Sunday, 24 March 2019

The A-Team

Today is a big day in hockey as the CWHL's Clarkson Cup will be handed out today while Rogers Hometown Hockey partners with APTN to bring the world the very first national hockey broadcast entirely in the traditional Cree language! And while those two events are big in their own rights, Sportsnet went one step further in assigning an all-female broadcast crew - the last time I'll refer to this crew by gender - to the Clarkson Cup game as the women called the CWHL Championship game in its entirety!

I'm not here to critique this broadcast because, quite frankly, the women killed it. I do want to make something very clear about the broadcast because it needs to be repeated over and over until it's part of the everyday lexicon. It's 2019, folks. Women have been doing this hockey thing at an extremely high level for decades, and it's only in recent years that the men who ran these broadcasts and networks allowed them to sit in the play-by-play chairs and the colour analyst chairs, let alone studio analyst and studio host chairs.

The combination of Leah Hextall and Cassie Campbell-Pascall in the broadcast booth were joined by studio host Caroline Cameron and studio analysts Natalie Spooner and Jennifer Botterill along with rink-side reporter Nikki Reyes and producer Michelle Methot in bringing this Clarkson Cup broadcast to the airwaves, and they nailed it. Killed it. Knocked it out of the park. They were on their games, and they brought one heckuva broadcast to the airwaves.

The problem I have with this entire broadcast getting attention as an all-female broadcast team is that this is 2019. It's not 1970 with Ron Burgandy reading the news when female newscasters were unheard of on TV. Yet it seems that we're back in that time when it was a big deal that Veronica Corningstone took the anchor seat and read the news.

Leah Hextall has been doing this play-by-play thing for a couple of years now, and she has improved every time she's been on the air. Yes, there are still moments where mistakes are made, but Jim Hughson, Doc Emrick, and Bob Cole made mistakes. It happens. The key is that Hextall recovers, continues to call the next play as confidently as she called any other play, and moves on. That's the sign of a good play-by-play broadcaster, and she deserves the kudos for getting better each and every time she's on the air.

Cassie Campbell-Pascall is a legitimate hockey legend, and no one will question her knowledge about the game. She works regularly on Sportsnet NHL broadcasts, and she's a polished analyst when it comes to the women's game. She's an excellent resource to have in the booth as the colour commentator.

The trio of Caroline Cameron, Natalie Spooner, and Jennifer Botterill is an extremely likable and very knowledgeable group as Cameron led the panel while Spooner and Botterill - both amazingly accomplished players in their own rights with a ton of experience - gave their thoughts on the game articulately and accurately. If Sportsnet is going to do broadcast more women's hockey in the future, this is your studio panel in the same way that Ron MacLean, Elliotte Friedman, and Nick Kypreos are regulars on the NHL broadcasts. These three women were as good as those three men when it came to the breakdown of the Clarkson Cup game.

I wasn't fond of some of the questions that Nikki Reyes posed to the players and coaches she interviewed, but Reyes is doing a fine job as the rink-side reporter. She's talking to the bigger names in getting their thoughts on the game, and she balances the interviews fairly between the teams. If my only complaint is not liking a question, Nikki Reyes is doing a solid job as well and should continue being an effective part of the broadcast.

Can we stop with this "all-female" portion of the broadcast team and just call them "the broadcast team"?

Look, UMFM went through this as well. We had a long discussion prior to this season, and it was decided that we were going forward with a full-time female play-by-play broadcaster for women's hockey because we had zero female voices on any of the broadcasts of football, men's hockey, or women's hockey. But we didn't diversify entirely because of gender equality. The discussions we had about bringing a woman aboard is that we wanted a different perspective, we needed a new voice, and we - as a campus and community radio station - want to be a leader when it comes to representation of women on our airwaves.

The biggest message I continue to preach as I get UMFM involved in all sorts of hockey events is that one doesn't need to be on the ice to still be involved in hockey. And while broadcasting jobs are few and far between in most markets, UMFM will continue to seek out exceptional women to be part of all our hockey broadcasts moving forward as we air both Bisons hockey and the Female World Sport School Challenge in the coming years. If we develop some more incredible broadcasters like we have in Kyleigh Palmer, we, as a station, are better as a whole and our broadcasts become that much better.

We've had all-female broadcasts before on UMFM's airwaves. We're not here to promote the "all-female" part because, to us, these incredible women simply are the broadcasters. I would hope that Sportsnet can move past the "all-female" moniker and simply make these seven women their permanent women's hockey broadcast team and, eventually, part of their overall broadcast crews that call both men's and women's hockey. These seven women did an exceptional job today, and they should recognized for their efforts in broadcasting rather than their gender.

Well done, ladies. Top-notch broadcast today.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

No comments: