Friday, 2 April 2021

They Are The Future

The above duo is Josyane Cossette and Marie-Millie Dessureault who made a little history on Wednesday night when they became the first female duo to call a QMJHL game as Rouyn-Noranda hosted Val d'Or. They followed the glass ceiling-smashing effort by Kezie Lalonde after she became the first woman to call a QMJHL game ever back on March 14. We saw Leah Hextall call an NCAA hockey game in 2019, and she was invited to the UND bubble this year where she called the longest NCAA game in history as UMD defeated UND 3-2 in the eighth period of hockey. Along with women like Cassie Campbell-Pascall, Jennifer Botterill, and AJ Mleczko, it's time for everyone to realize that the sound of hockey is changing.

Before you start writing an angry email to Sportsnet, TSN, or ESPN, we're seeing doors open for women who have exceptional talent who wouldn't have had these opportunities a decade or two ago. These women know the game just as well as any of the men they appear with on the various networks, and their hockey knowledge is on par with their colleagues as well. In short, I'll make this clear off the start: they earned these opportunities for their skill and knowledge, not because of their gender.

There no denying that Campbell, Botterill, and Mleczko have the necessary experience from their own playing days to be able to analyze and break down plays seen on video, but they've clearlyput some effort into their public speaking because they express themselves well when doing their analyst work.

The play-by-play broadcaster role is, in my view, much harder to perfect because it's a constantly-changing role with how the game changes and evolves. That being said, Leah, Kenzie, and Josyane are excellent in their calls, and they absolutely deserve to get more opportunities at any and all hockey levels for all hockey leagues.

I'm lucky enough to call Kyleigh Palmer a friend, and she has turned the play-by-play broadcasting role for Bisons women's hockey broadcasts into her own through her own skill and effort. I am always proud to be her color analyst because she has her own unique style and rhythm in which she calls the game, and she legitimately sounds like she's been broadcasting for years. She played the game like Campbell and Botterill, so she came with the knowledge, but her work in making her play-by-play call better game after game is why I can see her getting a shot in another league if she desires it.

With ESPN and possibly another US network getting into the NHL business, it might be time for one of these networks to feature a female play-by-play broadcaster or a female broadcasting team. If hockey truly is for everyone, it's time to have it start sounding like everyone which means we should hear women broadasting hockey regularly. Otherwise, hockey is missing a big chunk of the demographics that make up its fanbase.

As we saw, ESPN used Leah Hextall for their NCAA coverage, and that opportunity should not only remain, but it should grow for Leah. Give her a shot to call NHL games regularly when coverage starts on ESPN next season. Add in a few more women to the ESPN broadcasts both as analysts and broadcasters, and network coverage of NHL hockey might actually start looking sounding representative of society and, in turn, the fanbase the NHL covets so much.

Sportsnet should also be moving in this direction a little more by offering at least one play-by- play broadcaster who is a woman. While Campbell and Botterill are in-studio for Sportsnet, the next step is to open the broadcast booth up to a woman regularly.

TSN has Cheryl Pounder who does women's hockey color analysis regularly, and I really would like to see her and/or Tessa Bonhomme be given the next opportunity to move into an NHL broadcast booth. Both have a ton of experience, and they've been on TV enough that the move to the men's game shouldn't be a jump out of their comfort zones.

It might be time for people to watch where they step when it comes to all the glass that's falling from the ceilings thanks to the these talented, exceptional women shattering those glass ceilings that once existed above them. These are the women leading the way for the next generations of women finding their voices on television and radio when calling hockey games. They're laying the groundwork for the next set of women who want to combine broadcasting and hockey.

Embrace the future, hockey fans, because it's happening right in front of you eyes. These women are the future of hockey broadcasting, and the game sounds so much better with them in it.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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