It’s a unique, delay-of-game dilemma caused by the second incomprehensible NHL lockout in a decade. While Bruins players scatter around the globe to keep their skates and skills sharp during the latest NHL labor mess, what becomes of the play-by-play broadcasters left behind who suddenly have no play-by-play to call?
It’s not as if Jack Edwards, NESN’s enthusiastic if polarizing Bruins announcer, can follow Andrew Ference to the Czech Republic to call his games. And Dave Goucher, the unsung, excellent voice of the franchise’s games on 98.5 The Sports Hub, isn’t following Tyler Seguin to Switzerland, though amid the helplessness of the situation he can’t resist joking about doing just that.
“Oh, I’m going to be on the next plane to Geneva,’’ said Goucher with a laugh.
“It’s scary, though, because they are not even on the same planet right now. If you’d told me coming out of the last one 7-8 years ago that they would go down this road again in less than a decade, there’s no way in the world I would have believed it.”
The professional limbo is particularly challenging for Edwards. While Goucher is a full-time employee of CBS Radio (The Sports Hub’s parent) and, along with analyst Bob Beers, will continue to work for the station throughout the lockout, Edwards and analyst Andy Brickley are part-time employees at NESN.
Per Edwards’s contract, the network is not obligated to pay him during a work stoppage, though he said they have not yet discussed whether this will be the case. Such a scenario is standard procedure, one Brickley also must face, but that doesn’t make it any easier to accept. Especially when you’re as passionate about your job as Edwards is.
“I try to go through life with an eye on the horizon but try to have the best day I can every day,’’ said Edwards, who emphasized that his bosses at NESN are “hustling their butts off’’ to find a role for him.
“[Wife] Lisa and I have discussed it at length and fortunately she produces for NFL Network and MLB Network and she’s been able to pick up a ton of work, which is great.
“It’s very helpful, but immensely frustrating for all of us.’’
NESN provided the following statement Thursday regarding the network’s tentative plans:
“Since the NHL CBA lockout announcement last Saturday at midnight, NESN’s first priority has been to assure all of its full-time employees that there will be no layoffs. NESN is looking at numerous options for its seasonal employees as well.
“If NHL games are cancelled, NESN will have a full schedule of alternate programming . . . Viewers can expect a significant menu of classic Bruins games to college hockey, football, and basketball in tandem with NESN original programming.”
It’s possible that Edwards, who has filled in as a studio host on Red Sox programming and “NESN Daily’’ and was a well-regarded anchor during ESPN’s early-‘90s “SportsCenter’’ heyday, will be a part of that programming.
Goucher is also capable of more than just calling hockey. His occasional “Goucher Goes To The Movies’’ bits on The Sports Hub’s Toucher and Rich program, during which he provides earnest play-by-play on scenes from movies such as “Top Gun,’’ are consistently hilarious.
For Edwards, the fun of a job that never really feels like one has given way to the frustration of watching the sport he loves inflict damage to itself.
“To have the last three Stanley Cup champions be Boston, Chicago, and LA, you couldn’t draw it up better than that,” Edwards said. “The game had stupendous momentum. And this happens.
“The question hockey fans are asking today is, ‘Is what they’re doing best for hockey?’ I walk down the street to the hardware store and get stopped by hockey fans. And I’ve got to say, it is running 99 percent against the sentiment that this is for good for hockey.
“The only reason I don’t say 100 percent is I’m sure there’s someone out there who is in absolute agreement with what’s going on. But I have not encountered that person. Hockey fans are bleeding right now, and that just breaks my heart.”
Goucher will try to get his hockey fix in part by attending games at his alma mater, Boston University. But it won’t be the same.
“I’ve been doing this for 20 years professionally between the minors and the NHL, and you know that when you get into the latter part of September, it’s just like clockwork,’’ he said. “The games are going to start and then you’re off and running.
“You can’t really replace it. Forever how long it’s gone, we’re going to miss it.’’