Dave Goucher has been calling hockey games on the radio for much of his adult life – 20 years to be exact. Naturally, the Pawtucket native and graduate of Tolman High monitored the NHL’s labor saga, but as he expressed when contacted earlier this week, he reached a point where countless impasses between the owners and players became too much to digest.
“Wake me up when there’s an agreement” was the mantra Goucher began swearing by the longer the lockout persisted. Now in his 13th season calling Boston Bruins games, he’s pleased as punch that finally, there are actual games to describe to the listening audience.
“Early on, I paid a great deal of attention to (the lockout), then there were three or four occasions where a deal appeared imminent only to have the whole thing fall apart,” Goucher remarked. “There’s only so many times where you can go through that roller coaster of emotions. If and when they settle, let me know.
“That said, I missed hockey quite a bit,” Goucher added. “When you’ve been doing games for a long time, it’s certainly a different dynamic not to be doing them.”
On the morning of Sunday, Jan. 6, Goucher awoke to find 10 text messages on his phone. The first message he read stated it all – the NHL was back in business. Chances are, the remaining nine messages contained similar sentiments.
“It was much more painful and longer than anyone expected it would go,” said Goucher, echoing a strong emotion that no doubt was shared by pro hockey enthusiasts in ports of call ranging from near and far. “Still, there’s a part of me that finds it inconceivable that they went down this road for the second time in eight years, but finally at the end of the day, they were able to work something out. It’s better late than never, but it’s incredible that it had to get to this point again.”
Making a living in a sport that was operating under the threat of pulling the plug on the entire season, Goucher knew that he had to stay busy. Unlike many of his NHL radio brethren, he’s an employee of the radio station (98.5 The Sports Hub) that airs the Bruins rather than the team itself. Such a distinction proved handy as Goucher spent the 3 ½ months when there was nary a Boston goal or save to paint a picture of by filling in/serving as a co-host at the Boston-based station.
“I basically told the Sports Hub that I was open to whatever they may need me to do and was happy that they decided to use me as often as they could,” Goucher said. “As much as I enjoy broadcasting hockey games, there are other aspects to the broadcasting business that I enjoy as well, and I wanted to take full advantage if there weren’t going to be any Bruins’ games.”
To go from a hockey-centric background to expanding one’s horizons for talk show benefits allowed Goucher to tap into realms that normally he didn’t have the time to scrape beyond the surface. Sure, he’s a passionate New England sports fan, yet when your occupation calls for you to be up to date on not only the team you’re directly involved with along with the competition, the other sports tend to get lost in the shuffle.
“Certainly I kept myself much more in tune with all the other sports than I usually would because frankly, you don’t have the time to do it if you’re broadcasting for a team and working in a league like I do. Your energy is focused on that,” Goucher explained.
Living through the 2004-05 NHL strike that wiped out all 82 regular-season games along with the playoffs taught Goucher valuable lessons – be versatile and understand that diversity is key. Back when the Bruins aired their games on WBZ-AM (1030), the Boston University alum kept the seat warm for Gil Santos on days when the Patriots’ lead radio announcer would have off from his morning drive show. In April 2005, Goucher became WBZ’s play-by-play announcer for the Boston Marathon.
“You try to make yourself more useful to the radio station in more ways than one,” Goucher said.
Occupying his time during the NHL’s latest labor strife, Goucher mentioned that if he were scheduled to fill in at The Sports Hub on a Monday, he would jot down notes while watching the Patriots. The same habit repeated itself for the Celtics along with making sure to remain abreast of the Red Sox’ hot stove chatter.
“(Talking about non-Bruins and NHL matters) was something I enjoyed because I always think that it’s good to get out of your comfort zone a little bit,” Goucher expressed, adding that he watched more college football during the fall than at any point in his life. “It’s the old adage of one door closing and the other one opens. Even if (playing the role of radio host) was temporary, I think you have to take advantage of every opportunity.”
The compacted 48-game NHL season gets underway Saturday with the Bruins sounding the gong with a contest at the TD Garden against the New York Rangers. From Goucher’s standpoint, he has two things working in his favor. First, the Bruins’ squad that hits the ice will feature just about the same cast and crew that fans saw following last spring’s Game 7 first-round loss to the Washington Capitals.
From a preparation standpoint, Goucher will mainly have to concern himself with the happenings of the remaining 14 Eastern Conference rivals as there won’t be any crossovers with teams stationed in the Western Conference during the regular season.
“That’s not to say I won’t keep up on the league as a whole, but by preparing for 14 teams, you can kind of streamline it a little bit,” Goucher said.
Broadcasting games for the Providence Bruins in the late 90s taught Goucher how to handle a demanding schedule. The days of doing a game on a Friday night in Providence followed by a road date on Saturday night and a home game on Sunday afternoon will surely come in handy as Boston and the rest of the NHL prepare for what figures to be an intense sprint to the finish line.
“The three games in three nights and busing all over the place in the minors sets you up pretty good,” said Goucher with a slight laugh.