Avs broadcaster Peter McNab fights cancer on road to Stanley Cup

It’s an avalanche of goosebumps as Colorado roars through the NHL playoffs. But true confession: You know what was a greater honor for me than witnessing Cale Makar’s puck-handling magic?

Watch broadcaster Peter McNab kick the crab kester en route to the Stanley Cup.

“You honestly can’t understand what it’s like to have cancer until you go through it,” McNab said, lowering his voice and leaning in to share secrets from dark, hard days.

“It’s like being an alcoholic what I am. People say, “What, you can’t even have a drink?” They don’t understand that it’s a craving that you have to put up with. But then you talk to another alcoholic and the understanding is there immediately. It’s the same with cancer. I met so many people during chemotherapy and radiation who understood exactly what I was going through without saying a word when even their spouses, for all their love, could never understand what it was like to have cancer.”

McNab was diagnosed in September as the summer drew to a close and refused to stop work. The seriousness of the cancer, which the former University of Denver NHL player claimed, was obvious to anyone who saw it on TV. I don’t know about you, but I gained strength from the determination McNab showed with every word of analysis he uttered about Captain Gabe Landeskog and the Avs.

“It’s a lot easier to watch and talk about hockey than it is to think about your own (stuff). I can’t imagine going through cancer and not being around hockey where a good team is playing well and so many lively people are having fun,” said McNab, who endured 18 weeks of chemotherapy.

“My biggest problem was going to bed and not being able to sleep. This resulted in hours of living inside my own head, which is the last place I wanted to be. There was no place to rest.”

As I rumbled through a darkened door and burst into the Altitude Radio booth high up in the ball arena Saturday night to analyze every boom-goes-the-dynamite moment from Colorado’s 7-0 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, McNab almost ran me over.

I flinched and braced myself for impact. He grinned because nobody loves a big, clean hip swing on the ice more than McNab.

“My favorite player is Darren Helm,” McNab declared, chuckling heartily as he grabbed my elbow with a healthy twist grip. “A helmet hits everything that moves. I think he just beat the Zamboni rider between periods, just for fun!”

Life is short. laugh long. Skate each shift like it’s your last.

“There’s so much talk about cancer, cancer, cancer. And you think: Can it really be that difficult? It was harder than anything I could have imagined,” McNab said. “You say I was this big, strong, athletic guy. Cancer took that away from me. It drained me. So the basis of who you are has been completely destroyed.”

From coffee and donuts while skating in the morning, to Joe Sakic presenting Ray Bourque with the Stanley Cup, to St. Patrick performing between the whistles, to Coach Roy walking out furiously and unannounced at the team, McNab and I were chroniclers of every chapter of Avalanche’s 27-year history.

He is also the top color analyst in the history of Denver sports coverage. Of course, I could be biased because nobody has been more generous in teaching me the nuances of a sport McNab loves.

When he was inducted into the US Hockey Hall of Fame in early December, his brother accepted the award for McNab because he was too ill to attend the ceremony.

“I had a very bad reaction to a round of chemotherapy at the time. I was in the hospital,” McNab said. “And there are two weeks in my life that I don’t remember anything. I still can’t put the pieces of the puzzle together. The time? It’s just gone.”

With encouragement from family and friends, a kindness he can never repay, McNab came out of the dark when his doctor told him his cancer was in remission in February.

“As simple as it sounds, cancer teaches you how fragile life is,” said McNab, who celebrated his 70th birthday in May.

As the Avalanche boarded a plane to Tampa Sunday to sweep the two-time defending champion out of the Stanley Cup Finals, McNab followed the franchise he’s documented on TV and radio from the glory days of Peter Forsberg to that glorious revival , led by Nathan MacKinnon.

Skip the opportunity to climb into the radio booth and tell the story of Colorado’s first championship since 2001?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.