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Best Advice For Hockey Play-by-Play

Improve your hockey play-by-play with this advice from friend of STAA, Matt Dumouchelle.

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Building Your Hockey PBP Career

Mark Binetti, Voice and Director of Media Relations for the Rapid City Rush of the ECHL shares his best advice for your hockey PBP career.

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STAA Play-by-Play Pyramid

Use the STAA Play-by-Play Pyramid to build your hockey broadcasts from the foundation up or use the pyramid as a guide for self-critiques.

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Group Critique 41: June 2020

We hit for the cycle in the audio program — football, basketball, baseball and hockey play-by-play. The video features sports anchoring and reporting, interviewing and baseball play-by-play.

Among the nuggets . . .

  • Subtle examples of using your voice as an instrument
  • A common mistake among basketball broadcasters
  • How over-using first and last names can hurt your broadcast
  • The advantage of sounding conversational versus polished
  • Examples of great script writing
  • Tips on effective structure for questions
  • How to emphasize the subtle but important storylines in your play-by-play


Group Critique 39: April 2020

We have audio and video this month featuring basketball, baseball and hockey play-by-play.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Key info to include with time and score
  • Why fair and foul balls should be treated equally
  • Great examples of character development in a hockey broadcast
  • Why you give time and score immediately after a made basket
  • Two tips for maximizing the resonance of your voice
  • How to use your personality to set your broadcasts apart
  • How to vary your pacing
  • How to underscore key moments in a basketball game
  • Advice for setting up your analyst for success


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 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


Group Critique 17: April 2018

On the radio side Jon critiques basketball, football, and hockey play-by-play. TV critiques include basketball play-by-play and a sports anchor/reporter reel.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • A great example of basketball description
  • What to say while you work on ID’ing the tackler
  • How to use time and score to build drama on a TV PBP broadcast
  • Why your facial expressions add to your sportscast


Group Critique 14: October 2017

This month our Group Critique is all radio. Jon critiques hockey, football, and baseball play-by-play.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • When and how to use team nicknames
  • The perfect way to open a demo segment
  • A fine example of description in football play-by-play


Group Critique 10: Winter 2017

The first Group Critique of 2017 packs a punch with plenty of radio and TV critiques. The radio session covers sports talk, football, basketball and baseball play-by-play. For the TV crowd Jon reviews hockey, a sports anchor/reporter reel, soccer and basketball.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why you need to structure your post game show
  • How to add clarity when you give the time and score
  • What to do if you feel like you need to speak faster in basketball PBP
  • An illustration of PBP character development
  • Aiming for the bigs? Discover why you need to add pitch type and location to your PBP
  • A great example of voice control in hockey PBP
  • The facial expression you must use as a sports TV anchor/reporter


Group Critique 6: Winter 2016

This quarter we are all play-by-play, all the time. On the radio critique includes football, baseball, basketball, and hockey. On the TV side Jon critiques basketball and wrestling play-by-play.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • Why you should always give the Down/Distance/Yard line at the end of a play
  • One thing you should never include on a PBP demo
  • A common mistake in baseball play-by-play
  • Why you need to be careful about the audio quality of your demo


Group Critique 5: Fall 2015

We’ve got another all-radio critique session for the fall quarter. Pour yourself a glass of Kool-Aid and listen in while Jon reviews baseball, hockey, sports talk, and basketball.

Here’s what you’ll learn:

  • How long to “let it breathe”
  • The importance of using inflection in your delivery
  • How to add more punch to a sports talk segment
  • The one description you should never use in basketball PBP
  • An example of outstanding broadcast vocabulary