Jack Edwards called his first Bruins road game Wednesday from NESN’s Watertown studios, but like many broadcasters, he yearns to be back on the road.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, the longtime Bruins play-by-play guy expressed frustration about not traveling with the team — at least for the rest of this year.
“I hear it in many announcers’ voices when they’re calling games from the studio. I’m not alone in this,” Edwards told Fluto Shinzawa. “It’s frustrating. But as the saying goes, that decision is made way above my pay grade.”
Some regional NHL broadcasts are traveling with their teams, while others are staying behind. While announcers may not like staying behind, there is a significant financial benefit to the arrangement. Regional sports networks took huge revenue losses during the pandemic, which Edwards recognizes.
“We had done eight hockey games in the previous 10 months. You can imagine what that did to the bottom line,” he said. “To their credit, NESN laid nobody off during the pandemic. That is remarkable humanity, especially in the broadcast world, where an entire competitor shut down. NBC Sports Boston vanished. Nobody lost his or her job at NESN. I trust them. I respectfully voiced my opinion, sometimes too loudly for their ears.”
The fear is, these practices could stick around permanently. Once networks start cutting costs, it’s hard to go back, especially when the cost-cutting doesn’t turn off viewers. Nobody is going to turn off a Bruins game because Edwards and Andy Brickley are calling the action off of a monitor.
It’s a lesson that Red Sox play-by-play man Dave O’Brien learned this season as well. “I feel like there’s so much of the richness of the broadcast that we’re missing by not being able to walk into the clubhouse, to grab Xander Bogaerts for two minutes and ask about ‘what are you doing to get out of this skid?,” or “what about the great play you made last night?’,” O’Brien told me recently. “Those conversations, and a million others, we can’t have.”
But O’Brien made it through the season, and to the layman, the telecast didn’t suffer.
Edwards may have a similar experience this winter.
“They know I’m not going to like it,” Edwards said. But they tolerate me.”
Since Edwards will be confined to a studio during road games, expect him to be amped up for Bruins home contests at the Garden. That’s one area where the viewers win out.