As the Bruins TV analyst and the host of a NESN golf show, Andy Brickley has combined his passions for hockey and golf.Written by Rob Duca | Photography by Dan Cutrona
Everyone seems to know Andy Brickley when he arrives at the golf course. It could be because he is a former Boston Bruin and is now the team’s TV color commentator. Or perhaps it’s because he also hosts a golf show. But more likely, it’s because he seems to always be around, day after day, whatever the weather, as long as the course is free of snow.
A member of three Massachusetts golf clubs, the 56-year-old Brickley is at Granite Links Golf Club in Quincy on this late fall morning, which is not far from his Hingham home. It would be one of approximately 200 rounds he would play in 2017. “I’ve played here on Christmas,” he says. “Golf has developed into a passion as I’ve gotten older because I can’t do the things I once could. But I can still play golf.”
An eight handicap with a career low round of 72, he is also a member at The International in Bolton and Plymouth Country Club in Plymouth.
“I find golf fascinating,” he says. “You don’t know what you’re going to have on the day you pull into the parking lot, and then you have to figure out how to find a swing and how to score. And then there is the course itself, trying to navigate your way around, depending on weather conditions, the greens, the topography and so on.”
Brickley has lived a blessed life. A native of Melrose who grew up idolizing the “Big Bad Bruins” of Bobby Orr and Phil Esposito, he wound up playing for his boyhood team from 1988 to 1992. And while hockey was his first love, he developed a passion for golf during his playing days, which he has turned into a golf show on NESN.
Not a bad career trajectory for someone once called Mr. Irrelevant, which is the label hung on the final pick of any professional sports draft. That was Brickley in 1980 when the Philadelphia Flyers selected him last overall. “The draft is a major event now, but I didn’t know it existed back then,” he says. “When my uncle told me I was drafted, I thought I would be putting on fatigues and going to Grenada. I just figured they were picking names out of a hat at that point just trying to get the draft over.”
Brickley has always made the most of his opportunities. A walk-on at the University of New Hampshire, he became an All-American. After the Flyers drafted him, he played parts of 14 seasons in the NHL. And when his body was beaten down and ravaged by injuries, he made a successful transition into the broadcast booth.
“Anybody who plays youth sports should hear my story,” he says. “I was never the stud; I always had to prove myself.”
He scored 82 NHL goals, but his career was derailed by a succession of injuries that led to 10 major surgeries, the most serious coming in 1990 when the muscle in his right leg began calcifying, a condition known as myositis ossificans. It’s the same injury that ended Hall of Famer Cam Neely’s career.
“If I sat around and thought about all the injuries it would bother me,” Brickley says. “I played hurt all the time. But there were certain things you couldn’t play through. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My dream came true to play for my hometown team.”
His broadcasting career began in 1994 when he was playing with the Denver Grizzlies of the International Hockey League. When injured, which was often, he provided radio commentary for the Grizzlies. Two years later, he was hired as the Bruins radio analyst, and the following year he replaced Derek Sanderson on the UPN 38 TV broadcasts. He joined NESN in 2000 and has teamed with Jack Edwards to call all games on the network since 2005. He has also called national games for Versus and NBCSN.
“For anyone going to the Connecticut School of Broadcasting, this is not how it’s supposed to work,” he admits. “I got a call from WBZ Radio to come in for a tryout. I watched one period, turned the TV off and they offered me the job on the spot. For me, it was an opportunity to start a second career. I had a wife and young daughter, so this was a chance to be a husband and father and also be affiliated with the Bruins.”
Brickley has become a highly regarded analyst who always seems to be one step ahead of the action and is adept at educating viewers in a concise, casual fashion, with a touch of humor. “You have to make the viewer feel like they’re sitting in the living room with you and we’re just talking hockey,” he says.
The golf show debuted last summer with nine episodes. The format calls for Brickley to play golf with a local celebrity, while talking about life in a casual setting. The first season’s guests included Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, Red Sox owner Tom Werner, comedian Kevin Chapman, Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, Boston College coach Jerry York, former Patriot Matt Chatham and Red Sox Hall of Famer Jim Rice.
“It’s not hard-hitting journalism. It’s getting somebody in a very relaxed golf atmosphere and getting to know the person outside of their profession,” he says.
Clearly, Mr. Irrelevant has carved out a pretty nice life. “I’ve got to be the luckiest guy in the world,” he says. “I grew up idolizing the Bruins, who made me want to be a hockey player, and then I got to play for them. Now I’m making my living covering the team and I have a golf show with a hockey flavor to it. I’m pretty blessed.”