Five Questions with Jamie Hersch
NHL Network host discusses growing presence of women in hockey broadcastingby Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
NHL.com's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their careers and the latest news.
The latest edition features Jamie Hersch of NHL Network, who hosts the nightly game recap show "On The Fly."
Jamie Hersch loves every chance she gets to talk hockey. But the NHL Network host is especially excited about one show in particular and the impact it could continue to have for women.
As the NHL celebrates Gender Equality Month in March, Hersch and Jackie Redmond will co-host the third annual, all-female edition of "NHL Now" on NHL Network at 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday. She said it's a special opportunity to feature great women in hockey.
"The biggest thing that we try to promote and preach about this show is the fact that it is supposed to be a normal edition of 'NHL Now,' in which we have hosts and analysis and correspondents and we do breakdowns and we talk about the previous night's action in the NHL and preview that night's action around the League," Hersch said. "The only difference is we all just happen to be female.
"The fact that we are able to do a pretty similar show to what we normally do every Monday through Friday during the season on 'NHL Now' is really special because it gives us credibility -- that just because we're women doesn't mean we can't hold our own and share our own informed opinions and thoughts and ideas, just like any other show."
Here are Five Questions with … Jamie Hersch.
What's been the feedback on previous shows?
"It's been great, and my favorite thing, whether it's through this show or just over the course of the NHL season, is whenever I'm able to go to a big event, to the NHL All-Star Game, NHL Awards, Stanley Cup Final, etc., and meet some of the fans, my favorite part and the most validating part of my job is when young girls or boys come up to me and say, 'I watch you every day. I want to be just like you when I grow up.' That is so great to see that we're doing something right in inspiring future generations.
I think the biggest thing for this show in particular is the idea of normalizing, for both young boys and girls, the idea that women can be on TV in these different roles talking about the sport that they love. And as much as we can, just promoting the idea that it's a normal thing for a woman to do. The impact of that is really immeasurable. When I think about my own childhood experiences, I watched Michelle Tafoya on 'Monday Night Football' at the time, and I remembered thinking, 'Wow, she's really knows what she's talking about, and she's a woman, she knows football, she likes football, she's really good at talking about football. I could do that.' And I still, to this day, point to her as my main role model in my life as a child that drove me to want to pursue sports journalism. At the time, she was a sideline reporter; that kind of was, I don't want to say the only role for women, but pretty much the primary role for women on sports was the sideline reporter. Now I'm very happy to see so many more females in analyst positions and hosting positions."
How gratifying is it that this year's show is also directed and produced by women?
"That's something we can highlight in our show as well, because a lot of people don't have any idea of what goes into making a show actually happen and go on the airwaves. The fact that so many people put in so much hard work to make our show what it is and that they also happen to be women is really amazing. I think I saw on the schedule that not only our producer is female, but our director that day is a woman, our assistant director is a woman, I know we have people in graphics, in pretty much every department that are female. So the fact we can collaborate and celebrate that for one day -- and it's not about excluding men at all. It's just about taking one day, to recognize that, 'Hey, most of the time it is mostly men on the air or behind the scenes. So how about we take just one day of the season and shine the spotlight on the fact that are women in these roles? Let's bring them all together and let's celebrate this for one day.'"
This is the third annual all-female "NHL Now." How has it evolved from previous installments?
"The first year I think we focused on getting as many different women [as possible] involved as guests. And that was really great, but it ended up kind of being much more different than a normal 'NHL Now.' Jackie [Redmond] could speak to this more than I would because she's the host of the normal, day-to-day show. But from what I've seen in the show, it's some guests and some interviews, but it's also really driven by the personalities in-studio and discussion, dialogue about what happened the night before, breaking down what happened the night before and previewing what's going to happen in tonight's action. A little of that was lost the first year. We also had Jocelyne and Monique Lamoureux, which was amazing because they were part of that USA gold medal-winning team [at the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics]. They had actually just gotten back days before the show, and they brought [their] gold medals in. I was in heaven; I had never actually held an Olympic medal before, and I was just blown away. Pretty powerful moment there. To have them in the studio was awesome, but I felt because we had many guests, so much going on, so many moving parts, we didn't quite have time to really dig in and discuss hockey, just talk the game.
"Last year we made an emphasis to still include some really great guests and female correspondents throughout the show, but also to have organic dialogue between Jackie and myself, and Kendall Coyne, our analyst, as well. I did a breakdown tape on [Toronto Maple Leafs forward] Mitch Marner on why he's the straw who stirs the drink and why it's not all about Auston Matthews and John Tavares. That was fun for me to look at tape and analyze the game. Jackie did a similar thing as well, and Kendall got to share her analysis. That just drove home the point that we can keep it as a normal show and it just so happens to be that we are women talking about it. I think this year is an extension of that as well."
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Are there any other new wrinkles to this year's show?
"Jackie [Redmond] had a chance to get on the ice. She used to play hockey. I did not, so she ended up getting on the ice earlier this week with Alex Rigsby and Amanda Kessel for an on-ice demo; that didn't happen last year, either. Our studio demos are great, but obviously there are limitations to really trying to make your point versus being on the ice. So that's a really cool element that's going to be new this year."
Are you encouraged by the progress we've made, especially on the broadcasting side?
"I'm very encouraged. You should have a variety of roles in sports journalism available to you as a woman, and I think that is the case now. Speaking as someone who's currently not a sideline reporter and is also a woman, that is the case. I think 'NHL Now' and all of our shows -- 'On The Fly' is the one I typically host -- I feel like I have a voice to offer my opinion too. I didn't play the game. I'm not ever going to pretend that I know what it's like to be in an NHL game or in an NHL dressing room. But as a fan, and as someone with knowledge of the game, I can certainly offer my opinions and my takes. That, I think, is a way in which we've made progress -- where we see women as people with an equal opinion or an equal voice on the game that we love.
"Where I'd like to see us more is in a play-by-play role. NBC [did] an all-female broadcast team on Sunday [when the St. Louis Blues played the Chicago Blackhawks]. I'd love to see more of that on the NHL level, specifically. I don't know of any female play-by-play full-time hockey voice, not just on the NHL level but at the AHL level too. The reason I bring that up is someone, maybe a year ago had asked me, 'Oh, did you ever consider play by play?' and I said, 'No, are you kidding? Of course not.' It didn't cross my mind. But that's kind of a problem because the more that I thought about it, I was like, 'That could be really fun, that would be kind of a cool gig.' The fact I didn't think of that as an option speaks to, again, the fact it's so rare and non-existent, to my knowledge. So I'd love to see that increase as an option for a woman."