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Chico Resch: The Beloved Color Commentator of the New Jersey Devils

Chico Resch, also known as Glenn Resch, will be honored tonight before tonight's New Jersey Devils game against the Dallas Stars. Before that game, I have a few words about the former goalie and beloved color commentator for so many years.

I changed the picture to one from Chico himself at Chico Resch Night.
I changed the picture to one from Chico himself at Chico Resch Night.
Bruce Bennett

The sign of a good nickname is that it replaces the actual name of the person it references.  Just look at Glenn Resch.  You can call him Glenn Resch.  That is indeed the name he was given at birth.  It is the name listed in profiles, records, and contracts.  It's his legal name.  But very few people call him Glenn Resch.  You, I, the thousands of Devils fans, and the larger hockey community know him better as Chico.   Yes, Chico.  The spry man from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan was given a nickname based on the Mexican-American main character played by Freddie Prinze in the 1970s TV show, Chico and The Man.   Because of the resemblance, namely the mustache.  Seriously, the mustache. And, yes, even his Wikipedia page lists him as Chico Resch, not Glenn. That's the hallmark of a quality nickname.

But Chico was more than just a guy who played for a bit and found his way into broadcasting for seemingly forever.   Let's consider Chico as a player.

A scan through his player page at Hockey-Reference is quite educational. He was one of the first good Islander goaltenders before a man named Billy Smith came on the scene.  Chico would earn one of those four Stanley Cups - the first one.  He was traded to Colorado, though, as he was secondary to Smith. He played for the Colorado Rockies and, later, the New Jersey Devils.   He's a tie back to those bad old days when the Devils were known more for losing games and not being difficult competitors.  He can speak to how much better things are now because he played behind some really crummy teams. He experienced the move, which I'm sure wasn't totally felt like a safe bet in New Jersey at the time given the franchise was in its second relocation.  He had to be an important player - to the fans and the organization - in spite of how poorly the team usually played.   It's a pool of experience that is only getting smaller.  Chico played until he was 37, which is a good long career for a goaltender in general - nevermind in the 1970s and 1980s.

What shocked me was how much credit he got back then.  He made three appearances in the NHL All-Star Game and was named twice to the NHL's All Star second team.  The first team in both 1976 and 1979 was Ken Dryden, which is a pretty good player .  Hockey Reference has full votes for trophies even in those days and it's mind boggling to me that Chico got votes for the Vezina - the Vezina - with the Devils - the really bad Devils.  And, one season, votes for the Hart! It was the early 1980s and so a save percentage in the high 80s was actually common.  So his numbers were considered, at least by some GMs, to be not pitiful.  Especially on some really bad teams.  Chico would win one individual trophy.   He received the 1982 Bill Masterson Trophy.   Based on the brief description at Legends of Hockey as to why he won it, he got it for trying his best on a really, really bad hockey team.

Nevertheless, this all tells me that Chico was a pretty well regarded goaltender in that era.  That's rather impressive for a 5'9" goalie playing at a time where goalies closer to soccer goalkeepers than the goalies of today, someone who wasn't drafted, and made noise in hockey first by playing at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.  He was not just some guy, all signs point to him being, well, good.  He was even featured on Hockey Night in Canada in a segment where he was mic'd up.   And, yes, the voice over is who you think it is:

It would be a while before Chico would come back to New Jersey via the Fox Sports Network and join the man behind that voiceover.  He dabbled in TV for a bit, did some managing and coaching, but it was in 1996 that Chico would begin cement himself.  He was hired as the color commentator alongside play-by-play announcer, Dr. Mike Emrick.  It would begin a beautiful relationship that sweetened the ears of those watching games on FSNY and later MSG until 2011.  Chico would stay on as the color commentator for another three years.

Chico didn't work as a color commentator because he was necessarily prepared, even though he was, and because he provided some real insight to the game, which he did sometimes.  What made Chico work was his enthusiasm.  He may come across as a homer but he would never shy from that.  He even admitted it at times, be it for the team or goaltenders in general.  I mean, he was a former goaltender, so it wasn't a total shock that he seemingly defended goaltenders first and asked questions later.  Usually from a replay that not-uncommonly began with "Ooooh, Doc, I got to take another look at that" or "Oh, I see. That's how it went in."   But Chico was genuinely into the game and into the Devils.   He was legitimately a positive person.  The sort of fellow who, if he was on Twitter, would use the hashtag blessed and actually mean it (it is normally mocked online).   What matters most from a color commentator may vary from viewer to viewer.  But among all critiques, few fault his enthusiasm because it was authentic.

Because of that, it's hard to really dislike the guy.  From anecdotal examples I've read and heard over the years, Chico will not just talk but have conversations with fans and others.  His calls would be quirky, but he would play off of Doc perfectly.  Though it helped that he was the GAOAT (Greatest Announcer of All Time).   But when Chico said something glorious, it would stick in your head.  Let me recall a few examples.   For starters, he once went on about visiting a small town in the praries of Canada and when Doc said, "It must have been lovely, right;" Chico dropped the ice-burn of "'s got a lake."   He had a tale about Petr Sykora's chinchilla that is sadly not available online but those who recall it know it was just all over the place.  There was the time he listed how he liked chicken wraps and turkey wraps, but then there's Clarkson wraps.  (I know, David Clarkson going for a wraparound, always a surprise.)  His praising of the pulled pork sandwich at the Habana Grill during a Devils-Flyers game (Devils were gloriously thrashing the Flyers) led to the fantastic segment Chico Eats.   And I pretty much have to embed a video from that series.

At the end of the segment, Chico said he would do every concession stand.  And they did - even going out to Newark Penn Station for the popcorn with Doc, who loves the stuff.  I even have a t-shirt - the original t-shirt - for Chico Eats.   And, he was aware of what others thought of the team and had a rare moment of sarcasm. Of course, given Chico's nature, he couldn't be that critical for long.

Yes, Chico would get names wrong.  Sometimes, blurt out a wrong word or miss something he's seeing.   His phrasing at times, especially in the later years, was a mix between comical and sigh-inducing.  It was hard to get mad about any of that.  At least, I never could be mad at Chico.  The common description of Chico as a color commentator was that he was like a friendly uncle.  He's got good stories, he's sometimes a bit confused, but he's generally someone you want to be around.  I think that's an accurate description.  Given his real charisma, it's hard to really dislike him.  I can agree that he was right to retire - and I'm glad he did it on his own terms. (And on the day of his final broadcast, he still tells a funny, self-deprecating tale.) I can sort of understand if you haven't been watching many games with him or have done so in recent years.

But for those fans like me who really grew up with the team, my ideal duo is Doc & Chico.  Sure, there could be more analytical color commentators but that pairing just feels so right.  They add to the experience of watching a game; they're not just calling and reacting to what they see.  I don't know how else to describe it.   If you don't know and you're watching at home, you'll get a taste of that.

The good feelings for Chico aren't just among those who have listened to him a lot.  The organization certainly appreciates that he was a broadcaster for close to 18 years with the team.   They held a private dinner and, according to the team's Twitter account, gave him a boat. Yes, a boat.  Gifts say a lot by themselves; then there are ones that say much more: like a boat.    For someone who didn't know why he was getting a day, I'm sure the evening, the dinner, and the nautical vehicle he now owns spoke volumes of how well regarded he is by the team.

Chico will get his say at the Rock tonight.  According to Tom Gulitti, he will try his best to cram his five-minute speech into six minutes (OK, a joke) and do something unique.  Whatever it is, he will be given the proper ovation.  He was just as much part of the team's history, back when he was a player during the "dark ages" and as a broadcaster when the times were much, much better.

Thank you, Chico.