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Bob Wilson, Forever the Radio Voice of the Bruins

by Caryn Switaj / Boston Bruins - For more than 25 years, when Bruins' fans turned on their radios in anticipation of puck drop, they knew the deep, recognizable voice of Bob Wilson that would welcome them.

On Thursday afternoon, the Bruins' legendary radio personality passed away at 85 from lung cancer.

"On behalf of the Boston Bruins organization, we are saddened to learn of the passing of Bob Wilson," said Bruins President Cam Neely. "For a generation of New England hockey fans, Bob's legendary voice was synonymous with the Bruins and he will always be a part of our club's history. Our thoughts are with Nancy and their children during this difficult time."

Every Bruins' game night, play by play, Wilson's voice would be heard all over New England and beyond, in homes and in cars, when parents would drive their youth hockey players back and forth to their games.

"There was that voice, every night," said Dave Goucher, current play-by-play announcer for the Bruins, who spent many of those nights as a child on his way to games, tuning in. "For me, he was the gold standard."

"That voice. I still have that voice in my head, you know. His ability to convey through his voice the game and the urgency of the game and the big moments in games. He was kind of the 'voice of winter' in New England."

After serving as the voice of the Bruins for more than 25 years, he retired in 1995 and spent the rest of his years in New Hampshire, enjoying time with his family and his wife Nancy, to whom he was married for 64 years.

"He was as smooth as they come," said Goucher, whose seven-year-old self spent many nights enraptured by that voice booming over the radio.

"He was in control, but when the big moment was there, he was able to deliver it. And I think that's what all of us try to do, but not nearly as good as he could do it, that's for sure."

Bruins' legend John "Chief" Bucyk experienced that firsthand, for some 20 years, serving as the color to Wilson's systematic play-by-play.

"He was one of the best," Bucyk recounted. "He was. He called every player by his first and second name, and never missed a beat. A strong voice."

Bucyk may have never ended up on radio, and still cemented in the organization, if Wilson hadn't given him the chance.

"He was the one that gave me the break when I first quit playing," said Bucyk. "I went on and did a couple of games with him and all of a sudden, he asked me if I would stay on with him, which I did - and it turned out really good."

The pair spent a significant amount of together - in and out of the broadcast booth - providing "Chief" with countless memories (and entertaining stories that he'll gladly share with you, off the record).

"But he had a remarkable voice, very strong. It was quite an education working with him, and I'm still really thankful that he gave me that opportunity to do it," said Bucyk.

Wilson's methodical approach still has his longtime partner in awe of his work.

"He called the game as he saw it, but he was fair - I was always just amazed at how he could remember everybody's first and second name," Bucyk said with a smile. "He had a good memory and he worked on it, I give him a lot of credit, he spent a lot of time working on it. He was a very good announcer, one of the best."

When Bucyk was broadcasting with Wilson, he would be careful to not step on his toes, and let Wilson's expert work carry the play. The duo had signals to keep each other on top of the game - like when a timeout was called, or there was a penalty coming, or one minute left in the game.

"We could reach other's minds pretty good," said Bucyk. "We just worked so well together, we had a lot of fun."

Before retiring, Wilson received the 1987 Foster Hewitt Memorial Award, presented by Hockey Hall of Fame and chosen by the NHL Broadcasters Association. Twenty years later, he was inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 2007.

Though Wilson's calls reverberated from the old Boston Garden, nowhere is he better remembered than at the new Garden, where the Bruins' home radio broadcast booth has been dedicated in his honor.

Renamed the "Bob Wilson Radio Booth" on March, 2011, Wilson was on hand at TD Garden as he dropped the ceremonial first puck and saw a plaque installed on the outside of the booth - a silver microphone is encased in a black and gold frame. It is similar to the microphone that was installed in honor of Bruins legendary play-by-play TV broadcaster, Fred Cusick, who passed away in 2009.

On that March night, three months before the Bruins' would recapture another Stanley Cup, Wilson had reflected on a highlight of his career in the booth, calling what was at the time the Bruins' most recent Stanley Cup goal call from 1972. He joined Goucher and Bob Beers in the booth that night during the first intermission.

"He still sounded the same. It was still that voice, and it was so heartening that some things never change," said Goucher.

"I'm happy that the Bruins were able to dedicate the booth to him while he was still here to enjoy it. To be able to have him come here, and see that, you know, that that's going to be his booth and should be his booth."

Goucher remembers the first time he met Wilson, 15 years ago, on the first day of training camp at Ristuccia Arena in Wilmington, Mass. It was his first season in the Bruins' radio booth. He had been listening to that voice on the radio since he was a child, through his years at Boston University, and once he became a professional broadcaster.

He was very nervous. After a brief exchange to begin, Wilson asked him, "What do you think about nicknames during broadcasts?"

"I said, 'I'm not a big fan.' He goes, me neither, which I think was his way of saying, 'Don't use them,'" Goucher laughed.

Wilson's way was the best way, and those like Goucher and Bucyk, who were lucky enough to spend time with him, work with him and listen to him, knew that his voice made the game come alive.

"To me, he's the radio voice of the Bruins," said Goucher. "I'm the guy that currently has the job, if you know what I mean, but to me, at least in my head, he's the radio voice of the Bruins, and I think that's the way it should be."

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