Broadcasting the Bruins: The Men Behind The Mic

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(GIF credits: NESN)

By: Evan Michael | Follow me on Twitter @Evan007onTV

Becoming “the voice” of a sports franchise is a feat and career accomplishment not many ever achieve. But for hockey fans, especially ones in the Hub of Hockey, those particular voices have shaped the foundation of our fandom down to its very core. Whether you grew up cheering on The Kraut Line, rooting throughout the Original Six Era, fighting for the Big Bad Bruins, or counting on the captains from Bourque to Jumbo Joe to Big Z, you instantly associated “your B’s team” with a specific — I’d say even iconic — voice. And when that masterful mouth behind the mic teamed up with a colorful color commentator, it felt like the perfect partnership for a Boston broadcast.

It’s because of these vocal virtuosos that we, as fans, have so many indelible memories of the players and playoffs, home-ice heartbreak and heart-pounding breakaways, great games and even greater game-winning goals. For all of these reasons–and the unforgettable calls, play-by-plays, and catchphrases–let’s pay tribute to the best Bruins broadcasters!

FRANK RYAN: “Welcome to the Carnival of Sports on WHDH!”

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(Photo Credit: “The Boston Garden” by Johnson & Codagnone)

December 1st, 1924 was a momentous day in Boston Bruins broadcasting history as Frank Ryan became the first ever “voice” of the team when he called play-by-play across the WBZ radio airwaves. It was the only game the team would win that month as the B’s beat the Montreal Maroons 2-1. Thankfully, Ryan would have plenty of other chances to broadcast Bruins victories as he kept the calls coming first by himself, then with Leo Egan on WHDH up until 1952 (see above).

Fun Fact: WBZ-TV started airing the 3rd period of all Bruins home games in 1948, with Ryan becoming the first man to do play-by-play for a televised Boston hockey game. He would have called the on-ice video seen in the “Uncle Milty” highlight reel below:

FRED CUSICK: “SCORE! The Bruins win it in Sudden Death overtime!”

For three generations of Bruins fans — and fans of the game, for that matter — Fred Cusick was THEE voice of the team, both on the radio (he succeeded Frank Ryan) and then for the majority of his illustrious career on television–most notably WSBK-TV and then NESN once it started up in the same year Kenny Loggins made all our feet feel loose. Speaking of dance moves, I remember my Dad and late “Grampa Will” always jumping about when the B’s would get a goal and Cusick’s enthusiastic vocals would shout “SCORE” alongside the great Johnny Pierson (a former Bruins’ All-Star player in the 50’s), as you can see/hear below:

While there are countless great games and memorable moments from Bruins history that Cusick called, what made him so intrinsically valuable to the team, the city and the region was his inimitable ability to generate genuine excitement for what he was doing. It didn’t matter if you were listening to him on the radio or watching his broadcast live. What you heard was a once-in-a-lifetime resonance (fitting for a Talking Head, am I right?) that not only pulled you into the thrill of the game, but also the spirit of it. Even when he’d go off subject, as he often did to share in the rich history of the team or the interesting backstory of a player, and Derek Sanderson (his broadcast partner from ’86 up until his retirement in ’97) subsequently had to reel him back into the on-ice action with a “Hey Hey,” Cusick did so with a charismatic enthusiasm that wasn’t distracting but rather engaging.

Fred Derek

(Photo Credit: SI Vault)

His exuberance in the booth could be felt across the AM/FM dial and right through your television screen. As a result, we all have our favorite Fred call that we constantly go back to, talk about and share with others. In fact, how’s this for sharing–Tim Thomas & Tuukka Rask both honored Cusick with an artistic homage on their Winter Classic helmets from 2010. Had he been calling that game, I can guarantee he would have said the following: “Bergeron throws the puck to the net… SCORE! Marco Sturm! And the Bruins win it in Sudden Death overtime!” (with every exclamation point truly worth it. Oops. I mean: !!!!)

(Photo Credits: Boston.com & EyeCandyAir)

In this humble hockey writer’s opinion, Cusick truly is “The Tops” as Mel Torme would say when it comes to Bruins broadcasting–his impressive career spanning five decades and countless accolades and awards, none so more remarkable than his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984 with the first-ever Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, “given to members of the radio and television industry who make outstanding contributions to their profession and the game of ice hockey during their broadcasting career” as it is described. As the below pictures indicate, “legend” and “classic” are two perfect words to describe the man and broadcaster Cusick was and will always be remembered as.

(Photo Credits: Trading Card Database & The Hockey News)

Fun Fact: Cusick and Sanderson called the last ever game at The Boston Garden on September 26, 1995 (I get goosebumps every time I watch the above-linked clip) and the first ever game at The Fleet Center on October 7th, 1995. Additionally, and quite fittingly, the Bruins dedicated their television broadcast booth to Cusick shortly after his passing in 2009, as you can watch below:

BOB WILSON: “OH MY! Listen to this building!”

If there was ever a voice with such booming baritone brilliance that was meant for hockey, then it “B”-longed to the late, great Bob Wilson. A Mass man all his life, Wilson began his illustrious radio career with the Bruins in the late sixties and became the full-time voice of WBZ the same year the B’s captured their second Stanley Cup of the seventies. Known for his picture-perfect descriptions of the flow of the game–a must for anyone calling hockey via radio–and his uncanny ability to sound like a boxing announcer whenever a Bruins brouhaha broke out on the ice, Wilson instantly earned the adoration and admiration from the fans.

(Photo Credits: The Boston Globe & Stanley Cup of Chowder)

As the very touching tribute from our friends at the Stanley Cup of Chowder (linked above) describes, Wilson was truly a superhero in the field of broadcasting, which is why it makes perfect sense that his album of play-by-play highlights about the team was titled “The Avengers”–eat your heart out Marvel. And you better believe fellow broadcasters did indeed “marvel” at his talents, with soon-to-be-mentioned names like Jack Edwards and Dave Goucher respecting the venerable Wilson’s mentorship and friendship more than anything. In fact, you can listen to Goucher tip his Bruins cap to Wilson’s career in the clip below (something Edwards would also do later with an in-game call of “this building is vibrating,” a wonderful wink to Wilson’s similar call I quoted):

Personally, I’ll tip my own B’s cap to the joys of the internet for helping me rediscover why the Bruins game featured below turned out being so special, even though I didn’t realize it at the time. It was May 1st, 1995 and Boston was battling Ottawa at “The Gahhhhden” in a fast-paced, high-scoring affair. But, all this middle-school mind could focus on was how funny it was that Senator’s center Radek Bonk literally bonked consecutive pucks off the post (a dear friend and longtime B’s season ticket holder went with me to another Bonk-filled game a few years later that proved to be more historical than we ever expected). Instead of watching the “Bonks and bruises,” I should have been paying attention to the ESPN 2 booth. If so, I would have witnessed this:

Thank you, Bob Wilson, for showing a young Mike Milbury and Steve Levy “how the pro’s do it,” to use an old sporting adage. OH MY, indeed!

Fun Fact: Like the Bruins, TV booth was dedicated to Fred Cusick, the B’s home radio booth was dedicated to Wilson in 2011, four years before his passing. He was also a recipient of the prestigious, and aforementioned, Foster Hewitt Memorial Award in 1987.

DAVE GOUCHER: “BERGERON! BERGERON! In Game 7 and the Bruins win the series!”

I won’t let anyone who listened to Dave Goucher’s game-winning, game seven, overtime call of Patrice Bergeron’s goal versus the Maple Leafs on 98.5 The Sports Hub back in 2013 tell me it wasn’t one of the most riveting, exciting, bone-chilling-in-the-best-way-possible broadcast moments of a Bruins play in the history of the team. And yes, I’m putting it in the company of Dan Kelly’s Cup-winning call that I featured in one of my earlier Black N’ Gold blogs! But, that’s just how Boston University alum Goucher does things–with puck-calling precision & panache and an animatedly awesome cadence that draws you in and keeps you there throughout the duration of a B’s game.

While so many of us lamented his leaving the Bruins radio booth after 18 seasons last year to be in the TV booth of the upstart Vegas Golden Knights, we also rooted for him because of how much he made us love and root for our hometown team even more. That’s the magic of a hockey mic master–their ability to keep you interested, informed and entertained all at the same time. And it goes without saying, that “Gouch” did all of the above to lasting effect.

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(Photo Credit: Evan Michael)

When we had the pleasure of meeting out here in Los Angeles when he was calling the Bruins-Kings game two Spring’s ago, I was enamored with his generous spirit and friendly conversation. Our paths never crossed when I worked in broadcasting, but that didn’t matter to Dave even during this busy game-day. He took the time to share in stories about the team, life on the road, why he loved calling B’s games and how the team “really needed to pick up the pace in the third period” or else the high-flying Kings could mount a comeback. It’s always refreshing in this industry when people with that amount of talent are also that gentlemanly and professional. I can’t think of a better way to describe Dave, both in person and in the booth, than this. The same can be said for his longtime color commentator Bob Beers, whom you may remember me featuring in this previous post about the “Best Bruins Reunions.”

I think it’s safe to say that similar to the amazing “BERGERON!” call from a few years ago, the above play-by-play moments from Goucher and Beers rank as some of the fandom’s favorites. After all, isn’t that what you live for as a hockey broadcaster–to call a Cup-clinching game, let alone a game 7? Thanks for the microphone memories, Dave!

Dave Goucher Stanley Cup

(Photo Credit: Barstool Sports)

Fun Fact: Goucher was the radio voice of the Providence Bruins when they won the Calder Cup in 1999, one year before he joined the B’s broadcast team. He’d go on to win 4 Associated Press awards for his radio play-by-play work in Beantown.

JACK EDWARDS: “The Bruins, showing HEARTS OF LIONS, have tied it 3-3!”

Sure, I could have quoted Edwards’ epic call of the same play that prominently featured in the Dave Goucher portion of this post–a post that begins with a “graphics interchange format” (GIF in layman’s terms) foreshadowing this exact scenario. But why quote it, when I can just show it to you courtesy of our friends at NESN:

This is one of those unforgettable modern-day moments where the booth camera features footage just as awesome as the on-ice feed, something that rarely ever occurred in the “good ole days” of broadcasting. Here we have Jack Edwards going full-on theatrical crazy (he came from a drama background as this “insanely” titled Buzzfeed article alludes to) right after our pal Patrice scored in that lackluster, boring playoff game versus Toronto. Yes, I’m sarcastic, but I think that’s why the love-’em-or-hate-’em style of Edwards is truly one of my favs. He brings the sarcasm, the wit, the hyperbolic historical allusions and alliterations to the game with the same passion and fervor that he does for his play-by-play. That’s a skill hardly anyone in sports broadcasting has mastered nowadays, and it’s a big reason why I, at least, enjoy listening to and watching his Bruins broadcasts alongside the always on-point (and pocket-squared) Andy Brickley.

Image result for andy brickley jack edwards

(Photo Credit: NESN)

The Jack-and-Brick tandem, at least how I see it, has been nothing short of memorable and entertaining (or nauseating as some critics point out who aren’t into “homerism”) since the duo first paired together at the start of the 2005 season. Back then, the B’s were coming off a near decade-long experiment trying to find the “next team voice” of the post-Cusick era. The franchise higher-ups had Dale Arnold and Dave Shea rotating between two networks AND home/road games, making it a trying time for actually trying to watch the team and enjoy any semblance of rhythm or familiarity in the game-calling (side note: both gents are supremely talented broadcasters who contributed to the on-air success of the team in other ways outside of the play-by-play and color commentary roles).

With that said, Edwards brought a stabilizing force to the booth and acted as the perfect foil to Brickley. In one seat, you had a former B’s player with an astute eye for the game and A+ ability to explain it in real-time very matter-of-factly, and in the other, you had a broadcast veteran with a rambunctiously energetic personality who called plays like a hype man would pump up his talent. They balanced each other nicely, and looks like will continue to do so for the foreseeable future as the Boston Globe points out.

(Photo Credits: Trading Card Database & Twitter)

It’s also quite fun to follow Edwards’ exploits on social media, especially in-game when he posts to Twitter and is soon after spoofed on Twitter, causing many fans to go atwitter after reading the sometimes twit-inspired tweets.

I could go on forever with the above back-and-forth, but I’d rather appreciate the back-and-forth banter between the two current B’s broadcasters, both of whom certainly hope their legacies will one day put them among “the Best” in the Boston booth! And if Edwards continues to defend the Bruins best players, while also keeping a critical eye on his game-calling comrades, then it’s a solid bet he’ll earn straight “A’s” for backing up the “B’s” (sorry Tuukka haters).

Fun Fact: A veteran of Sportscenter, Edwards called games for the 2002 FIFA World Cup splicing in what would become a staple to his hockey on-air repertoire years later–references to patriotic hymns and revolutionary achievements.

All in all, there are countless other names, faces and of course voices who have contributed to the legacy of the Bruins over the years — from studio hosts to rinkside reporters, to expert analysts, to guest commentators. But for those who truly bleed Black N’ Gold, the personalities profiled here share a common Boston bond: they all love the B’s and are beloved for it.

And I couldn’t be happier to broadcast it!

5 thoughts on “Broadcasting the Bruins: The Men Behind The Mic

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