BREAKING NEWS : Jack Edwards opens up to Boston bruins about his speech issues..

NESN’s Jack Edwards opens up about his speech issues, saying he is fine medically and puzzled himself

“I’m treating it like an in-season injury, something that’s going to get better.”
The irony of his situation has not escaped Jack Edwards.

“The way I see it, two things work to my disadvantage,” says Edwards, who has been calling Bruins games on NESN since 2005 and serving as the only play-by-play voice since 2007.

“The game is always speeding up. And I keep slowing down.”

Anyone familiar with the 66-year-old Edwards’ work, particularly in recent seasons, should recognize his reference right away.

He’s sounded different in recent seasons. Slower. His speech is occasionally slurred. Certain words, surprisingly, necessitate prolonged enunciation.

Hockey is regarded by broadcasters as the most challenging sport to call, largely because of its rapid pace. Edwards, who has called hockey since his days at the University of New Hampshire, can sound as if he is stuck in a neutral-zone trap when he should be on a verbal breakaway.
It’s impossible not to notice, and it’s magnified if you have recently experienced the contrast of watching one of those vintage Bruins broadcasts — before Edwards’s speech pattern changed — that NESN often shows.

Edwards hasn’t discussed the change publicly until now. In part, he says, because his doctors remain mystified about what has happened.

“I did not have some kind of accident,” he says. “I do not have cancer. I don’t have dementia. I haven’t had a stroke. All of that’s been confirmed by Mass. General neurology.

“They’ve put me through tests that make me feel like I’m in a science fiction movie, but it’s reality. The photographs of my brain disclose absolutely nothing. “That’s my joke with them.”

Edwards claims he has not been given a particular diagnostic or medical word for the transformation. He claims to be in “robust” health and received a “superior” score on intelligence tests administered by his doctors.

“It doesn’t fit into any slot,” he explains. “There have been a few possibilities, but they haven’t reached a definitive diagnosis after working on me for a year and a half. As you may guess, having a slowing in my speech is really annoying for me.”

For Bruins fans who recall Edwards’ soliloquy on Patriots Day 2009 about “redcoats” and “ragtag farmers” following a Bruins victory over the Canadiens, it may come as no surprise that his family has a tradition of reading aloud the Declaration of Independence on July 4th, which was started by Edwards’ late father.

During the yearly reading in 2022, Edwards discovered that his ability to speak at his customary pace had been hampered.

“The Declaration of Independence includes quite a few unique terms,” says Edwards, “and a year and a half ago, I couldn’t digest the words, and it wasn’t because they were new. I’ve been reading it for maybe 20 to 25 years.

His daughter, a senior at New York University, persuaded him to see his primary care physician and pursue speech therapy.

The doctor referred him to a neurologist, who ruled out dementia, stroke, and other probable diagnoses. He was then referred to the Massachusetts General Hospital.

“I meet with the smartest people I’ve ever known about every three months,” Edwards said. “They’ve done a battery of tests on me and I’ve met with research groups, plural.”
On non-game days, Edwards receives 40-60 minutes of “exhaustive and exhausting” speech treatment, whereas game days he receives about 10 minutes. He had just finished his exercises before our phone call on Wednesday.

“I thank all the people who are working on this problem and helping me, and they seem to feel and I anecdotally feel that I’m making incremental progress,” he says. “The brain is a funny thing, especially mine. It is still possible to train a 66½-year-old brain to do the same things you used to do in a different way. And that’s what we’re working on through speech therapy.”

Edwards does not partake in social media other than to post his line charts on before Bruins games. But he acknowledges he’s heard the conjecture and speculation. And he gets questions about his situation, including from peers.

He mentions a play-by-play announcer for another NHL team who visited Edwards and analyst Andy Brickley in the broadcast booth before a preseason game in September.

“He said, ‘How’s it going?’ ” recalls Edwards.

“And I said, ‘Just fine.’

And he said, ‘So, how are the cancer treatments going?’ ”

Brickley, who has been alongside Edwards in the booth for his entire NESN tenure, has a subtle way of chiming in with just two or three words to help his partner catch up to the action when he’s lagging behind.

“Brick has been sensationally supportive and he’s the greatest teammate I’ve ever had,” says Edwards, while also noting the support of the production team, which has closed ranks around him since the speech issues arose.

Edwards says that Bruins fans have been nothing but encouraging and kind in person.

“Bruins fans are lovely and loving, and I have the benefit of the doubt with most of them,” he said. “I know intellectually that they know something is going on, but I have had nothing but encouragement from them face-to-face.”

He is informed that this is likely the first time Bruins fans have been labeled as “lovely and loving.”

“Well, once you’re a member of the cult, everything looks different from inside,” he replies, laughing.
When asked to confirm his contract terms, Edwards just states that he is in the middle of a multi-year agreement. Former Kings broadcaster Alex Faust, a Northeastern alumnus, has garnered positive feedback when filling in for Edwards on a few occasions this season.

Edwards is sincerely hoping that speech therapy would help him get back to where he wants to be. What if not?

“I’m treating it like an in-season injury, something that’s going to get better,” he said. “If I or NESN determine that I am harming the product or depriving the fans of a nice experience, I will say goodbye. However, we have not had any discussions like that.

“I love my job, but I know that retirement isn’t far away,” he says, adding that his retirement plan is to ski about 100 days a year.

“I’ll turn 67 next month. “I hope to make a graceful exit when the time comes.”

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