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Announcers cross-checked by NHL lockout

Someday, after the NHL lockout ends, there will be stories to tell about how this hockey hiatus changed the direction of people's careers. Because things will never be the same.

For example, the previous NHL work stoppage -- a 103-day standoff that ended in 1995 -- set in motion a chain of events that resulted in Dale Arnold becoming NESN's play-by-play announcer for Bruins home telecasts.

When that lockout ended, Hall of Fame announcer Bob Wilson, then the Bruins' radio voice, decided he didn't want to come back. "He had discovered it was more enjoyable being at home," said Arnold. "At the time, WEEI [850 AM] had the rights, and I got the job on short notice for the rest of the year."

At the end of the season, Boston Garden closed. Fred Cusick, also a Hall of Fame broadcaster, took one look at the TV broadcast booth in the new FleetCenter's uppermost level, and decided it was a good time for him to retire, too.

Arnold moved to the TV job, an assignment that evolved into doing just the home games -- the perfect second job for seven months a year. "If I'd stayed with radio, I wouldn't have been able to do the talk show, work for two stations, and do all the travel," he said.

The talk show job has evolved into Arnold being the cohost of WEEI's highly successful "Dale & Neumy" (Bob Neumeier) midday show.

Arnold considers himself one of the lucky ones in the world of hockey announcing. "I've got a day job that pays the bills," he said. "My NESN work, which I love, has been for the education fund [he has a son at Bowdoin and a daughter in a Catholic high school]. I really don't think the players get the big picture in all this, all the people around the game who are losing work."

Without Arnold's second income, for example, his wife has gone back to work.

Elsewhere among the Bruins' announcing rosters, lives have changed even more drastically, especially for the NESN "road team" of Andy Brickley and Dave Shea.

"We're hockey lifers," said Brickley. "This [lockout] has taken away our bread and butter. It's difficult for Dave [Shea] or me to commit to another occupation. We have to find a certain type of employer who can accommodate the schedule being disrupted when we travel. Dale and [NESN game analyst] Gordie [Kluzak] can have a primary occupation because they work home games almost exclusively."

"There aren't many places that will hire you and let you miss 80-odd days to be off calling games," echoed Shea, who took a double hit when his publication, The Hockey Magazine, went under after advertising dried up in advance of the impending lockout.

These days, his wife is back to work as well, and he's selling cars at South Shore Volkswagen in Hanover to make ends meet while calling the occasional college game for NESN and AHL game for Cox cable in Rhode Island.

"The problem with the time is that [the NHL] didn't make the lockout official until Sept. 15," said Shea. "By that time, all the college and AHL jobs were filled."

Shea remembers the last time the league returned from a labor dispute. "We came back with a Sunday night game on Jan. 23 in New York," he said. "I did that one with Fred [Cusick] and Derek [Sanderson]. A Jan. 23 resumption this time would be a good thing for us."

Brickley is doing some college games, appearances, and house-husbanding, while remaining optimistic that hockey is going to return soon.

Arnold empathizes with Shea and Brickley. "I feel for those guys and I feel for the people around the team who rely on FleetCenter events for their livelihoods," he said. "How about the security guy at the FleetCenter who is using the extra money for his kids' educations, or the waitresses and restaurant employees in the area? They took a huge hit during the Democratic National Convention. Now it looks as if it will be worse this winter."

Dave Goucher, the radio play-by-play man on WBZ (1030 AM), has been doing other work at the station this fall, filling in for Gil Santos on sports reports the morning after Patriots games and filling in for Tom Cuddy on Friday afternoons. "I consider myself extremely fortunate, because 'BZ found some things for me to do. It's given me an opportunity to be as versatile as possible," said Goucher, who reported on the Red Sox' postseason run and coanchored the station's Sox parade coverage with morning news anchor Gary Lapierre.

"It's a natural fit for him to do some reporting," said WBZ radio general manager Ted Jordan, whose operation took a hit with the lockout but a far worse one with the death of talk host/icon David Brudnoy last week.

The lockout didn't look so bad back in September, when Jordan said, "Even though I'm going to miss the Bruins horribly -- they're the best sports partners I've had in my radio career -- we've got the best talk host in America in David, who now won't have to step aside on Bruin game nights."

Former Bruin Bob Beers, the radio analyst for game broadcasts the past seven seasons, is "helping out at home" and coaching a couple of teams, including his 11-year-old son's. "For a guy who's not working, I'm pretty busy," he said. "The [Bruins] alumni team has had a lot of games, and I'm hoping to start learning some more about the radio business at WBZ soon.

"Ultimately, though, we've got to get back to some hockey," said Beers, who finished his playing career in 1996-97 and moved to the broadcast booth alongside Neumeier the following season.

Kluzak, meanwhile, has been working at his "real" job, as vice president of the private wealth management group at Goldman Sachs. "It's been so busy I don't know what I'd do if I had to call some games, but I hope to find out in January," he said.

Then the story will be how fans react.

"At some point, the players are going to come back and be shocked at the animosity they'll face," said Arnold. "Even the people who show up to watch will be mad. The question is whether the players will grasp that."

Not buying it

Good fights are all about good matchups, and boxing fans definitely weren't interested in last Saturday's Vitali Klitschko-Danny Williams heavyweight bout, which generated only 120,000 pay-par-view "buys," about the same number as the Nov. 13 "Night of Heavyweights" card. In contrast, the May 15 Antonio Tarver-Roy Jones Jr. light heavyweight rematch drew 360,000 PPV buys. "We're disappointed," said Ross Greenburg, president of HBO Sports. "We realize that the heavyweight division needs to be reenergized in 2005, and boxing needs a unified heavyweight champion to be recognized by the public as `The Man.' " HBO will reair Klitschko-Williams tomorrow at 9 p.m. as part of a telecast headlined by a live bout between Tarver and fellow Jones conqueror Glen Johnson . . . "Playbook" on The NFL Network tonight at 8 will preview Monday's Patriots-Dolphins game and speculate on what the pending departure of Charlie Weis will mean for the New England offense . . . Tomorrow's "Patriots All-Access" (Channel 5, 11 a.m. and 7 p.m.) will feature Tom Brady pulling a practical joke on his offensive linemen, and Melana Scantlin joining several of those linemen as they attempt to prepare a holiday dinner, with a visit from Santa. On the serious side, the show's cameras go behind the scenes on a road trip, show a game ball presentation to Corey Dillon following Sunday's victory over the Bengals, and have coach Bill Belichick diagramming the strengths of the Dolphins' pass defense . . . College Sports Television this week announced carriage agreements with both Charter and Cox cable systems, putting the network in more than 65 million homes when added to existing deals with Comcast, Adelphia, Time Warner, and DirecTV . . . Comcast and NBA TV have a Video on Demand agreement that's added nightly NBA highlights to the cable company's VOD service . . . Bernie Corbett, in his 20th season as the voice of Boston University hockey, saw his streak of 684 consecutive games end last Saturday. Corbett and Paul Simpson were in New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation as part of a book project . . . "3," an ESPN movie about racing legend Dale Earnhardt that premiered last Saturday night, is the best of the network's original movies, a series that began with "A Season on the Brink" (Bobby Knight), then continued with "Junction Boys" (Bear Bryant) and "Hustle" (Pete Rose). The movie captured Earnhardt's drive to succeed and accurately portrayed the history of NASCAR, but didn't depict how an Earnhardt charge could bring 60,000 spectators to their feet in unison, a phenomenon I experienced in the grandstand at New Hampshire International Speedway. The debut showing did a strong 3.4 rating in Boston and an even more impressive 5.0 nationally. 

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