I'm not saying this simply because he's now gone, and it's customary in this society to laud the dead. I'm not saying this because I am known as a Basketball Guy, and thus am now choosing to be magnanimous toward the "other" winter sport in these here parts.
I'm saying this because I believe it to be true.
No one I've heard in 45 years of New England residence has ever broadcast anything better than Fred Cusick broadcast hockey. We have been blessed with some great talents, some great voices (Bob Wilson, Gil Santos, to name two whose pipes I'd pay a million bucks for) and some unforgettable characters behind the mike -- you have no idea of Johnny Most's complexity -- but in terms of being one with the subject matter, Fred Cusick was the best. Yes, even better than the cerebral Ned Martin.
Fred Cusick loved hockey. No, he oozed hockey. Better yet, he was a literate man, a thoughtful man and a passionate man. He knew when, and, better yet, how to get excited. He knew what mattered and what didn't. He never oversold the merely good. But, oh boy, could he rise to the occasion.
There was something else. Now this may come off as so much inside baseball, so I ask you to bear with me.
From September 1982 through April 1984 I was a full-time member of the sports staff at WCVB-TV, Channel 5 here in Boston. As such, hockey coverage was a major part of my job. When you and your tape editor are cutting pieces for air, you hope to integrate sound along with the visuals. It was then, and only then, did I come to appreciate Fred Cusick's consummate broadcast genius.
He had total inherent mastery of the game's rhythm. He always knew precisely how to sum up a sequence, however short or long. It was an absolute joy and pleasure to integrate into my "package" (the official TV term) his summary of, say, a flurry culminating in two or three bang-bang saves, a great hit, a picture-perfect goal, whatever.
Fred Cusick would get the final say, and I would come off sounding smart with a two-minute hockey package both Channel 5 and Bob Ryan could be proud of
I hope I thanked him.