For Jim Prior, A Legend Who Made BU Hockey Home
The great Jocko Connolly, the Boston Herald’s historian for college hockey, once told me only the good people stay in this sport.
Jim Prior was one of those people.
The long-time Terrier Public Address Announcer was more than just a voice echoing in the rink. He was more than a voice drifting from Walter Brown Arena, more than a voice that probably made brand-new Agganis feel like it still had every piece of men’s hockey history attached to it.
For the past day, my mind has run video of Prior announcing starting lineups and commencing the game with his famous, “The teams are ready, so let’s play hockey,” line like a feature film on repeat.
That is my college hockey experience, that is my BU hockey experience, that is my college experience. My entire four years was set to the backdrop of Agganis Arena and Walter Brown, of different players filtering in, numbers passing from one player to the next. But there was one constant — Prior’s voice.
When Prior first got sick, I was a senior. He was gone for much of that season, and there was a stretch when the Terriers played badly. They weren’t winning and no one knew what was wrong. But some of us, deep down, guessed Prior’s absence was the difference.
It was, for us, at least. It was an absence that wasn’t spoken about much after the first time. We heard, we were told, we knew. But we didn’t speak much of it after that. It just sat with us and occupied an unspoken space, like silences often do.
So when Prior came back to the TD Garden on Friday, March 22, it felt like a piece of BU hockey returned. Something fractured had healed, and we watched happily as Prior was honored during intermission. I’m still convinced he’s the reason the Terriers came back to beat BC in that game, the last win of my collegiate career.
It’s not the big things, the grand gestures, the wins or the losses. It’s the every day things, the smiles and the seemingly unimportant conversations that are memorable. I think of walking into the media room at Agganis, either after a long shift at NESN or sometime senior year, a cup of coffee stuck in my hand. I think of seeing him and his smile, a soft chat or two here and there.
When I came to BU, I knew nothing of college hockey. I wasn’t a fan, I had never watched. Even after my first Terrier hockey game, my first season or my second, I was never attached to the program. I never understood what BU hockey meant or how it meant so much to so many. It wasn’t until I was a junior, covering the team, that I understood. It wasn’t until I knew the people who worked on the inside, who filled Agganis on gamedays doing so much for us and the program, that I understood.
I fell in love with BU hockey because they were in love with BU hockey. I fell in love with BU hockey because people like Jim Prior would look at you, talk to you and make you believe in the program. All of their love and dedication would become yours.
But mostly I fell in love with BU hockey because Agganis was home. And people like Jim Prior, through their kindness and passion, made it home.
I don’t remember what any of our conversations were about, however few or however brief.
What I do remember of his voice comes from the goal announcements and starting lineups called to a familiar beat. And of course, what I remember most of his voice comes from, “So let’s play hockey.”