WHEELING - Dave Goucher grew up listening to the Boston Bruins on the radio, hoping that one day children would be listening to an announcer's call of his game-winning goal in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Not in a million years did he think he would be the one bellowing ''Get the Duck Boats ready! Get the Duck Boats ready! After 39 long years, the Cup is back home. The Bruins are the 2011 Stanley Cup champions!''
''I grew up playing hockey since the age of 5 - it was always my favorite sport,'' said Goucher, 42, a native of Pawtucket, R.I. ''Then I went to Boston University and was hoping to play there but quickly found out that it was way above my level of ability.
''Also BU has a very good communications department and I thought if I can't play, I want to stay involved. It's great. You get to travel with the team, get in free and they pay you to talk about it.''
Former Wheeling Thunderbirds play-by-play man Dave Goucher is now The Voice of the Boston Bruins, the 2011 Stanley Cup Champions.
That love and dedication of the game of hockey led to his first pro job, in of all places, Wheeling, W.Va. The Thunderbirds, as they were then known, were in the market for a play-by-play announcer and Goucher, fresh out of college sent in his resume soon after graduating in May 1993.
''I got job the in Wheeling in mid-July,'' Goucher recalled. ''I didn't know anything about Wheeling. I picked up what I had, which wasn't much at 24 years old, and moved there.
''Everybody down there made me feel at home.''
Though he was only here for two years, Goucher had the call for some of the best days in Wheeling hockey history. In his rookie season, the Thunderbirds played before an average attendance of 5,000-plus before losing in what at the time was known as the Riley Cup, and a year later they won the Brabham Cup for the league's best regular-season record (47-17-5).
''The Penguins had just won two Cups and it was such a rich hockey environment in that area,'' Goucher said. ''My first year there was the team's second in Wheeling. In my mind, I was a small fish in a big pond.
''What I remember most is the people - just the most genuinely nice, welcoming people that you could hope to be around.
''I knew when I went to Wheeling, at least someone is ready to give me a shot.''
Goucher took that opportunity and ran with it. But before he left, he made some friends for life, including Mark Landini. Landini, who was then the assistant general manager of the Thunderbirds, is now the Director of Development & Alumni Affairs for The Linsly School.
''To this day, some of my best friends are from Wheeling, especially with Mark and his entire family,'' Goucher said. ''It was an amazing place - just a great place.
''I was fortunate enough to be able to move on. But I just think, for me, it was a great place to start.''
Like countless others from Wheeling, including players, coaches and front-office personnel, Goucher quickly graduated to the American Hockey League where he earned the play-by-play job of the Providence Bruins. Despite packing up and moving to a new town for the second time in a short span, there was a plethora of familiar faces waiting on him.
Providence captured the Calder Cup in 1999 with several Wheeling alums, including the coach, Peter Laviolette. Players Terry Virtue, Marquis Mathieu, David Brumby, Jeremy Brown, Joe Harney and Jim Bermingham were also in the organization at the time.
''When you think about it, that small town,'' has produced a lot of hockey talent, Goucher said. ''When I was there everyone wanted to move to AHL.
''You go after this and know it's what you want to do as a living, but it's such a competitive business.''
Goucher spent five seasons calling Providence games (1995-2000) before getting the call to the NHL. As the Voice of the Bruins, Goucher has been named New England's top radio play-by-play announcer three times (2003, 2006, 2007) by the Associated Press, and won the AP ''Best Sportscast'' award in 2006.
And now, he's a Stanley Cup champion who just so happens to be leaving on his honeymoon this morning. On the agenda, among other things, is heading to San Francisco to play golf at famed Pebble Beach.
''I went down there 18 years ago,'' Goucher said of Wheeling. ''Now to be part of the team to win the Cup? You can dream it and hope it, but to degree there's not a great chance of it happening, let alone with the team you grew up rooting for.
''It's probably even more than you hoped it would be.''