As we bask in the glow of another holiday season, carefully deciding which golf items to add to our shopping and wish lists, it seems an appropriate time to reflect on one of golf’s most passionate boosters who left us with a host of lasting gifts.
Longtime Bruins play-by-play man Fred Cusick passed away on September 15. In addition to his hockey legacy, Cusick hosted a variety golf programs on NESN. He was to be inducted into the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame the day after he passed at the age of 90.
It is tough for the average fan to comprehend the immense pressure of high stakes PGA golf or Stanley Cup playoff hockey, but in a 2002 interview, Cusick expounded on the latter.
He began calling Boston Bruins games in 1952, and was the television voice of the longest game in Stanley Cup Finals history, the now infamous 1990 triple-overtime Game 1 thriller between Boston and Edmonton.
Cusick remembered the matchup on a very intimate level. “I remember that Derek Sanderson and I couldn’t be excused to go to the bathroom for a long while,” Cusick joked from his beloved home in golf heaven, Cape Cod.
“When Glen Wesley missed an open net shot late in the game, my heart sank. Then, Petr Klima came in with fresh legs and scored the winner for Edmonton.”
Cusick’s NHL broadcasting career ended in 1997, but he continued to showcase the game of golf on NESN and did play-by-play for the Lowell Lock Monsters. That 1990 Bruins-Edmonton game was marked by a power outage that doused the Boston Garden electrical system causing a twenty-five minute delay during the third OT.
Ever the trouper, Cusick persevered. “You just keep going,” he said. “We had poor audio and it was over 90 degrees in the rink that night, but people don’t want to hear your problems.”
The infamous Boston Garden heat brought out the best in players and announcers alike. “I kept asking myself how the players could keep going,” marveled Cusick. “As for me, there can be no letdown. You have to stay on top of it. I mean, damn it, one goal decides the game! You don’t want to miss it.”
The legendary Cusick fondly remembers that 1990 Bruins bunch. “It was a veteran team with the likes of Brian Propp and Dave Christian,” he recalled. “Goalie Andy Moog always gave you consistency. This was a group of overachievers that did well. It was a surprise year.”
Cusick was born in Boston and was a three-sport athlete at Northeastern University. He won the Lester Patrick Award, and was inducted into the Media Hall of Fame in Toronto. On September 16, he was to join the likes of John Henning, Charles Laquidara, Dave Maynard and Gil Santos in the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame. Cusick was the ultimate sports host and announcer, having broadcast Patriots games as well as Boston Lobsters tennis.
While it was his work on the ice that made him a legend, Cusick featured some of New England’s best courses and golfers in several NESN productions. His transition from defensemen to duffers was seamless. In all of his work, Cusick consistently put the game ahead of any personal fame or showcase. He was an announcer’s announcer, one-half of two legendary Boston broadcast teams.
He and partner John Pierson gave life to those immensely popular Bruins teams of the 1970s. The pair had two of the most distinctive voices in the game. When Pierson left the booth for the studio, Cusick made a smooth transition to the outspoken Derek Sanderson. The constant, of course, was Cusick. Like a perfect putt, he was always direct, consistent and true.
Cusick’s love of golf was apparent in his on-air work in the sport. He fought to have New England golf-related programming produced and aired. His Tucker Anthony Golf Classic programs on NESN featured the likes of Bobby Orr, Carlton Fisk and Ray Bourque. In any venue, Cusick’s talent added to the drama. Such was the case when he did radio play-by-play for Game 4 of the 1970 Stanley Cup Finals between Boston and St. Louis. That game ended on Orr’s incredible belly-flop goal.
“Orr represents hockey for the century,” said Cusick, who penned the book, Fred Cusick: Voice of the Bruins. “New England is a tremendous hockey area because of Bobby. He didn’t wear a helmet, so people could see him and TV ratings were incredible. I told Orr that he could spend the rest of his life traveling in New England and he couldn’t possibly meet all the people who love him.”
The same can be said for a broadcasting icon who, for more than half a century, made media history in Boston.
Syndicated columnist John Molori writes for numerous publications and websites. Email John at MoloriMedia@aol.com.