By Joe Beare, student correspondent
Longtime fans of the Black & Gold remember Fred Cusick as the television voice of the Boston Bruins from 1971-1997.
Cusick called all the on-ice action for 44 years as both a radio and television play-by-play announcer and eventually became the first American born broadcaster inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
In 1988, he received the Lester Patrick Award for outstanding contributions to hockey in the United States, and has recently added an in-depth autobiography to his long list of accomplishments. Aptly titled, Fred Cusick: Voice of the Bruins
, Cusick details the players, moments and memories that made his six decades in Boston sports extraordinary.
Recently, Bostonbruins.com sat down with Fred Cusick during season ticket holder shopping night at the TD Banknorth Garden's Bruins Pro Shop to discuss his new book, his time with the Bruins, and his thoughts on the future of the club.
Cusick’s new book grew from a series of letters.
“I was writing notes to my grandchildren to tell them how I got in the business, and then I read a book about the Boston Bruins that wasn’t too accurate and wasn’t too funny," he said. "I figured I could do just as good a job if not better.”
From there, Cusick put in a few phone calls to pitch the idea, and the groundwork was laid for his insightful autobiography.
“That was kind of an opening…they put it together, gave me an editor, and with the help of my children I was able to do it,” said Cusick.
Fred Cusick first went to work for the Bruins as a radio broadcaster in 1952 and shortly before he moved to television, the Bruins began establishing themselves as a powerhouse, finally ending a 29-year Stanley Cup drought in the spring of 1970.
Cusick recalls the 1970 championship as his fondest Bruins memory.
“The highlight has to be the Orr goal…it was absolutely fabulous because throughout that season, and particularly the next season, they just stomped through the league, walked away with all the records, points, goals, the whole thing,” he said.
The Bruins would add another Stanley Cup championship in the 1971-1972 season, Cusick’s first of 26 famous years as the voice of Bruins television.
Like most Bruins fans, and fans throughout the National Hockey League, Cusick was awestruck by the on ice performance delivered by Bobby Orr night in and night out.
The author dedicated an entire chapter of his book to the legendary, smooth-skating defenseman.
"I don’t think anybody could equal Bobby Orr, or what he could do with a game,” said Cusick. “The manner in which he controlled the game, if his team was shorthanded he could control the play for practically the whole two minutes.”
Although Orr was famous for rushing the puck and creating plays rather than finishing them, a hat trick he scored in Toronto stands out as Cusick’s favorite Bobby Orr moment.
“[Bobby's] mother seldom went, but she went to that game," explained Cusick. "He scored three goals.
"His usual pattern was to make a great rush, and set up someone else, usually (Phil Esposito). But this game he scored three himself, I think in honor of his mother being there.
"You always felt he could move up to that next level,” he said.
As the Bruins of the early 1970s dominated on the ice, Cusick was no stranger to personal accomplishments of his own. In 1984, he became the first American broadcaster inducted in to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
“That was great, that was the first time they started it for broadcasters, for press," said Cusick. "I was the first American broadcaster, and that was quite an honor.”
Though he has watched the game morph through countless changes and phases, Cusick remains an avid hockey fan, though the post-lockout rule changes, he feels, are acquired tastes -- but are growing on him.
“I thought maybe they took out the fighting, the tough part of it," said Cusick. "But I saw a game the other night, it was a real battle. Pittsburgh and Washington, it was a great game. That’s what hockey is all about. It is great, that talent.”
But when asked about the shootout, his feelings are still mixed.
“I’m getting to appreciate it, although I thought a tie was alright, give them a point each, play right down to the wire,” he said.
Cusick deeply appreciates what it meant to be an integral part of Boston sports culture for so many years.
“If you want to talk about hockey, New England was long established, even before Bobby Orr," said Cusick. "I did 4 years of CBS television, game of the week, and we went head to head with NBC’s basketball, and out-rated basketball three to one, regardless of what teams were playing."
"This is hockey country. I had the pleasure of broadcasting hockey to these very knowledgeable fans.”
And how does the future look for the 2006-07 Boston Bruins through the eyes of Fred Cusick?
“They’ re getting established under the new regime, new players are starting to really gel," he said. "You don’t go anywhere without a goaltender who is not an excellent goaltender, that’s the key I think, and this team has two that can do it.”
Fred also likes what he sees between Glen Murray and new addition Marc Savard
“It’s very important [to have a marquee centerman] for scoring wingers,” says Cusick.
Through a lifetime of achievements, recognition and honors, it seems as though Fred Cusick has only one area to improve upon: His golf game.
“No distance,” he remarked, dryly. “I hit the ball straight, but not far.”
However, Bruins faithful will forever recall his passionate play-by-play, regardless of any shortcomings on the green.
Joe Beare is a student at Northeastern University