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Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Jeff and Hubie

Good morning!

Former Red Sox publicity director Bill Crowley liked to say he could listen to a broadcast team for five minutes and tell if there was a rapport or if they were simply vying for air time. Crowley died in 1996, probably never having heard Bear Country’s Jeff Tirrell and Shawn Hubert, but if he had, he’d have likely given them the thumbs-up.

The two signed on together in 1991 doing a football game between Turners Falls and Mohawk, and in the 23 seasons since have become the local equivalent of Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis, Pat Summerall and Tom Brookshier, John Madden and Al Michaels.

Last Friday’s broadcast of the WMass Division VI championship between Turners Falls and Mohawk in Buckland was their 301st, and this morning they’ll do the state semifinal between Turners Falls and Littleton high schools at Westfield State University. They’ll arrive 90 minutes before the 11 a.m. kickoff, walk up the bleachers into the press box, open the Comrex portable broadcast unit, pull out the headsets, plug into a phone line and at 10:45 a.m. will sign onto 95.3 FM.

Tirrell’s first on-air assignment was in 1987, when his brother Marty put him in the booth with himself and Fred Bourassa. Marty moved on and is now “The Mouth of the Midwest” on a station in Iowa while Jeff has his career firmly planted in Greenfield. Hubert is also a longtime county resident, living in Gill and working at a nutritional supplement company in Brattleboro called New Chapter.

Listening to them is like sitting next to a pair of talkative fans at the game.

“Gotta be a Doty keeper, doesn’t it?” asks Hubert.

“I would think so, has to be,” answers Tirrell before Mohawk quarterback Andrew Doty runs into the end zone.

They’ve been around long enough to know the teams’ histories and legacies, even the small stuff like Turners beating Greenfield 36-0 in a recent junior high school matchup.

“It’s been a season like no other,” said Tirrell. “Greenfield put on some incredible performances, but the emergence of Mohawk and Turners Falls has been a blast. (Coach) Doug McCloud’s a 1971 Mohawk grad and the kids really like playing for him, and (TFHS coach) Chris Lapointe has a system in place where it almost doesn’t matter who comes in. They lost so many on offense after last season, nobody expected them to be any better than .500.”

Hubert’s the even-tempered, knowledgeable straight man, while Tirrell’s the voice-inflected dramatist who calls the play-by-play: “Big rush... Big sack! Orzechowski!... Huge catch by Carlisle!... 194 yards for Trent Bourbeau, and he’s only a junior!”

Shades of Curt Gowdy right there with that last line.

Nobody knows what to expect when Turners Falls quarterback Malcolm Smith takes the first snap from scrimmage this morning. Littleton’s undefeated and the talent always tilts to the east, but Lapointe’s squad is accustomed to being the underdog.

“If Turners Falls can somehow get past today, we’ll get to broadcast (the state championship) from Gillette and that would be a treat,” said Tirrell, “but I’m thinking, how cool would that be for the kids? If you’re a high school football player, to be on the same field as Tom Brady and the Patriots ... Are you kidding me?”

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First they flood our towns and now they take our hard-earned hockey goals. It happened ten days ago after UMass winger Troy Power’s goal tied Boston College, 2-2, early in the third period at the Mullins Center.

Eagles coach Jerry York called a timeout and asked referees Jeff Bunyon and Kevin Keenan to review the play for offside.

“That’s not a reviewable call,” protested UMass radio analyst Brock Hines. Indeed, according to the NCAA rulebook, a goal can be reviewed and/or disallowed for offside only during tournament play or if the offside was obvious. This summer, however, the NCAA added that coaches could request an offside review if the game was being televised.

York reasoned that since the game was being streamed online, it was being televised. Bunyon and Keenan looked at the tape, saw that UMass was offside, and waved off the goal. Boston College went on to win, 2-1.

In a telephone interview on Monday, Hockey East commissioner Joe Bertagna said, “I don’t think a game that’s streamed online and uses radio broadcasters should be considered a dedicated TV broadcast. I’m sympathetic with (coach) John Micheletto and (athletic director) John McCutcheon. The memo (about the rule change) never took the time to define between ‘televised’ and ‘streamed,’ and I don’t believe this game qualified.

“Referees are going to make mistakes,” added Bertagna, whose office issued a release acknowledging the error. “They missed a call live and they made a mistake in the protocol, and ultimately they took responsibility.”

Hand it to York, who’s closing in on being the all-time winningest college hockey coach. He was aware of the rule’s ambiguity and used it to his advantage.

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The city of Keene has a lot going for it, including its own collegiate summer league baseball team, and in less than a year it’ll have its own skating rink. Currently the closest sheet of ice is inside a dilapidated barn on the Cheshire County fairgrounds. The facility has no showers, poor ventilation and cramped locker rooms that are like changing in an oil bay.

Earlier this month, the City Council voted to join forces with private interests to build a rink with six locker rooms and seating for 500 on city property near the police station.

“We want to be open by next August or September,” said Jason Smart. “We’ll need at least a month to work out the kinks.”

Smart was at his job, stirring a vat of caramel inside Ye Goodie Shoppe, the candy store he owns in downtown Keene. “It’ll be good to get out of that old arena. Some kids got sick on the bench last week, they think it was carbon monoxide.”

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Northfield’s Dave Kaczenski was inducted into Westfield State’s Athletic Hall of Fame last month. He was an All-American javelin thrower and two-time conference champion at Westfield in the early 1980s.

As for getting the plaque on the wall, he chuckled, “Not yet. It’s still in a little bag. That’s always been on the agenda to make a trophy case for the kids and myself, but I just haven’t gotten around to it.”

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Turkey Day wager: The Turners-Greenfield Thanksgiving game is a side story until today’s game is settled. Each year, Stash Koscinski and I wager a five-dollar scratch ticket purchased at Scotty’s in memory of our late friend Shadow Bogusz. Stash hates giving points, so I’ll take the Green Wave to win, straight-up.

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Squibbers: The aforementioned Marty Tirrell has sued a Des Moines Toyota dealership for kicking his radio show out of its showroom. Would Marty do something like that? C’mon, now ... There goes the Colonel: “I don’t know if you’ve been by Hinsdale lately, but they’re tearing down the track,” writes Tony Worden. ... Retired UMass baseball coach Dick Bergquist is wintering in The Villages, a Florida retirement community which he describes as “Seventy thousand geezers and 50,000 golf carts.” ... ESPN’s Keith Olbermann calls Tropicana Field “an oversized Gulag punishment cell.” ... Win or lose today, one of the major metros will call it “Turner Falls.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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