If you’re a college hockey devotee who loves crisp analysis and never misses a telecast, then Bob Norton is no stranger to your ears. When Hockey East is on the air, Bob is there in the booth behind the mic.
Ironically, the broadcasting part of his life wasn’t planned and began to happen in 1976, when he was 33, about to chase after his masters degree, just finishing up his sixth season at UNH as Charlie Holt’s assistant coach and prime recruiter. Owning superb recruiting skills, Bob had coaxed a stout collection of quality American and Canadian hockey players to Durham. Many soon became All Americas and then NHL players. A few such names were Hislop, Clark, Raeder, Crowder and Langway. The Norton thumbprint on that era of UNH hockey is easily seen by looking at the 123-54-4 record those six teams jointly compiled.
But getting back to the story of the broadcast booth: Based on his UNH coaching stint, Bob segued into doing color commentary for New Hampshire Public Television and saw firsthand the 1984 birth of Hockey East. In 1985, he moved over to the New England Sports Network as one half of the broadcast team (with Sean McDonough) handling Hockey East games live. Ultimately, Bob became the authoritative and widely respected on-air voice for 16 Hockey East tournaments, plus 10 Beanpot championships. He later appeared on ESPN for 9 Frozen Four broadcasts. His most recent was 2008.
Back in 1984, Bob also began a 10-year run as the voice describing the action of the Mini 1-on-1 program that aired on Channel 38 between periods of Bruins games. He received two NE Emmy awards (1979 and 1989) and also a Hockey East Media award (2004). When NESN in 2007 resurrected the Mini 1-on-1 competition, Bob got the nod. Look and listen for him again this winter.
There is a wee bit irony to all of this. Bob at Watertown (MA) High School starred three years in football (an All-Scholastic) and baseball (MVP). He captained both teams and then enrolled at Rutgers University (Class of 1965) where he excelled, too, in football (linebacker/center) and baseball (catcher/OF/1B). His hockey playing was done over three seasons of Club hockey. So, why with acumen and authority did he end up scouting, coaching and broadcasting hockey instead of football or baseball? It’s an interesting question about this always-interesting man.
Other things worth knowing: In 2003, Bob was inducted for baseball and football into the Watertown High School Athletic Hall of Fame. In 2007, he received the William T. Stewart Award for his contributions to Massachusetts schoolboy hockey. Last June, after 36 years in education as a teacher and high school principal, he retired.
Bob and his wife Ellen live in Concord, NH. They have three sons: Patrick, Ryan and Brendan; and one grandchild.