Starting off as a local kid who just wanted to see the world, Dale Arnold ’79, P’07, found his hometown college, Bowdoin, to be his gateway into a fascinating career in sports broadcasting.
Arnold’s journey from a neighborhood kid in Brunswick to a top-class sportscaster for the New England Sports Network (NESN) began by doing play-by-play for football games when he was just 15 years old.
“I started doing games on the radio and getting paid for it when I was 15,” Arnold said. “I was doing Brunswick High School football and Bowdoin football on the commercial station in town.”
Although it wasn’t quite his ultimate dream of playing center field for the Boston Red Sox, Arnold grew to love broadcasting. It kept him close to all branches of athletics, during and after high school.
“I lettered in four sports in high school at Brunswick [High School] and then at Mount Ararat [High School], but I didn’t letter in football, so I could play soccer or run cross country and still do the football games. I lettered in basketball but I didn’t letter in hockey, so I could play basketball in high school and still do hockey games on the radio,” Arnold said. “So, it just kind of worked out for me. I was able to still be an athlete at Brunswick High School and Mount Ararat [High School] and still broadcast games as well.”
Once he graduated high school, Arnold ended up back at Bowdoin after a short stint at the University of Miami and the University of Southern Maine.
“It ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me in my life,” Arnold said. “I wanted to branch out [by going to Miami]. I wanted to see the world and all that other stuff, but as it turned out it ended up being the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
However, Arnold’s experience was not an easy one. He married his wife the summer after graduating high school, and throughout his Bowdoin career, he lived off campus in a mobile home while struggling to make ends meet.
“I went to meet with the Dean of Students, a guy by the name of Harry Warren, and I sat across the desk from him and I said, ‘Harry, I’ve made a huge mistake. I applied, you let me in. I can’t afford to go here,’” said Arnold. “And he looked across the desk at me and he said, ‘Dale, we wouldn’t have let you in if we weren’t gonna let you stay.’ And at the end of my three years of Bowdoin experience, I think I owed a grand total of $5,000 for my total Bowdoin education, which I have been happy to pay for a long time since.”
These gracious and supportive interactions stayed with Arnold as he became the radio voice of Bowdoin hockey.
“I would be driving with Fred Harlow [my radio partner] to Middlebury and to here or there to do Bowdoin hockey games,” Arnold said, “And finally, Sid Watson, who was the coach of the team at the time, and who I’d known since I was in high school, came to me and said, ‘Dale, why are you driving to Middlebury?’ And I said, ‘Well, I gotta do the games.’ And he said, ‘Come get on the bus with us.’”
After that, every game he went to he got a lesson from Watson.
“I would be traveling on the bus with them sitting in the seat behind Sid Watson and getting my master’s degree in hockey education from Sid, who taught me more about the game than I ever thought I would ever know,” Arnold said.
“I never played for Sid. I wasn’t good enough to do that, trust me, but I felt like one of his players,” he added. “I was one of his guys, and he treated me like I was one of his guys.”
Feeling like one of the guys has kept Arnold tied to the Bowdoin community for over 40 years.
“The Bowdoin athletic community was such a family-oriented scenario,” Arnold said. “I was married and living with my wife off campus, and yet they made me feel like I was part of that group during the three years I was a student at Bowdoin until I graduated and in the ensuing years since I’ve been back.”
Arnold continued to climb the sportscasting ladder after Bowdoin. Right after graduating, he became the voice of the Maine Mariners and then moved on to call games for Boston College football. He moved out of New England for a few years to call games for the New Jersey Devils, but quickly returned to provide play-by-play for the New England Patriots in the late 1980s. Since 1995, he has worked for the Boston Bruins, calling games from 1995-2007 and providing intermission reports ever since.
Now that Arnold is reaching retirement age, giving back is front and center in his mind.
“I wonder if I could ever teach a communications course at Bowdoin that would help people understand radio, TV, internet,” Arnold said. “It’s sort of a secret dream of mine that at some point later on in my life, I’ll get the opportunity and I can go back to Brunswick. Maybe I could give back even more by helping the kids who are there now.”
As an alumnus and parent, one lesson from his Bowdoin career is clear to Arnold, and he learned it early on from former Dean of Students Alice Early.
“Learn how to learn. Take everything Bowdoin has to offer, because they’ve got a lot to offer,” Arnold said. “Take everything. Learn everything. All of the other stuff will sort itself out at the end of the four years. Learn how to learn, and enjoy every minute that you have there.”
Looking back, the spirit of giving remains the defining factor of Arnold’s Bowdoin athletics experience.
“I think of people like Harry Warren and Sid Watson … I think of people like that who took this kid from Brunswick and tried to make him the best he could be, and tried to help him on his path to becoming what hopefully he would become,” Arnold said. “That’s what Bowdoin does for people.”