In the hockey-mad hamlets around Boston the Bruins remain, as their team insignia reflects, the hub of the area. For decades that hub has been ruled by its own holy triumvirate.
There is the godfather, 61-year-old Bruin president and G.M. Harry Sinden, perhaps the most astute executive in the NHL. His blend of hockey intelligence and cunning has helped his clubs reach the playoffs for 21 consecutive seasons. There is the holy spirit, Bobby Orr, possibly the best player ever. Orr's greatness still hovers over the ice at Boston Garden—just as it did when he scored the 1970 Stanley Cup-winning goal—even though he hasn't been a Bruin for (can it really be?) 17 seasons.
And then there is the vocal authority of Fred Cusick. Though he is not as well known as Sinden and Orr outside New England, Cusick has brought the Bruins into the region's homes for 41 years, first on radio and then on television. With WSBK TV-38 now available on cable TV in the northeast U.S. and much of English-speaking Canada, millions can listen to the man who has been synonymous with the club for generations.
"He's the Voice," says Lou Lamoriello, president of the New Jersey Devils. Lamoriello, who grew up in Providence, recalls "many nights being in bed, listening to him do the games on radio. He's always been, to me, the Voice of the Bruins."
That voice is unmistakable, full and husky, like a tenor saxophone. At some moments it is smooth, and at others, when play nears the goal, for instance, it is gritty. Each word is distinct. Listeners hear the final k in Kirk before the M in Muller. When the action is rough, Cusick gives each word a special punch. In moments of excitement—"Saaave, Caaseeeey!"—he sustains the tension by elongating vowels. His energy and enthusiasm are all the more remarkable when you consider that he recently turned 75.
"People ask why I still do it," he says. "Well, I enjoy it. I saw Mike Wallace on the 60 Minutes anniversary program. He's 75. Maybe there's something in the water, because he grew up in Brookline and I grew up in Brighton, and they're only a few miles apart."
On Chandler's Pond, in the Brighton of his youth, Cusick's love for hockey was fused with his immense energy. "We'd start in the morning and play until the sun went down. Wouldn't even take lunch," he says. Later, at nearby Northeastern University, he lugged his gear through the snow on dark, frigid mornings to the 6:15 practice of the varsity hockey team, even though he hadn't made the squad. The coach took notice of Cusick's dedication and changed his mind. By his final year of eligibility, Cusick had become Northeastern's top scorer.
Six decades later those who travel with Cusick marvel at his vigor. "He walks everywhere," says Mark Quenzel, who produced Bruin telecasts during the 1980s. "If you're going to dinner and the restaurant is anywhere under a mile away, Fred hoofs it. Even in Montreal in January."
He'll also hoof it around golf courses about 100 times annually, occasionally in the company of Barbara, his wife of 46 years. The Cusicks live on Cape Cod with one of their four children. They also have three grandchildren, who live in Philadelphia and sit beside their grandfather in the broadcast booth when the Bruins visit the Flyers.
Cusick began chasing his career while at Northeastern. A 1941 magazine feature about Tom Harmon, the Michigan All-America football star, going into radio sparked an idea. Cusick's hockey credentials might have similar appeal in the local job market, he thought, so he approached the manager of a small Boston station and introduced himself.