Behind the Scenes With TSN's Sportscentre in Toronto

For sports fans everywhere, Sportscentre is the most important part of their day! Whether it’s an early edition that previews the action to come that night, or the late edition bringing the highlights of that evening’s games, fans gear their lives around tuning in and catching up on the news and events of the day.

The Sports Network, or TSN, which is headquartered in Toronto, is Canada’s sports network. With five channels covering sports nationally, fans, including those in the U.S. who are close enough to catch the feed, are able to see a wide variety of events.

I visited TSN for a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to produce that day’s edition of Sportscentre. Each day at 5 p.m., 6 p.m., and 10 or 11 p.m., Sportscentre is on, bringing the news of the day and making sure fans don’t miss anything. The day I visited, Kelcey Brade hosted the 5 p.m. show, followed by veteran anchor Rod Smith at 6 p.m. They each discussed the news and previewed that night’s games. At 10 p.m. the duo of Jennifer Hedger and Darren Dutchyshen, fan favourites, brought the highlights of that night’s action to us all. I spent time with each to learn more about not only what goes in to preparing for a broadcast, but also how they got to become sports anchors.

Meet the Anchors
Brade always knew he wanted to be a sports anchor. Sports were such a big part of his upbringing, and early on he would practice calling games and highlighting the action. His first big job was at CTV Vancouver as the weekend sports anchor. He then became a sideline reporter for TSN Sportscentre in Vancouver, along with guest-hosting TSN Radio in Vancouver.   

Smith has been a mainstay on TSN since 1987! He is the host of the CFL on TSN, in addition to having anchor-desk duties. He has won many awards in his career, including a Canadian Screening Award for Best Sports Host in a Sports Program or Series. He shared that award in 2014.

Hedger has been with TSN since 2002. She has been part of many significant broadcasts in sports, including hosting Olympic Daytime with fellow anchor James Duthie during the ’12 Games in London.

Dutchyshen, also known as “Dutchy,” co-hosts the 10 p.m. show with Hedger and has been with TSN since 1995. He, too, has been part of significant broadcasts as host of Olympic Primetime for the 2010 Games in Vancouver and the ’12 London Olympics.

The Day According to Brade
The day-to-day routine for a broadcaster is pretty consistent. To host the 5 p.m. show, Brade arrives around noon. After catching up on some of that day’s happenings, he does a quick update with broadcast partner CTV Toronto around 12:40-12:45 p.m. recapping what happened the previous evening in sports. Around 2:30-2:45 p.m. he does another update with CP24, in which he previews the Toronto sports scene that night.

Then Brade works on the 5 p.m. broadcast. “Here at TSN, on-air anchors are responsible for writing whatever you see on camera in between the highlight packages,” Brade explained. “The highlight scripts are written by the story editors who watch the games. Before you go to air, usually you watch their highlight pack and read through it.”

Abigail Dove
The Job
With every profession there can be up and downs. They all agree that broadcasters have few downs. “I would be lying if I said when I screw up really bad that I’m not down on myself; I will say I’m my own worst critic,” Kelcey said. 

A big part of the job outside the studio is talking with athletes, of course. Many athletes recognize that they are role models and that they wouldn’t enjoy the life they have without the fans and the media. They understand their press obligations and are usually very good at being available.

Brade told a story about the MLS All-Star game last summer. Hoping to speak with one of the Toronto FC players about the game, he was informed that they had all already left. He was asked if another player would work. “Bastian Schweinsteiger would be great,” Brade replied. Schweinsteiger had a tremendous career in Europe and is now one of highest profile players in MLS, so, Brade didn’t realistically think he had a shot to speak with him.

“Lo and behold, I get a tap on my shoulder and there’s Schweinsteiger, introducing himself,” said Brade. “You don’t have to introduce yourself to me; I appreciate you taking the time. I know you’re busy; I’ll ask just two questions,” Brade said to Schweinsteiger.

“Seriously, no problem,” the player responded. “I can give you a couple minutes; ask as many questions as you want.”

“It was really neat to hear a guy who’s done so much in his career, winning the World Cup, winning numerous titles, just be so personable,” Brade said.

Show Rush
Finally, after a long day of preparing, it’s showtime! Sometimes, though, things don’t go 100% as planned.

Brade recalled an experience he had while at CTV Vancouver. “I was responsible for writing and editing my own highlights and also anchoring the show,” he said. “Right before the show, I thought I hit publish on the final set of highlights, and when I get to the desk, all of a sudden, the director said, ‘Your highlights didn’t show up!’ I go back in, and realize I didn’t hit publish; I actually hit close on the project!

“So now I’m frantically trying to open up this computer program to hit publish on it, and all I hear in my ear is, ‘Thirty seconds.’ I had a mic on so I said, ‘Throw on another commercial break for 30 seconds and I’ll be there, or have the news anchor start on something else and will get to sports later on in the block.’

“The director, for whatever reason, may have not heard me or was freaking out, but she decided not to do that. So I hit publish, then as I’m running to the desk I hear the news anchor starting to read my on-camera for the Canucks’ highlights. I know they aren't there yet, so they’ve hit play in the control room on what was old tape! So I get to the desk knowing that these highlights are going to be nothing like the script, and she says, ‘Oh, Kelcey you’re here!’ I had to fess up and say, ‘I’m going to be honest with you, these highlights are not going to match up at all, and it’s going to end with the Canucks trailing two to one.’ I had to tell them they ended up winning five to four while giving a brief summary about what happened in the game without the highlights.”

Taping the Show
One of the most interesting things at TSN was the set. It was not as big as it seems on TV, and behind the cameras, there isn’t as much going on as you’d expect. There are only two camera people, while the producers and directors are in another part of the building in the control room. About six to eight people occupy the control room, and each person has a specific task for the duration of the show. They are surrounded by multiple TVs, sound boards, and computers, which to me looked confusing, but everything went as smoothly as you could imagine.

The broadcast is ever-changing with new stories or details rolling in that can get altered on the fly. New graphics, new script—all must be quickly inserted and communicated to everyone, including the anchor. It was amazing to see how seamless this happened and how easily all these people functioned together. It was an impressive display of teamwork.

What’s Next?
Once the show has wrapped, there are always more games and more news to cover for the next show. What’s clear is that everyone who works at TSN and on Sportscentre loves sports and loves the fast-paced and ever-changing world in which they work. That’s why veterans such as Smith stay for 30-plus years and why newcomers are able to learn so much from those who came before them.

“At TSN there's never a boring part to the day; there's always something cool happening,” Brade said. “No, my job is not a job.”

Photographs by Abigail Dove (2)

 

 

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