never worn the black and orange uniform.
“I love my job. I love what I do. I love the game,” said Coates, who lives in the Bargaintown section of Egg Harbor Township. “I love the people I work with.”
It’s that kind of infectious attitude that has made him a fan favorite. Coates played briefly in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, but he knew many Flyers players from his minor-league days.
Even though the Flyers are scheduled to play the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals (Chicago leads 2-1) tonight, Coates will not be on the broadcast as he is for every regular-season game on Comcast SportsNet.
NBC and Versus go with their own announcers during the playoffs while Coates and the other CSN broadcasters prepare for pre- and post-game shows on CSN.
The transition has been difficult for Coates. This season, he has been on the ice level between the benches doing in-game broadcasts. Even though he is not in his customary spot during the games now, he still finds ways to enjoy every minute of his fourth Stanley Cup Final.
“It really makes it very hard because then you don’t feel part of it,” Coates said. “It’s like dating someone for a full year and at the very end getting dropped like a hot potato. I have been fortunate to stay downstairs and interact with the players. So that helps.”
Coates spent part of a seven-year minor-league career in the Flyers system, but was traded to Detroit. An injury ended his playing career after he appeared in just five NHL games.
That’s when he got the opportunity to get on air.
When Philadelphia expanded its broadcasts to PRISM with 30 home games, more broadcasters were needed. In 1980, he started as a color commentator on the radio with Pleasantville High School graduate Gene Hart, a Hall of Fame broadcaster who died in 1999.
“I was just thrown into this situation with one of the top broadcasters in the history of hockey,” Coates said. “That’s how I broke in.”
Coates has been with the Flyers ever since — except for the 2004-05 NHL lockout season — and has never thought of leaving.
“I’ve never tried. I’m a local origination,” he said. “There hasn’t been anything for the Flyers broadcast that I haven’t done. I never had an inkling to go anywhere. I’m a Flyers broadcaster.”
Through the broadcasts, he has shown a wide range of emotions, from joy to sadness. His antics and honesty have created a bond with fans, they feel like they know him without ever meeting him.
Live television can be a difficult job with so many small factors that go into the setup and execution. There are no teleprompters and the broadcasters say whatever comes to mind. However, sometimes they have to deal with fans who speak their minds as well.
During a recent live report from a bar in Philadelphia, Coates interviewed a woman about a Flyers playoff win. He asked her what she thought, and she responded with giggles and a curse word.
All part of the job when the fans feel right at home with the long-time broadcaster.
“Coatesy is one of my all-time favorites,” said Mays Landing’s Michael Johnson, 48, a long-time Flyers fan. “You can always feel he will tell you the truth whether good or bad, but he is never against the team. Plus, he has his little show that is fun to watch.”
Coatesy’s Corner started in 1999 and was intended to be funny, controversial and educational. It has been all three over the years and more.
“Before I even got to the team, I liked watching Coatesy’s Corner,” said Flyers forward Darroll Powe. “He’d always be up to something to try to make it entertaining. Coatesy’s kind of around all the time. You watch the interviews and all the stuff for charity events and stuff, you get a chance to know him, and he’s a part of the team.”
Coates moved to Somers Point in 1984 to supplement his income since broadcasting 30 games didn’t pay much. He worked for Paulson Dice & Card Inc., which shut down. Then, he worked for AC Coin & Slot in Pleasantville until he got involved with Trade Images, an architectural millwork and casework company located on Route 40 in Buena, where he is a part owner.
Coates loves both his jobs, but is widely known for his ties with Philadelphia. At times, he has even been called a “Homer.”
Recently, someone called him the the Flyers’ biggest fan.
“I love it,” he said. “I think it’s a compliment.”
The players love having him around. Coates praises their good play and is critical without being degrading. He provides a good balance with his commentary, which is part of the reason he’s beloved by players and fans.
“He means a lot, obviously. He’s been doing TV and radio around here since I started here in the ’80s,” said Philadelphia assistant coach and former player Craig Berube. “He’s great at what he does. I think the fans love him. The players love him. He brings a lot of energy and knowledge to the game. When a guy comes up to you all the time and he’s got a smile on his face and he’s positive, it’s good vibes.”
Staff writer Jason Mazda contributed to this report.
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