Saturday, 29 October 2016

Another First

Tonight, thanks to some short-staffedness on behalf of the men's hockey crew, I was tasked with the opportunity to be the public address announcer at the Manitoba Bisons men's hockey game. While we don't have an NHL-sized crew to work the timekeeper's box and everything else that happens on the other side of the rink away from the confines of the broadcast booth I'm usually in, I got a crash course on what the guys above do on a nightly basis. Needless to say, I have a whole new set of respect for the men who announce everything happening inside the arena.

Let me start by saying that Tom H.'s job with the Bisons is entirely safe when it comes to the public address announcing. I'm sure with more practice I could get into the swing of things, but my one-night cameo in the timekeeper's box was an eye-opener. A big thanks goes out to Mike W. whose information and knowledge of what I was to be doing went a heckuva long way. As much as I am comfortable with names, I found it's the little things that Tom does that perhaps very notice when it comes to his job downstairs. In saying that, I'll give you a bird's eye view into what happens on the other side of the rink.

I arrived early enough to get myself into the timekeeper's box with Mike who gave me the Coles Notes version of what I would be doing. There was a prepared script I was to follow, there were lineups with pronunciations for me, and there was some basic timing cues. In other words, I was pretty much setup by the staff to do the job, but one question remained: could I?

If there was one thing I'd change, it would be to get in earlier before fans start arriving and doing some audio tests. I am used to speaking on a microphone with the radio show, and there's certain nuances that go with that - how far away from the microphone do you have to be, how loud does one have to project, enunciations based on the distance away from the microphone and projection of one's voice, et cetera. I did get some feedback from the press box at the first intermission, though, and that was helpful even though they said I was mumbling. I wasn't. I just wasn't projecting!

I will admit that I stumbled on a couple of names, but this might be alright considering the names. The first was "Anishinaabeg", an Aboriginal word that is the collective form of the Ojibway, Odawa and Algonkin Peoples who use and share the Algonquian languages. The University of Manitoba recognizes the Aboriginal lands that the university was founded on with an announcement prior to the national anthem at every game as a sign of respect for those Aboriginal Peoples and their lands. The word does require some practice to say, and I stumbled on the pronunciation slightly. The correct pronunciation is "ah-NISH-ah-NAH-beg", and I stumbled on the "ah-NAH" part. Sorry, Anishinaabeg Peoples. No disrespect meant from this rather naïve white kid.

The other name that threw me a little despite me knowing the pronunciation? UBC's Wes Vannieuwenhuizen. The sad part is I know how to say it - "Wes Van New-en Hyoo-zen" - and it has never caused me an issue when calling men's hockey games before. In fact, I repeatedly had to say the name for another broadcaster last season who liked to marble-mouth his name, but never once got it right until a few minutes remained in the third period. Tonight? I took one look at the pronunciation guide, and it completely messed with my brain. Needless to say, I didn't look at the pronunciation guide again when Vannieuwenhuizen visited us in the penalty box for a second time.

Overall, I would say that I had a good time from the second period on once I got the projection of my voice down and the pronunciations right. Annoucements went off without a hitch, Mike and I got our timing down between music and announcements, and we worked pretty seamless second and third periods. Communication is the key in the timekeeper's box, and Mike and I made good use of our communication skills both in auditory sounds and body language. By the time the third period hit, we were engaged in full conversations while taking short breaks to do our jobs!

I have a new respect for the public address announcers. I always did respect them for what they do and the obvious public embarrassment of making a mistake, but to get to do a job like the public address announcer is pretty cool in my books. I don't know if I'll be asked back by the Bisons men's hockey team - they lost 3-2 - but I'll be ready if they ever need me again!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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