Monday, January 26, 2015

Broadcaster Profile- Jon Rish, Boston College Eagles

I hope you have enjoyed the broadcasters profiled on the blog so far. I began by profiling the radio voices of Hockey East, and then took a look at some broadcasters at the AHL and NHL level while Merrimack was away from league play. With league play now back in session, I will turn my focus back to Hockey East and will begin by spotlighting the voice of Boston College hockey, Jon Rish.

Jon Rish is in his 18th season as the esteemed voice of Boston College hockey on WEEI radio in Boston and has been a huge part of the college hockey scene, not to mention the sports scene in general. A BC alum, Jon began his broadcasting career at WZBC, the Eagles 1000 watt FM radio station broadcasting to the Greater Boston area. He began calling BC hockey in the 1997-98 season before switching to play by play during the 1998-99 season. Jon has also done work for ESPN radio and for many years was paired with Ken Hodge Jr. on BC radio broadcasts. Ken was a former Boston Bruins winger and is now current color analyst for NBC Sports Network's coverage of college hockey.

Jon has covered many notable BC hockey games through the years, including the Beanpot on a yearly basis and Frozen Fenway games and is as crisp and clear with his commentary as anyone I've come across in the business.

Of course, Jon is well known for his work in baseball, too. He has done radio work for the Boston Red Sox on WEEI, working alongside Joe Castiglione and filling in for Dave O'Brien. And this past summer he filled in for Don Orsillo on NESN broadcasts alongside Dennis Eckersley when Don and Jerry Remy were on vacation.

Jon graduated from Boston College in 1994.

I will hope to add some audio of Jon on the call of BC hockey in the very near future, but for now here is a clip of Jon at the mike of a Red Sox-Indians game alongside Jerry Remy:

To tune in to Jon alongside Andy Powers on the call of BC hockey, the games can be heard on 850 AM on the dial, and online at

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Broadcaster Profile- Bob Wilson, Boston Bruins (1964-69, 1971-1994)

My next installment of my broadcaster profiles honors a man who was a true genius and legend behind the mike, who we lost just three days ago. The radio voice of the Boston Bruins, Bob Wilson.

A few weeks back I talked about Fred Cusick, an iconic staple on my love of hockey on the radio and broadcasting the game. Fred was one half of my inspirational role models. The other was Bob Wilson, who did Bruins games on radio for three decades. Bob's booming voice and his passion for the game made you want to listen to every game. A quick history- Bob began his career in the late fifties at WCOP in Boston, breaking in as a DJ. He moved on to WHDH radio, which was back then at 850 on the dial (a spot now occupied by WEEI). He began his Bruins career as an analyst alongside Bill Harrington from 1964-67. He then became the Bruins radio voice in 1967, succeeding Jim Laing. He left Boston for one year- when the Bruins left WHDH for WBZ in 1970- and was not here, unfortunately, for the Bruins Stanley Cup championship in 1970.

However, as we all know, his departure was only temporary. After spending a year in St. Louis at KMOX radio in St. Louis, he came back in 1971 and was reinstalled as the Bruins radio voice when Fred Cusick moved over to TV to replace Don Earle. In his first year back, he called the Bruins championship season in 1972. He would remain as the Bruins radio voice until the 1994-95 season, at which point he retired due to the lockout that year.

Bob had a great reputation in the industry. He was picked by ABC to cover game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals in 1979 between the New York Rangers and the Montreal Canadiens. However since the series ended in five games the game was never played, and Bob never got the chance to call the game- which was scheduled to preempt Wide World of Sports, which was a major program on Saturday afternoons at that time. After retiring he worked part time in New Hampshire on 104.9 FM hosting a music program.

He won the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for excellence in hockey broadcasting in 1987 and is enshrined in the Broadcaster's Wing of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. He was elected to the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007, and the radio booth at the TD Garden in Boston is named in his honor.

Bob impacted so many people positively in this business. Two of my colleagues who I have already featured on this blog, Mike Logan and Ken Cail, have both shared their views with me on how Bob influenced them- Bob was Mike's inspiration to get into the business and Ken worked directly with Bob as a statistician and gave him his first big break in the industry. As for me, Bob was an indelible fixture in my love of hockey. He was the guy I listened to on the transistor radio with the headphone attached late at night when it was past my bedtime under the covers- it had to be that way because if my parents had found me listening the radio would have been taken away. He got me riveted into the game.

As stated earlier, I got to meet all the radio personalities when I worked at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, and when I met Bob and John Bucyk, who were doing the games back then, it was a thrill I just can't describe. Bob could not have been nicer to me. With Bob, it wasn't just a case of him making the game interesting to listen to. He made it FUN. I also loved his passion for calling fights on the ice. The fans loved it. Even though not everybody was a fan of that approach, I thought it really helped me to enjoy the game more.

Here is Bob's classic description off a heartbreaking loss to the Montreal Canadiens in  Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 16, 1978. Bob was paired with Bob Lobel. Included are postgame commentary and a pre-game warmup show for the next game. This will give you an excellent look at the spectrum of Bob/s enormous talent:

And here is a video which shows the dedication of the radio booth at the Garden in his name, complete with commentary from Jack Edwards, the current TV voice of the Bruins.

Thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts on one of the all time greats in this business.

My next feature will be on Boston College's Jon Rish, as we return to spotlighting Hockey East radio voices.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Broadcaster Profile- Ron Weber, Washington Capitals (1974-1997)

Continuing on with the theme as of late, I will stay in the NHL with the next post to highlight another influence on my career, the longtime former voice of the Washington Capitals, Ron Weber, who called Capitals games for 23 seasons on WTOP radio in Washington, D.C. I will be returning back to Hockey East radio broadcasters very soon, as Merrimack gets back into league play on January 21. Following my look at the rest of the Hockey East broadcast voices, I will spotlight the rest of the NHL radio personalities.

I love to tell the story of my experiences in listening to hockey on the radio growing up- sitting at home with an AM radio by my bedside just tuning up the dial from bottom to top listening to radio voices calling the game I love. Getting to the top of the dial for me always meant listening to Ron Weber, who called the Washington Capitals on WTOP AM 1500. Ron was one of my favorites, so much so that he actually turned me into a Capitals fan (a pretty impressive feat, with me living in Boston). To be fair, it was a case of me being a Bruins fan first and a Caps fan second. But his descriptions really helped me to see the game in my minds eye, a skill that is crucial for any broadcaster to have. He also had a very folksy style which was very comfortable to listen to. I remember Ron hosted an in between periods segment called " Capitals Mailbag" in which he selected random letters from listeners and read them on the air. If your letter was selected, you won Caps tickets. He read my letter on the air one night, and I got my tickets. I took an Amtrak train down to Washington D.C. and got to see my game.

I'll never forget the night I met Ron, one of my childhood idols, for the first and only time. I was working for the San Jose Sharks in the early 90's at the old Cow Palace in San Francisco, doing security. My assignment was at the radio and TV area, so I got to meet all of the radio and TV talent from each team. Washington came to town, and I got to see him in action. I talked to him briefly after the game, explained who I was, and how much of a fan I was. To see him up close and personal was a thrill I will always cherish as a memory.

Ron called the first 1936 games of the Capitals existence. He also received the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for excellence in hockey broadcasting and was also inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto. I will never forget the Easter marathon he called against the New York Islanders in 1987, a four overtime game that went well into Easter morning. I had his call on WTOP while simultaneously muting the TV feed (no disrespect meant to the men who called that game on ESPN that night, Mike Emrick and Bill Clement, who were great in their own right).

Ron also did other sports, like the Minnesota Twins of MLB, the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA, the Washington Diplomats of the North American Soccer League, Penn State football and tennis and weightlifting matches. He also covered the 1968 Olympic Games, but hockey was his bread and butter.

I remember listening to him in Calgary one night and he had a major disruption on the air- coffee or some other liquid spilled all over his notes. One of the skills you have to have as a broadcaster is to adjust and adapt to changes quickly, on the go- and he did it perfectly and seamlessly. It is through him I learned to keep calm and adapt in such a way that the audience doesn't even know that there was a problem.

Here is an excellent website with many great clips of Ron's outstanding play by play with the Capitals over the course of his career:

And, here is a brief video of Ron's induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame:

Ron retired in 1998, but his work will always be a major reason why I pushed myself to enter this field and live my boyhood dream.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Broadcaster Profile- Fred Cusick, Boston Bruins TV voice (How it all began for me)

I'd like to continue on with my spotlight of hockey broadcasters with this latest post here at Hockey On the Radio. Merrimack is still a couple of weeks away from returning back to Hockey East play, so I'll continue with the man who was my role model growing up- Fred Cusick, the legendary TV voice of the Boston Bruins who served in that capacity for 27 years. Although this is a blog about hockey radio voices, it's important for me to discuss Fred's impact on my life and decision to enter the field. And it is important to note that Fred also did radio work for the Bruins prior to his time on TV.

Fred Cusick (right) pictured with analyst Derek Sanderson during a Bruins broadcast.

Fred Cusick carved an indelible niche into the Boston sports scene. He served as the voice of the Bruins on TV from 1971 to 1997, on WSBK Channel 38 in Boston and then for two seasons on the Bruins cable carrier, NESN. In total, he covered the Bruins for an amazing 45 years. His career began in 1941 on WCOP in Boston while in his senior year at Northeastern. He played the game at NU, before going into the United States Navy, ultimately reaching the rank of lieutenant in charge of a subchaser. After spending some time in Washington during the Korean War, Fred was named the Bruins radio voice in 1952, a post he would hold until 1963. Also at this time he was the sports director at WEEI in Boston. In 1957 he would become the first broadcaster to call a National Game of the Week when he did so for the CBS network.

It was Fred who was responsible for getting Bruins games on TV, at first doing an experimental broadcast of a Bruins game from the old Boston Garden in 1963, and this led to a long run of broadcasting on WSBK in Boston (TV 38). He became the Bruins radio voice from 1969 to 1971, then switched over to TV when Bob Wilson was brought in. (I'll discuss Bob in a separate post). Fred replaced Don Earle on the telecasts (Don's voice can be heard on the vintage LP album, GOAL BRUINS! of which I still have the original album, since converted to the iPod).

Fred was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984 and was given the Foster Hewitt Memorial Award for excellence in hockey broadcasting (he was the first ever recipient of the award, along with Montreal's Danny Gallivan, Rene Lecavalier, and Hewitt himself). He did the last ever game at the old Garden (an exhibition against Montreal in 1995) and the first ever game at the new Garden (then called the Fleet Center, now the TD Garden) against the New York Islanders, which was broadcast on NESN. He finished his career by calling the Lowell Lock Monsters AHL broadcasts with former Bruins defenseman Brad Park on cable television. He was then posthumously inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

I met Fred on a Saturday afternoon back in the mid to late 70's. The Bruins were playing an afternoon game at the Garden against the Chicago Blackhawks, and back then at the old Garden the broadcast booths were located as such that you could walk over and literally reach out and touch the broadcasters. I went over and introduced myself after the game and asked for his autograph. I am not much of an autograph person in terms of collecting them, and I'll only ask for one if I really have a compelling need to have it as a memory. In fact, I have only gotten two autographs in my whole life, the other being the great Irish ballad singer Tommy Makem.  It was a big deal meeting my role model.

In later years, after I got the radio job at Merrimack in 2005, I got in touch with Fred's daughter Martha in the hopes that I could persuade him to come on the air with me during a game. He accepted- but sadly he fell ill and I was unable to get him on the air. But it was wonderful having the chance to interact with him before he passed away in 2009. I watched him on TV for my entire childhood and emulated and copied his style. It was because of him that I would turn down the volume on my TV set and pretend to be the "voice of the Bruins." Listening to his work highly influenced me to choose broadcasting as a career path.

Here are some goal calls from Fred, teamed with analyst Johnny Peirson on WSBK:

And here is the pre-game intro from Fred and Derek Sanderson prior to the Bruins final game in the old Boston Garden in 1995. Sean McDonough also appears in this clip.

Thanks for stopping by Hockey On the Radio!