Breakthrough

It’s time to break some glass, it’s time to make history.

Kenzie Lalonde intends to do both when she puts on the headset at the Scotiabank Centre on Sunday afternoon.

It has taken over five decades for the glass to shatter in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. For the first time in its storied history, a woman will describe the action on television.

Lalonde’s well-timed tweet on International Women’s Day sent shock waves throughout the Maritimes and hockey world.

“I’m really excited for the opportunity and a little nervous all at the same time,” admitted Lalonde.

The 26-year-old is no stranger to the broadcast industry or doing play by play for that matter. Nevertheless, her latest opportunity with Eastlink TV’s QMJHL coverage will not only provide a platform for change, it will inspire.

“I don’t want to say it’s an honour, because it’s sad that it has to be the word to use because we haven’t seen a female voice behind a male dominated sport itself, but at the same time I would use the word honour,” explained Lalonde.

“Whether, it’s me or another woman, I’m just glad it’s happening.”

Hearing a woman’s voice behind the microphone calling QMJHL games is long overdue.

Over the course of hockey history in Canada, the voices may have changed, but the gender hasn’t. That trend is finally starting to shift.

“Growing up there was no female voice behind the game,” Lalonde said.

“I never thought it could be possible.”

“I only ever saw women on the SportsCentre morning desk, you only saw anchors when you saw a woman in sports media,” Lalonde added.

“I’ve been literally waiting for twenty years to see this happen,” said long time sports broadcaster and author Lisa Bowes.

“I have never seen a female take on men’s hockey at the major junior level,” explained Bowes.

“It’s a cliché thing, but I don’t want to be the statue, just the bridge and hopefully more women now will find themselves in roles where they can start as a host or maybe move into the play by play role, or are we finally going to see them jump right into calling a game, if that’s what interests them the most,” said Lalonde.

Bowes understands first-hand how important an opportunity is, but she also knows what it takes to earn one. “I’m really excited for Kenzie. I love seeing this type of opportunity, but Kenzie has earned this,” stressed Bowes.

“For any broadcaster man or woman, to earn the opportunity to do what she has done and to get this shot in the Q, is fantastic.”

“Kenzie has done play by play in other sports, so she’s definitely earned this, but this means it’s opening a door yet again for young generational broadcasters to see what’s possible when they put the time and effort in.”

Unfortunately, women in the broadcast world always seem to be fighting for credibility.

“I would like to say it’s a world that is more welcoming and accepting of women than ever before,” Bowes said.

“I think you earn respect by putting the time and work in to show your colleagues and the players that you’re a professional working on your craft. And that goes for men and women in the business. Claire Hanna in Regina is another broadcaster who is determined to make waves in this space and will soon get that opportunity,” explained Bowes.

“Kenzie reminds me of myself when I was given an opportunity at “The Score” to call women’s hockey and basketball over two decades ago. Later, we’d get a handful of games with the original NWHL. But it’s not enough. The only way to acquire this skill is to get a full slate. I admire her drive to make this happen,” said Bowes.

“If you give young broadcasters the opportunity you have stay with them. If you can stay with them and mold them and help them get more reps that’s how they will get that much better,” explained Bowes.

The magnitude of the opportunity and new role at the QMJHL level isn’t lost on Lalonde.

“To finally start seeing a voice of a girl behind the game and knowing that is possible and that Eastlink is excited to have that and more networks and businesses want that, is really exciting,” said Lalonde.

“I think different areas of hockey have varying degrees of difficulty,” said long-time broadcaster and Rogers Hometown Hockey Host Tara Slone, when asked about the difficulty young women may have breaking into the business.

“There are lots of women hosting and reporting on television, and when it comes to analysis and colour commentary.”

“I’m happy to say that those opportunities seem to be growing quickly. But when it comes to play-by-play, there are no women doing it professionally, and almost none doing it on a community level,” explained Slone.

Life in front of a camera for women in the hockey world can be brutal given what Slone calls a “ridiculous double standard.”

“There are lots of added pressures for women in hockey.”

“Does she even like hockey? Does she even know what she’s talking about? How can we take her seriously, she never played the men’s game!”

“Look at what she’s wearing.”

“We have to navigate those waters while doing our jobs. But the more we normalize seeing and hearing women on our screens and on the radio, the more those factors start to fade,” stressed Slone.

“The landscape is changing, but we aren’t even close to leveling the playing field,” she said.

Slone believes Lalonde’s QMJHL play by play debut will have a lasting impact.

“Kenzie’s debut will mean that a whole generation of girls will see something realistic to aspire to, and a whole generation of boys will see that women are a natural part of the hockey landscape.”

“It’s huge,” Slone said.

“I’m really excited to show what got,” Lalonde said confidently.

It would be tough to find anyone who works harder or more deserving and qualified than Lalonde who played high level hockey her entire life in Ontario, finishing off her playing career starring for the Mount Allison Mounties of the AUS.

Brenda Irving, Hannah Storm and Andrea Kremer are giants in the industry and have undoubtedly inspired young broadcasters to believe anything is possible in world of sports broadcasting.

“I remember seeing Holly Horton on TSN in the mornings and thinking how cool her job was.”

“I looked up to many different people each for different reasons like Katie Nolan’s humour, Tara Slone’s authenticity and Leah Hextall’s determination,” Lalonde said.

“Of course, the great Doris Burke always deserves a shoutout when we talk about female on air idols.”

Lalonde now has the opportunity to become a role model and trailblazer in her own right in this region. “It’s really exciting to me that young girls here locally have the opportunity to see a girl in sports media.”

“If someone chooses to look up to me, I hope they see themselves in me.”

“In the future and beyond I really hope I can get more reps in the QMJHL and getting more chances to put that headset on, it’s an unique role for women right now and personally I want to keep pursuing it and getting better.”

Dealing with pressure and nerves around the game of hockey has come naturally for Lalonde.

“It’s all about reps, which is kind of intimidating.”

“You have to possesses the self-confidence to keep putting yourself out there every single day knowing people are watching as you continue to learn.”

“I’m sure by Sunday morning there’s going to be a big knot in my stomach, but I’ve come to realize that when I get those feelings of anxiousness, nervousness or trembling that’s always a great feeling because that means something amazing is going to happen on the other side.”

“I think as soon as that red light comes on it will all flow, but for now I’m trying to channel those nerves.”

“I just want the puck to drop, because it’s going to be a really good game.”

Kenzie Lalonde will be breaking the glass ceiling and making history when she takes her rightful place high atop the Scotiabank Arena press box this Sunday afternoon.

“Whether it’s me or someone else, breaking the glass just has to happen. I guess it’s my time and opportunity to do it now, so I’m going to shatter it.”

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