Those words, made famous by longtime Detroit Red Wings public address announcer Budd Lynch, echoed throughout the St. Joseph Catholic Church Saturday at his funeral.
Lynch, who was with the Red Wings organization for 63 years, died Tuesday at the age of 95.
“We will all miss him very much, but if we listen very, very carefully, we can hear his words right now in echoing in Heaven,” said Janice Ruffino, the eldest of Lynch’s six daughters, as a recording of his iconic phrase was played over the church’s sound system.
More than 300 family members, friends and fans attended, including retired Red Wing great Gordie Howe and team owner Marian Ilitch.
“Budd went into a career that put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame. But most of all, he was a hall of famer to his family, a hall of famer to his friends,” said Deacon Bill Jamieson, who said he has been friends with Lynch for more than 30 years. “It’s a legacy to be imitated.”
Lynch’s casket was wheeled into the church accompanied by a bagpiper. On a table close by sat a framed photo of a smiling Lynch, a glass microphone statue and a bobble head doll of his likeness.
“He was an incredible ambassador for our team,” said Red Wings General Manager Ken Holland after the funeral service. “He loved hockey. For 63 years, he was associated with the Detroit Red Wings and he touched everyone’s life around him.”
Lynch served as the Wings’ announcer since 1985, the same year he received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award from the Hockey Hall of Fame for outstanding contributions as a hockey broadcaster. He was inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2005 and received the Ty Tyson Award for Excellence in Sports Broadcasting issued by the Detroit Sports Broadcasters Association.
Born in Windsor on Aug. 7, 1917, Frank Joseph James Lynch lived in Wyandotte before his family moved to Hamilton, Ontario.
Lynch began his radio career out of high school. He was hired on with Windsor radio giant CKLW in 1939, before he headed off to Europe as a volunteer in the Canadian Army’s Essex Scottish Regiment, an infantry unit.
He was on the shores of Normandy at Juno Beach on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and six weeks later lost his shoulder, scapula and right arm after being hit with a three-inch rocket.
He was part of the WWJ team that first started broadcasting Red Wings games in the 1960s and moved to the team’s publicity office in 1975.
Outside of his involvement with the hockey team, Lynch was known for his work with children and the physically impaired through the Guidance Center, raising money for the Budd Lynch Endowment Fund for Children.
“I never knew him not to make time for young children, amputees, the physically challenged or respectfully acknowledge and pay tribute to an active duty solider or veteran,” said Lynch’s eldest grandson Joe Schimizzi during the service.
Schimizzi also told a story about St. Patrick’s Day 12 years ago when he was a student at Michigan State University. His grandfather called him and invited him to come to the Red Wings game. He agreed to drive to Detroit, but had every intention of heading back to campus for the festivities later in the night.
“Now what actually happened was, the invite to the game that evening was a disguise for me to actually be a designated driver for my youthful, 83-year-old grandfather and (his late wife) Thelma as we went from pub to pub on St. Patrick’s Day — 11 pubs in total that evening,” he said amid laughter.
“Budd Lynch, my grandfather, was the only grandfather who could take an MSU student on St. Patrick’s Day, make me an unannounced designated driver and we had one heck of a time together.”
But most of all, Schimizzi said, the family will remember Lynch for his love of life.
“While some people may remember him for his coined phrase ‘last minute of play in this period’ or ‘he shoots, he scores,’ I will remember him for this phrase that I think so accurately depicts our grandfather: ‘it is a privilege to grow old. Many are denied the privilege.’”
Read more at the Detroit News where this story was originally published.