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The Epilogue: Putting a Bow on the 2023-24 Season as the Boston Bruins' PA Announcer

I kicked off the 2023-24 season writing about my battle with impostor syndrome. I'll close it out with a few words of gratitude for how great this year has been.

The Boston Bruins’ 2023-24 season officially came to an end in Round 2 against the Florida Panthers. And with that, so does my second full season - and third overall - as the PA Announcer for the Boston Bruins.

39 games are in the books for me this year.  That includes 1 preseason game in October, six playoff games, a legendary Opening Night featuring the Rafters Reunion Ceremony, four Era Nights, a 1,000th game ceremony, Hockey is for Everyone night, and a natural hat trick.  Similar to last year, it had moments of incredible highs - in “how does anyone stop this team?” fashion.  Incredibly dissimilar to last season, it had crushing lows - overtime come-from-behind losses to teams that were shrugged off, injuries, and being doubted by many reputable outlets.  

Season #2 for me started with this moment of silence read, which was one of the tougher things to read for anyone over the past few years.  Former Boston Globe writer-turned-Calgary Flames front office executive Chris Snow, Patriots tight end Russ Francis, and Red Sox legend Tim Wakefield all passed away within a week of each other, and the Boston community was certainly hurting.  It was one of the very few times you could hear a pin drop inside TD Garden.  After missing the first two preseason games due to wrapping up the PLL tour, this was my first moment back in the saddle at the Garden, and it was a tough burden to carry.

Off it was to the regular season, kicking off the Bruins’ historic Centennial Celebration. The Bruins became the first American NHL club to reach the 100-year milestone, and as such, it called for a huge celebration.  It started in grand fashion on October 11.  Our Opening Night agenda was a packed one - it included an introduction of the 1970 & ‘72 Stanley Cup Championship teams, as well as those that made the trip from the 2011 Cup title.  Then came all twelve men who had their numbers retired by the team (or representatives from their families if they had passed away).  They raised their sticks in salute of the 100th year, and unveiled the Centennial banner outside the Garden walls.

There was obviously a lot that went into this, and I certainly won’t get into the details.  But the painstaking preparation by hundreds of folks - both in the TD Garden control room and the Bruins front office - was evident.  This was also the first time I attended a full “dress-rehearsal” of the ceremonies the day before. For those that don’t know, it’s a long few hours of running through elements (or the entire script) to ensure everything is working the way it’s intended to.  It’s a necessary evil of sorts…a long, repetitive day, but one that makes you really grateful for the work you do and puts into context the many hours of preparation from others.

I’ve described Opening Night this year as something I’ll want to tell my kids, grandkids, and more about years from now.  I was honored - and shocked, to be frank - to receive so many texts and calls from people that I hadn’t heard from in years after that night, asking “how’d it feel getting to do that?”  To be honest, there was not really an enlightening moment from that night that I had to pinch myself.  Rather, I’m reconciling it as a moment that I’ll appreciate more and more as time goes on.  At the moment, it was just “work.”  I was reading off a script.  I didn't care who was waving at the big screen, or that Bobby Orr was merely a camera shot away, or that there were 18,250 fans roaring in response to what I was saying - I was simply doing my job, waiting for the cues, and reading the script.  But now, looking back at the tape from time to time, I know how lucky and honored I am to be the voice behind such an iconic moment in Bruins history.

That night, I also had the honor of being simulcasted to TNT’s national broadcast.  For me, there truly is nothing bone-chilling like hearing Kenny Albert say “Now we turn it over to the Public Address Announcer, Jake Zimmer.”  It’s obviously huge to get the recognition we deserve on the national stage, even if it’s a brief moment.  

Oh, and I forgot to mention…there was a hockey game that night! It hadn’t hit me that I had hardly looked at the Chicago Blackhawks roster at ALL beforehand.  I knew the big-hitters, and of course, Taylor Hall and Nick Foligno - former Bruins - were rostered for Chicago, so those guys were covered.  Connor Bedard, the Blackhawks’ prized rookie and first overall pick in the 2023 NHL Draft, scored his first career NHL goal that night; Chicago had played the night before in Pittsburgh, but he hadn’t put one in.  Rarely do I keep the scorecards from most games, but I knew I’d want to hang on to this one, so it’s currently in a frame in my office.  That’ll be one for the archives.

Off we went, full-steam ahead into the season.  October and November brought some great moments for the B’s, including the Early Years and Big Bad Bruins’ Era Nights, celebrating the origins of the Bruins back to 1924.  Among the highlights were a 3-2 OT win over the Florida Panthers on October 30th, a packed house (even though it was a loss) against the Detroit Red Wings on Black Friday, and a 3-0 shellacking of the San Jose Sharks on November 30th.

Sunday, December 3rd was about as “un-special” of a day as you could imagine on paper.  The Bruins had just gone on the road against Toronto the day before, their adversary - the Columbus Blue Jackets - were not playing their best hockey, and the mood was off.  And besides, who can get jacked up for a Sunday night game after a back-to-back? 

But for me, December 3rd was one of the more special ones of my career.  This was my 500th game (I use the count by either PA or broadcast), and by total coincidence, was one that my parents and cousins were in town for.  We took our pictures before the game, went out to dinner at Forcella - one of our favorite North End restaurants - and they sat up in the Rafters section, on the same level I call the games from.

Hockey Is For Everyone night is one that is so important to the flourishing of the sport nationwide.  There are so many hateful words on social media after these ceremonies, which I’ve found odd - why wouldn’t you want as many people as you can to fall in love with hockey?  HIFE is not just a “pride” night, but a night that recognizes ALL people can play hockey. Yes, LGBTQ+ groups were represented, but we also saw Sled Hockey athletes, skaters who were either blind or deaf, African-American groups, and womens’ hockey…in which a skater from Lewiston High School in Maine - struck by tragedy after a shooting earlier in the year - met the crowd with a roaring applause.  It was a great ceremony that fans inside TD Garden were extremely supportive of.

On to the game, which by all means was quite uneventful through two periods.  After 40, Columbus led 1-0.  You could tell the Bruins were completely drained from the evening before, having played the Maple Leafs to an overtime win in Canada.  They’d tell you it was no excuse, but you have to figure it was affecting their performance somehow.

It was like a light switch turned on for the Bruins in the third, and in large part it was due to Brad Marchand.  The captain recorded a natural hat trick - a rare feat in which a player records 3 consecutive goals for their team - in the third.  I thought the Garden roof would explode. Incredible stuff.

We had a lot more great moments as we turned the leaf into 2024.  A wild 9-4 win against the Montreal Canadiens in January capped off an excellent pregame ceremony titled “New Blood, New Beginnings,” celebrating the breaking of “Le Jinx,” in which the Bruins didn’t win a playoff series against the Habs for several decades.  Ironic, yes.  A 5-4 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, reigning Stanley Cup Champions, was a bright moment as well.  Edmonton came to town on March 5, and although it ended with an OT loss for the B’s, seeing Connor McDavid in person is always something I’ll relish the opportunity for.

We got an unbelievable series with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the playoffs.  After a thunderous 5-1 victory in Game 1, I boarded a flight to Portugal for a business trip on the night of Game 2, so I was fortunate to have John Dolan hop on the mic.  After the B’s lost, that’s the night I knew the series wouldn’t be as easy as we thought it’d be.  Sure enough, after the B’s got out to a 3-1 series lead, Toronto scrapped their way back to win Game 5, followed by Game 6 back in Canada.  

It all led to a Game 7.

I’ve obviously called some high-octane games inside TD Garden, but I can’t recall the crowd - at any point - being as raucous as they were on May 4th.  One of their storied rivals coming to town, trying to rip the series away from the B’s meant a recipe for a deafening environment.  My mom, who didn’t expect the series would go that far in, came up to visit - we scored her, along with my girlfriend Jamie and her mom - some last-minute tickets for a cheap price.  A lot on the line, and a moment that I just had to sit back and appreciate for what it was.

Another incredible, back-and-forth game ensued. No goals were scored until the third period, where William Nylander put one across towards the halfway point of the last frame.  You could nearly hear the life sucked out of the crowd after that.  But Hampus Lindholm countered with one of his own, not-even 2 minutes afterwards, to put the Bruins right back in it.  We went to overtime with 1 goal a piece.  Admittedly, I had the same sinking feeling I did last year when the Florida Panthers forced an overtime in Game 7 at the Garden…we all know how that played out.

But evidently, the Bruins knew that too, and it was top-of-mind.  They didn’t want that feeling again.  Enter David Pastrnak, less than 2 minutes into the overtime period.

In a game that truly could’ve gone either way, the Bruins came out on the right side of it.  The Garden was in full-blown party mode…they erupted into a level of cheering that simply hadn’t existed in weeks.  I couldn’t hear myself think.  That was a top-tier moment of my PA Announcing career to this point. 

The Bruins ultimately met their match with the Florida Panthers once again in the next round.  Last year’s elimination was gutting…and truly stunning.  This year, I felt a bit more at peace with it.  Florida was not the underdog…they were the aggressor, and it felt like most of the NHL world expected the Panthers to advance.  The Bruins gave it one last-ditch final effort, and although they led, they conceded a goal in the final minutes of the third period.  While last year’s crowd was a well-felt misery, this year felt a bit different.  The crowd gave Jeremy Swayman a standing ovation for a world-class playoff performance, proudly saluted the team as they raised their sticks to the stands, and engaged in generally uplifting chants. This was a team that many thought overachieved for their roster, and it’s hard to stay mad at a team that gave us so many great memories this year.

Earlier this year, I wrote about my struggle with impostor syndrome as the Public Address Announcer for the Boston Bruins at TD Garden.  While it’ll really never fully go away, I’m happy with the strides I made this year.  This year certainly was one in which I naturally “grew up” and “grew into” the role.  I found myself preparing more, arriving earlier, and taking care of myself in all ways.  Mentally, it manifested via my breathwork, positive reaffirmation, and even using white noise to block out the raucous crowds during the big moments.  Physically, I found myself running more, making a point to get to the gym before the games, and being conscious about what I was eating beforehand.  Even though I always knew I belonged, it just felt like I belonged a bit more this year. And I’m proud of it.

There are way too many people to thank here. I’ll call out a few, but it’s not an exclusive list. 

Evan O’Brien and Mike Bieke tag-teamed to make the quality of game presentation for Bruins games at TD Garden the high-caliber that it is.  They are some of the industry’s good ones. They gave me great feedback this year and helped make life as easy as they could for me.

John Dolan continues to be a mentor for me in many ways. He just hit 18 years working as the alternate PA announcer.  I couldn’t have had the confidence or professionalism to do this type of work without John.

The TD Garden control room staff continues to be a source of laughter, positivity, and fun (as well as professionalism!).  Organist Ron Poster and “TJ The DJ” Connelly are a dynamic duo to bring the house down musically.  George Gurney is the best LED operator in the business, as he claims. I developed working friendships with Liv Charbonneau, Mike D’Ambrosio, Joe Spadorcia, and others in the room that crush their jobs every day.  They make it easy for me to ONLY have to worry about speaking into a microphone, knowing everything will be working as it should in the background…music, graphics, cameras, or whatever it might be.

The off-ice officials make the flow of information easy.  Mike Sandford, Al Centracchio, Al Ruelle, and others are to thank for that.

I’m grateful every day I get to call myself the PA Announcer for the Boston Bruins.  No matter how long I do this for, I’m trying to be cognizant of the fact that I’m living out the dream I’ve had since I was 5 years old.  I’ll keep enjoying the ride.


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