Fans who visit the Garden for the Bruins’ first exhibition game Sept. 23 will get their first look at the building’s new seats, its new ninth-floor “Rafters” club, and hear its new voice.
Jim Martin, the man at the microphone for the Bruins dating to their final days in the old Garden, resigned the PA position last week after working more than 1,000 games at the mic for the Black and Gold.
“It’s just time, simple as that,” said a gracious, and at times emotional Martin, 67, who grew up in Dorchester and Mattapan. “Honestly, just time . . . something I’ve thought about for a while . . . and it’s very bittersweet. I’m comfortable with my decision, and ready for it, but having to tell people, and talk it through, honestly, I get emotional. I had a heckuva run.”
According to Matt Chmura, the club’s VP of marketing and top PR rep, the club has yet to determine Martin’s successor.
“And we are still formalizing our plans going forward,” Chmura added via e-mail, when asked if the club would audition candidates.
Martin, who started in the role during the ’93 playoffs, will be the second major “voice” change on Causeway St. in as many years. Rene Rancourt, who for decades sang the national anthem(s) at Bruins games, retired last season, giving way to a chorus line of singers over the course of 2018-19. By season’s end, Todd Angilly had evolved into a mainstay in that role.
Across 26 seasons, weather only once deterred Martin from making the 142-mile round trip from his home in Coventry, R.I. By his calculation, he may have missed 8-10 other games for family or business commitments, but it was only a bad ice storm some six or seven years ago, he recalled, that prevented him from getting to the game on time — or at all.
“I got out on Route 95 in Providence and sat in the same spot for two hours,” said Martin. “I had to call and say, ‘I can’t make it.’ I wasn’t as smart as Dave Goucher.”
Goucher, now the lead TV play-by-play man for the Vegas Golden Knights, in those days handled Bruins radio play by play for 98.5 the Sports Hub. He also lived in Rhode Island.
“He got himself off the highway,” said Martin, “went over, grabbed the train and got himself into the city in time for the game. I was not smart enough to figure that out. So that’s one thing he always had up on me.”
Martin also handled PA duties with the AHL Providence Bruins for five years — overlapping with his Boston duties for two seasons — and for some 25 years with the Pawtucket Red Sox.
Particularly touching, said Martin, was a call last week from Bruins president Cam Neely, thanking him for his years on the job.
“The call from Cam Neely,” mused Martin, “for me . . . was more than I could have asked for. I just hope the next person who takes that position understands what a privilege it is to sit in that chair. To have been part of that organization . . . to be part of the National Hockey League . . . to have that job . . . I still have to pinch myself.”
Martin, who remains working full time in Providence as the Public Information Officer for the US Attorney’s office in Rhode Island, a job he has held for 11 years, figures he will use his free time to see more of his family, including three grandchildren, and have more flexibility to visit his winter home in Cape Coral, Fla.
“I’ll tell you what I’m looking forward to, though,” added Martin. “I’m looking forward to going back to the Garden as a fan, and watch a hockey game with a beer in my hand. I have never seen a sporting event in that building as a fan.”