It was a typical morning after playing the first night of a sequence of back-to-back games.
I felt a bit hazy getting up on Saturday. There was still some of the exuberance from the previous night’s game, the Nashville Predators 4-3 comeback win over the Washington Capitals. Yet, I was sleepily checking my computer for news just before leaving the room for our production meeting to set up that night’s broadcast in Detroit.
The first inkling that something had happened came in a tweet from the Boston Globe’s Kevin Paul Dupont:
Bob Wilson had been the radio voice of the Boston Bruins from the time I broke into broadcasting until his retirement following the 1994 NHL Lockout. He was blessed with a tremendous, authoritative delivery. He described the play of Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Wayne Cashman, Gerry Cheevers, Brad Park, Ray Bourque and Cam Neely. This is Bob Wilson at his best, working with WBZ “Calling All Sports” host Bob Lobel during the 1978 Stanley Cup Final with Montreal:
Before the Bruins named the home radio booth at TD Garden in his honor almost four years ago, he was a guest of “Felger and Mazz” on the SportsHub in Boston:
(Listen to the podcast here)
Bob influenced so many young announcers. I would listen to him over the 50,000-watt signal of WBZ Radio many a night – whether I was in South Bend, Indiana, or Buffalo, New York. In those days, he would even take listener calls between periods, talking to people all over the Northeast.
When I was working with Bob Miller on the Los Angeles Kings broadcasts, the Bruins and Kings met four times each season, so I had many opportunities to chat with them (one of the great benefits of my real-life education!). When the Bruins got to Los Angeles, I lived close to the Marriott on Century Boulevard where many of the visiting NHL teams stayed, and we would continue our conversations there.
Bob Wilson was quite the character. Reminiscing about him with long-time Montreal Canadiens and Hockey Night in Canada voice Dick Irvin, I got this story:
“Peter Bronfman was showing some visitors around the Montreal Forum,” Irvin recounted. “He was showing them everything, even the broadcast area. Bob Wilson was already on the air, smoking a cigarette as usual, and as ‘the tour’ lingered in his area, Bob, having no idea what was going on, mumbled: ‘What’s with this guy, does he think he owns the place?’”
Of course, Peter Bronfman DID own the place, as well as many others!
The impact of Bob’s loss is probably best expressed through this blog from a long-time New England listener.
We knew him as “Bob Wilson,” but here is the story of his true identity.
No matter the name, we lost him from the airwaves over 20 years ago, but he had that magic that made him seem as if he was a good friend, talking to you alone, from the first time you tuned in one of his broadcasts. One of the early winners of the Foster Hewitt Award, given to broadcasters by the Hockey Hall of Fame, Bob Wilson was one of the best!