Best Advice For Hockey Play-by-Play

The following advice comes from friend of STAA, Matt Dumouchelle.

Before the game

1. Do your research

If possible, get a game tape or audio from the team to get comfortable with their lineups. Coaches will change lines open during games, but as an example, the #1 and #2 power play and penalty kill units normally stay the same. If you can nail down those units it will make a difference during the game.

2. Talk to the coaches

If you are doing pregame interviews for your broadcast, that is the perfect time. Record your conversation and then ask afterwards who he likes playing together, if he matches up lines etc. Some coaches will be hesitant to divulge that information, but even knowing #12’s line will always be out against #97’s line, it’s something you can watch for.

3. Warmup like it’s a game

The best time to nail down the rosters for each team is in warmups. All players are on the ice, it’s moving fast and it keeps your eyes active. Every time you read a number, say the name, even do a quick line or two of what he’s doing when you notice him. You can also use this time to pick up intricacies about the player (skating style, appearance – long hair, tucked in jersey etc).

During the game

1. Time and score

Just like any sport, you will always have people popping in and out of your broadcast. Giving the time of the period should almost be done every other whistle. Give the score every 3-4 whistles.

You don’t want to be overloading the game with only time and score because there are several things you would miss out on (being more detailed with who scored the goals, shots, sponsor reads) but those are the two biggest pieces of information the listener always wants to know.

2. Save the inflection

Hockey is a fast paced sport and has many up and down moments in a short period of time. The one thing I always key in on is not to sound too hyped all the time. A shot on goal from the blue line is seen and saved easily does not have the same emphasis as a shot on the power play through traffic that hits the goalie and slides behind him.

If you try to make every scoring chance or shot sound like a Game 7 winner, you will tire yourself out and the listener.

3. Lay off the refs

Referees can be blamed for pretty much every game a team loses. Missed calls, calls that shouldn’t have been made, waved off goals – countless things. It is not your job to decide if they made the right call or not. You are the communicator and instrument for the listener, you aren’t a fan or a coach.

Describe the call, announce the power play is coming for whatever team and prepare to call the game, as much as humanly possible leave your opinion of the call to yourself.

4. Track the centers

Don’t do this to the point that it takes away or distracts from your broadcast but if you see #12 out against #97 all the time, make a note of it to help keep track of who is on the ice. One of the more chaotic times of a game is at a whistle when both teams switch lines, that’s 10 skaters off and 10 skaters on without much time to see who is who. If you can identify which center is coming on the ice for each team, in most cases you will be able to identify who the wingers will be.

5. Take your eye off the puck…for a moment

In live action, you can easily get caught missing a line change or penalty behind the play if you are only focused on the puck. Perfect example, if the puck is dumped in at the red line, be more concerned about who is coming on and off the ice at that moment than the puck being collected behind the net.

It will only be a few seconds but just as the team with the puck regroups, you can take that time to regroup and identify who is on the ice.

6. Use your vocabulary

There is an incredible Google image of New Jersey Devils announcer Mike Emrick using 153 different verbs to describe how the puck is moved in a game. If you use a fifth of that your game will sound clean and exciting. The puck isn’t always shot, it’s angled, blasted, tapped, sent, slipped and swatted.


Group Critique 25: February 2019

Love basketball? Then this is the group critique month for you: Jon is reviewing four clips, three basketball and one football.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A good example of how you can make your listeners care about your broadcast.
  • A “small investment, big reward” technique for conveying emotions of players and coaches to your audience.
  • Advice for controlling tempo in your basketball broadcasts.
  • The play-by-play fundamental that is similar to a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
  • Great examples of how you can hear a smile on radio and why it matters in your broadcasts.

Continue

Group Critique 24: January 2019

Ringing in the new year with a new round of radio critiques in the basketball and hockey departments.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A common mistake in description that hurts more than it helps.
  • How to increase your energy without sounding over the top.
  • Examples of what basketball broadcasters should do instead of narrating every pass.
  • A unique, effective description to add to your basketball vocabulary

Continue

Group Critique 23: December 2018

Ho ho hope you pick up some useful tips from this month’s group critique session. Radio critiques of basketball and football play-by-play plus a double helping of football TV play-by-play.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • When using the shot clock becomes a PBP crutch
  • How to tell if you’ve prepared well for your football broadcast
  • When to watch the field and when to watch the monitor

Continue

Group Critique 22: November 2018

Your November critique session includes football, baseball, volleyball and sports talk.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Two techniques for instantly improving your voice quality, regardless of how good it might already be
  • Examples of great description for football broadcasters
  • How thinking of a football field as being sloped will help your broadcast
  • The five letter word to avoid to make your broadcasts more personal
  • The one thing you should do in every sports talk monologue segment

Continue

Group Critique 21: October 2018

It sounds like fall! This month’s radio group features plenty of football play-by-play critiques with a sprinkle of baseball. Meanwhile the TV play-by-play side digs into baseball and basketball.

What you’ll learn in the radio portion:

  • How your favorite words can quickly become cliche
  • Advice for using your voice to underscore drama
  • A habit you should develop for all scoring plays
  • The common three letter word to eliminate from your play-by-play vocabulary.

Continue

Keys to Elite Baseball Play-by-Play

You’ll be reminded about the key fundamentals to great baseball broadcasting, and learn advanced techniques for setting yourself apart in one of the most competitive genres of sports broadcasting. You’ll also hear samples demonstrating how to best execute these techniques.

Continue

The 7 Deadly Sins of Interviewing

Have you ever sat in your car to hear the end of an exceptionally entertaining interview? In this guide you will learn the common mistakes to avoid so you deliver similarly captivating interviews to your audience!

When I was a talk show host on ESPN Radio Network in the early 2000’s, ABC/ESPN hired a man who extensively studied interviewing techniques. He noticed several common habits that potentially sabotaged the quality of the interview. He named these bad habits the Seven Deadly Sins and ABC/ESPN began teaching them to all of their radio and TV air talent.

This guide is based upon the Seven Deadly Sins, with some personal tweaks to make them even more relevant. Also please be clear, the Seven Deadly Sins are far from the only “rules” for doing great interviews.

Deadly Sin #1: Not Asking a Question

You’ve probably heard interviewers say “talk about” roughly one million times. Don’t do it. Not asking a question allows your guest to go whatever direction he wants, and it’s likely not the direction you want.

Not getting an answer is awkward for everyone. Avoid the uncomfortableness by always asking a question.

A common mistake many broadcasters make is taking the “I don’t have interviews, I have conversations” approach to interviewing. You must ask questions.

Deadly Sin #2: The Double-Barreled Question

Also known as the two-part question. If you ask two questions at once, the chances are great that only one will be answered. If both questions are worth asking, ask them separately.

Again, if both questions are worth asking, ask them separately.

Deadly Sin #3: Overloading

I have changed this from the ABC/ESPN definition. For me, overloading means talking too much. Overloading can cause the question to get lost. Ask your question in 10-seconds or less.

Deadly Sin #4: Remarks

Don’t load up your questions with remarks. You may never get the answer to your question. Pin your guest down my simply asking the question to which you want an answer.

Deadly Sin #5: Yes-No Questions

Avoid asking questions that can be answered yes or no. Yes/no questions can severely limit response. It’s especially an issue with people who aren’t used to being interviewed (like high school athletes or kids), or people who prefer not to be doing the interview. Open-ended questions demand an explanation.

I remember pre-recording an interview Chike Ofeakor of the 49ers many years ago. He had no interest in being there and his answers reflected it.

An exception to the Yes/No rule would be if you are trying to create a dramatic moment. Ex: “Barry Bonds. Did you use PEDs?”

Deadly Sin #6: Answering Your Own Questions

You’ll have plenty of time before or after the interview to share your opinions or prove how much you know. Remember, the guest is the star. Less of you and more of the guest is a good thing.

An especially notable thing about the last example is that the guest is a black man, so the interviewer assumed the guest’s role models were also black. While you didn’t hear the replies in the sample, the guest told the interviewer his role models were Coach K. and Bobby Knight. Not only had the interviewer guessed at his guest’s answer, he guessed wrong.

Deadly Sin #7: Hyperbole

Comics use hyperbole effectively and it is effective in advertising. However, it is a bad thing to do in an interview. Most folks are embarrassed to be put on a pedestal. The more you overstate the greatness of your guest and/or their accomplishments, the more they are going to downplay their reply.

That answer was not edited. That is all there was. The guest may have been somewhat embarrassed about being put on the pedestal and he wanted to get down as quickly as possible.

Deadly Sin #7.5: Name the One

I added this to the list after hearing it too many times. Avoid asking your guest to name the most memorable moment of his career or his favorite teammate of all-time. Most folks want to contemplate their answer for more than the three seconds you are giving them. As a bailout, they frequently say, “I can’t think of just one.” Instead of, “name the one,” ask, “What is one of?”

Q&A

How acceptable are “one thing” questions when they’re more along the lines of “one bit of advice for Audience X”?

Asking someone for a piece of advice is acceptable. Still, it would be better to ask for a specific piece of advice.

I know I find it frustrating when someone asks me, “Do you have any advice for my career?” Well yes. I can spend the next year sharing advice with you. What specifically do you want advice about? Demos? Resumes? Football play-by-play fundamentals?

Being specific is always better.

On the “tell us about” questions- how would you propose asking Sidney Crosby about how he did score the game winning goal in overtime?

What specifically do you want to know about the goal? His mindset? What was the play designed to do? His thought process as sprinted towards the net? Be specific.

Just ask yourself, what specifically is it that you want to know. Instead of, “tell me about your birthday party,” how about…

  • Who attended
  • Where was it?
  • Why did you choose that location?
  • What kind of cake did you have?
  • What presents did you receive?
  • etc.