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Cusick skates into an elite circle

Former Bruins announcer Fred Cusick is being honored for his long-term contributions to the television industry. Cusick is one of five to be inducted into the Silver Circle (25 years of service) by the New England chapter of the National Television Academy (the Emmy people) Thursday at the Harvard Club. Cusick joins meteorologist Harvey Leonard (WCVB), Paul Toomey (WBZ), Patrice Wood (WJAR), and Glenn Laxton (WPRI) in the 11th year of Silver Circle inductions. In addition, two other New Englanders -- weatherman Don Kent and former WNAC executive Bill Hahn -- become the chapter's first Gold Circle honorees, in recognition of 50 years of outstanding work.

Cusick came up just short of one of those gold rings, with 44 years of calling Bruins games, plus six more in his "retirement" job of calling AHL hockey.

"No one has done more to promote hockey coverage in New England than Fred Cusick," said Timothy Egan, vice president of the chapter.

Cusick has called hockey games from the 1950s until 2003, and literally put Bruins games on local TV in the 1960s by driving overnight from Montreal to Manchester, N.H., with "Hockey Night in Canada" game tapes on weeks when the team was featured. Cusick then would do a voiceover for local audiences on the delayed broadcasts. It shows how far the industry and technology evolved -- and Cusick along with it -- during the past half-century.

Cusick turned 85 last Friday and still works out three times a week ("Nautilus and treadmill") -- and golfs a lot more often than that. "Missed shooting my age by two shots a while back," he lamented, "but I'm hoping to accomplish it again this winter in Florida." Of course, he already accomplished the feat twice, as a youngster of 78.

He remains an unabashed hockey advocate.

"We have eight AHL teams in New England now," said Cusick. "You don't see that kind of minor league activity in basketball or football, just in hockey and baseball. If I get the chance to make a little speech Thursday, I'll tell the folks how the Boston Olympics used to sell out the Garden for hockey on Sunday afternoons, and then the Bruins would do the same thing at night. That was before the fire laws made it a 13,909 capacity. They'd have two crowds of 16,000 -- meaning 32,000 watch hockey for the day. That was in the days when the Sox and Braves rarely filled more than half their seats, and the Redskins [pro football] were lucky to draw 8,000. Basketball? There was no pro basketball."

Fiery words

You'll have to pardon Dale Arnold if he doesn't send condolences to Mike Keenan, who was fired as Florida Panthers coach Sunday. During his stint as Bruins coach, Keenan had words with Arnold and threatened to have the NESN play-by-play man fired. A Bruins official confirmed the clash, but also said Arnold was told at the time that not only was his job safe but that he'd be around a lot longer than Keenan . . . NESN, meanwhile, has made its trio a foursome. Former NHL referee Paul Stewart is joining the pregame/postgame rotation with Rick Middleton, Cam Neely, and Barry Pederson. Stewart's first scheduled on-air date is for Saturday's Bruins-Canucks game (NESN, 7 p.m.). But there's no pregame show that night because the network is airing Boston College-Rutgers football at 3:30 p.m.

Booming voice

CBS analyst Boomer Esiason told WEEI's "Dennis and Callahan" listeners yesterday that Sunday's Patriots-Cowboys matchup (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.) shapes up as the "Game of the Year so far." Channel 4 will air a combination "5th Quarter/Sports Final" immediately after the game . . . ESPN was beset by the always-feared "technical difficulties" just as Sunday night's Rams-Ravens game started, limiting the number of available cameras and knocking out graphic and replay ability for about half of the first quarter. The Ravens' Ray Lewis was wired -- in more ways than one -- giving ESPN viewers a lesson in emotional intensity during the telecast . . . The Globe's "Sportsplus" will be on live from The Place (NESN, 7:30 p.m.) Thursday with Bob Ryan and Ron Borges talking about Sunday's "Bill Bowl." . . . Reader Ray writes: "Al Michaels thought it was unfair that CBS and Fox can change games around in order to bring a more appealing (i.e. more ad revenue) game to a given audience, but that ABC didn't have that luxury. Well, since they own ESPN, why don't they switch Sunday night's game with next Monday night's game? Not as many people will watch Pittsburgh at San Francisco as will watch the 2 Dollar Bills, right?" CBS jumped ship from Dolphins-Titans Sunday, picking up the more competitive Colts-Jaguars.

Footnotes

Sunday's local NFL schedule: Giants-Eagles (Channel 25, 1 p.m.), Packers-Buccaneers (Channel 25, 4:15 p.m.), and Jets-Colts (Channel 4, 4 p.m.) . . . Saturday's college games: Auburn-Georgia (Channel 4, 3:30 p.m.), Purdue-Ohio State (Channel 5, 3:30 p.m.), BYU-Notre Dame (Channel 7, 2:30 p.m.), UMass-Delaware (FSNE, noon) . . . CN8 will follow the Revolution again this week, picking up Friday's MLS semifinal against the Fire in Chicago at 8 p.m. . . . Patriot Ty Law is on ESPN's "SportsCenter" hot seat tomorrow . . . Ready for college basketball? On Thursday, ESPN2 has Memphis-Wake Forest at 7 p.m., followed by Marquette-St. John's in the Coaches vs. Cancer doubleheader in New York.

Bill Griffith's e-mail address is griffith@globe.com

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