Fred Cusick, who called Bruins games for more than 40 years, died today, on the eve of his induction into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame. The following is a recent interview the Globe’s Emily Sweeney conducted with the hockey broadcasting legend.
Q: Can you tell me about your very first broadcasting job? Where did you work, and what was it like?
Cusick: My first broadcasting job was working at WCOP — a 250-watt radio station located in the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston. The studio and offices were in a few rooms in the mezzanine of the hotel. The news ticker was in the bathtub of the men’s room. I was a senior at Northeastern University. That was in 1941. I talked my way into hosting a nightly sportscast based on my hockey career and public speaking contest wins at Northeastern. I didn’t get paid, but I did get passes to Fenway Park and Braves Field, which was compensation enough.
Q: I read that you became the voice of the Bruins in 1952. How did you land that job?
Cusick: After I served in the Navy during World War II, I came back to Massachusetts and worked for WOCB on Cape Cod, WBET in Brockton, and WVOM in Brookline. At VOM I created a successful program — The Irish Hour — and broadcast just about every sport imaginable — with an emphasis on hockey — which included high school, college, and the Boston Olympics. I met Walter Brown, the Bruins president. When Frank Ryan, the Bruins broadcaster, decided to retire I contacted Brown for the job and because of my hockey broadcasting background became a leading candidate. With former Bruins player Jack Crawford as the analyst, I started my Bruins play-by-play career on WHDH in 1952.
Q: How long have you lived in Barnstable? Where did you live before that? Have you always called Massachusetts home?
Cusick: I have lived in the Barnstable area year round since 1973. My wife Barbara and I and our family spent many summers here before we moved down full time –- both Barbara and I were avid golfers. In fact I met my wife on Cape Cod in 1946 when I was working at WOCB. Except for the war and a brief stint in Washington in the early 1950s (Korean War), I have always called Massachusetts home. I was born in Brighton. My parents were Irish immigrants.
Q: Can you tell me a couple of your favorite memories from your broadcasting career?
Cusick: Calling Cam Neely’s 1993-94 season was a highlight. He scored 50 goals in just 44 games due in part to his hard-hitting, aggressive play. The Bruins 1970 Stanley Cup win over St. Louis in overtime with Bobby Orr’s amazing goal. I was working for WBZ radio at the time, which reached 38 states. To this day, I still have people from all over the country ask me about that game. Of course, Bobby Orr is the greatest hockey player of all. Overall, broadcasting from the Boston Garden for 1,500 games surrounded by the passionate Boston fans made my job easy. I never felt like I was working –- I had the greatest job in the world and the best seat in the house. The Boston Garden was the best place to broadcast a hockey game. Another broadcasting highlight was my interview with legendary golfer Francis Ouimet on the 50th anniversary of his U.S. Open victory. I produced and hosted a program in 1963. Using the brand-new technology of a mobile unit and a wireless mike, I walked the course at The Country Club in Brookline with Mr. Ouimet, as he discussed his 1913 victory 50 years earlier. It is the only interview with Mr. Ouimet in existence – and when Disney did the movie of the popular book about the match, The Greatest Game Ever Played, they included the entire interview in the DVD – golfers always talk to me about that interview.
Q: What do you think about being inducted in the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame?
Cusick: It’s a great honor – especially due to the fact that I am being inducted with such an incredible group of broadcasters who have really made a difference to the people of Massachusetts. It’s really something.