It’s Halloween. A day to celebrate all things scary and spooky. When it comes to sports broadcasting, few things are truly ‘scary’. However there is always the risk of a serious injury or a major technical glitch that can turn a normal game into a broadcast horror story.
I’ve been very fortunate in my career. Outside of one or two remote instances, I don’t have a great broadcast horror story. I’ve never had to broadcast from makeshift, pseudo-dangerous booths. I’ve never had any overtly aggressive interactions with fans…but I’ve had a couple hairy instances on air both with in-game events, and technical issues that make for a decent broadcast horror story.
The on-ice situation was arguably the scariest situation I had on air, but it forced me to rely on my professionalism and experience to navigate. During a game between my team and a visiting out-of-division opponent, one of my team’s players accidentally slew-footed one of the opposition defencemen right by the bench.
For those unaware, a slew foot in hockey is where you sweep a players legs out with yours. It’s a dangerous play but in this case entirely incidental by a player who was one of the most sportsmanlike in the league.
The opposing player fell to the ice, on his way down smashing his face on the dasher board by my team’s bench. As soon as his hit the ice, he started seizuring and play was called immediately.
The crowd went dead instantly and trainers from both teams jumped onto the ice to stabalize the player. What followed was about 15 minutes of uncertainty. The seizuring subsided, but he didn’t move much and my vision of him was largely obscured.
So I leaned on my experience. My colour guy was in his first game, so after a couple of sensationalizing statements like “this doesn’t look good”, I shut his microphone off so he wouldn’t get himself in a bad position. I then focused on what we KNEW and not what we ASSUMED. That meant not speculating on who the player was, or what happened to him.
The player wound up being fine and returned to the lineup a few weeks later. I was immensely proud of who we handled the broadcast, providing only the facts and information was was known. We took a brief break, returning the radio station audience to music, and the PPV audience to arena sounds. After player was taken from the ice by ambulance crews, we continued on with the rest of the game…a 7-0 win for my team.
My only other broadcast horror story is far less exciting (or scary?) but involves some pretty severe techincal issues. About 5 minutes before a game was set to begin, we had a power bump in the arena that essentially reset all the key hardware.
My radio broadcast was fine…my mixer turned right back on and my laptop obviously just switched to battery for a second. The PPV broadcast computer however was completely shut down and on re-boot, insisted on running Windows updates and diagnostics.
Normally I would have ignored it, however we were a week removed from a conference call stating the importance of the PPV broadcast. So a (very) long story short, I worked with techs from the company who managed the PPV and spent 15 of the 20 minutes in the first period on the phone while the radio station played music. It’s the only time in almost 500 games where I’ve been at a venue and not broadcasting a game I’m scheduled to.
So that’s a broadcast horror story or two from my career.