Sports Media

Taste of ultimate victory was bittersweet for Arnold

By Chad Finn
Globe Staff / June 24, 2011

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When the latest Boston sports champion was crowned last Wednesday night in Vancouver, Dale Arnold’s familiar voice was emanating from the other end of the continent. The only broadcaster ever to do play-by-play for the Red Sox, Celtics, Bruins, Patriots, and Revolution was in Tampa, pinch hitting for Dave O’Brien on the Sox radio broadcast, as he does most Wednesdays when O’Brien has ESPN obligations.

Whenever there was a break in the action during the ballgame — and even in a few moments when there wasn’t — Arnold’s eyes would sneak a peek at the monitor showing Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

“It happened to be my inning when I said, ‘Patrice Bergeron has just scored to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead,’ ’’ said Arnold, the Bruins’ play-by-play voice on NESN from 1995-2007. “Fifty-eight seconds later, Kevin Youkilis hit a three-run homer to put the Red Sox in charge. It was fun having the two games intersect like that.

“But we knew where Boston fans’ hearts were that night.’’

Arnold knew because he might as well have been describing himself. For all of his versatility, he is a hockey guy at his core, and his heart was in Vancouver.

“Oh, my focus was tested at times,’’ said Arnold. “As soon as the game ended, I bolted down to the clubhouse. I, along with the Red Sox players and other personnel, were all watching the game on the monitors in the clubhouse, and they arranged the buses so that the minute the second period ended, everyone bolted out for the buses and they took right off for the hotel.

“And as we pulled in to the hotel, Kevin Youkilis yelled out, ‘Hey everybody, let Dale get out first, he’s got to see this.’ ’’

The Sox then set up their viewing party at the hotel bar, where the third period of the Bruins’ Cup-clinching 4-0 victory was shown on a couple of big screens.

“The entire Red Sox team was standing around cheering and yelling at the game,’’ Arnold said. “It was something to see.

“I have to admit, I got tears in my eyes as the game ended. I thought about the people who had tried so hard for so long and couldn’t pull it off. I thought of Ray Bourque and Cam Neely and Adam Oates and Don Sweeney.’’

But it was also bittersweet, for painful reasons Arnold candidly discusses. He gave up his role calling Bruins games on NESN in 2007 when the network wanted him to go on the road, something he decided he could not do because of his commitment as cohost of WEEI’s midday program.

He has acknowledged regret about the decision, and his second thoughts were only magnified after WEEI program director Jason Wolfe significantly reduced Arnold’s role in February.

“Is it bittersweet? Sure. Oh, absolutely,’’ Arnold said. “I wouldn’t have gotten to call it, in the same way Jack [Edwards] didn’t get to call it [because the game was on NBC]. But I would have been there.’’

“What makes it bittersweet too is that I don’t really have an outlet to talk about it as much as I’d like.’’

It’s a cruel irony. Before the ascent of 98.5 The Sports Hub, the Bruins’ radio rights-holder, no one in the market talked more about hockey than Arnold. Now that they have won and captured fans’ imaginations, he doesn’t have the forum he once had.

“ ‘Cruel’ is probably the right word,’’ Arnold said. “It’s not exactly a bulletin that I didn’t agree with their vision to begin with. In hindsight, I probably agree with it even less.’’

WEEI seemed to acknowledge Arnold’s value and, indirectly, the unfortunate timing of his demotion, leaning on him for insight during stints on the “Dennis and Callahan Show.’’

Wrote Wolfe in an e-mail, “Dale’s insight into the Bruins has always been outstanding. His passion for the team and the sport is second to none, and his credibility helped us provide superb coverage of the Stanley Cup run.’’

The credibility is nice, Arnold said. But the priority is security.

“Near future, I’m doing what I’m doing now,’’ he said. “Beyond the near future is what I’m working on. I have to make sure I’ve got a job going forward and to take care of my family and pay my bills.

“My first priority, if it works out, is to stay here. This is our home.’’

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