William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog for the past nine years. Douglas joined NHL.com in March 2019 and writes about people of color in the game. Today, he profiles Los Angeles Kings Spanish language broadcaster Francisco X. Rivera, who will call his first pro game in English on Saturday for the Kings' American Hockey League team.
Francisco X. Rivera is being sent down by the Los Angeles Kings to its American Hockey League affiliate in Ontario, California, on Saturday. But the one-game stint hardly is a demotion.
Rivera, the Spanish language radio play-by-play voice for the Kings and an NHL.com/es Independent Correspondent, will be calling his first professional hockey game in English when Ontario plays Henderson, the AHL affiliate of the Vegas Golden Knights, at Toyota Sports Performance Center in El Segundo, California.
He'll be paired on the broadcast with Daryl Evans, the Kings' English language radio color commentator. The game will be streamed on AHLTV and at www.Mixlr.com/ontarioreign.
"It's incredible," Rivera said of the opportunity. "Basically when I started with this organization back in 2018, they opened the door for me and gave me the keys to the castle."
Rivera and Nano Cortes have been the Kings' Spanish radio broadcast team since 2018, first on ESPN Deportes and now on KWKW-AM Tu Liga Radio 1330.
In addition to his broadcasting duties, Rivera has been a consultant for the Kings since 2019, helping to lead its Hispanic community outreach initiatives.
The 39-year-old native of Mexico City said he pitched the idea of calling a game in English as a way to attract Hispanic fans who may not speak Spanish.
"I've got great stories of people telling me, 'You know what, I really don't speak Spanish. I understand it but I don't speak it well,'" Rivera said. "… Since I've been here (in California), every team is trying to appeal to the Latino community by doing things in Spanish.
"When I started as a consultant for the Kings, I'm like, 'Well, I think our fan base is different.' We have to go about it a different way. And not only do we have to accommodate Latinos speaking Spanish, but at the same time we have to do things where we can cater to them regardless of language."
Ontario president Darren Abbott said it was an easy decision to have Rivera broadcast the game Saturday.
"He has been doing great work with the Kings and has had dialogue with us about supporting our outreach in Ontario in the future," Abbott said. "We're excited for his debut and hope our fans will tune (in) and enjoy."
Rivera will follow in the footsteps of Harnarayan Singh, the play-by-play voice of "Hockey Night in Canada: Punjabi Edition," who fulfilled a life-long dream when he broadcast the game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers in English on Sportsnet on Jan. 13.
"For me, being a visible minority, person of color, being on the mainstream stage, it helps plant a seed in all of the kids and the youth watching that they can also be part of the hockey world," said Singh, who has broadcast six other NHL games in English this season. "Having multi-language hockey broadcasting is a great way to help grow the game. ... I think also on the mainstream broadcasting side, you want to have proper representation of the country. You want your broadcast to emulate and reflect what society is."
Rivera said his and Singh's crossover, along with the Seattle Kraken hiring radio play-by-play voice Everett Fitzhugh as the first Black broadcaster for an NHL team, represents a movement in hockey that, "I'm glad I can be part of."
Rivera already was a broadcasting trailblazer. He was the youngest Hispanic broadcaster in the United States to call a World Series game (San Francisco Giants vs. Detroit Tigers, 2012), the first Mexico-born broadcaster on FOX's English side and was part of the team that broadcast the first Super Bowl in Spanish in 2014 (Seattle Seahawks vs. Denver Broncos).
Calling a professional hockey game in English is icing on the cake, he said.
"I want to be able to look back when I'm way older and when I retire, I want to look back and say, 'You know what, this is something that I did,'" Rivera said. "I really want the game to grow here and in Latin America and the Kings to be a name that Latino fans recognize."
Rivera said he's been doing his homework for the broadcast. Ontario's roster features some of the Kings' top prospects, including forwards Quinton Byfield, who was the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NHL Draft, and Alex Turcotte, the No. 5 pick in the 2019 NHL Draft.
"We have the best farm system in the NHL," Rivera said. "There's a lot of great talent to watch and I had to be part of it."
While Rivera said he enjoys doing the Kings' Spanish radio broadcasts, he hopes the English broadcast of Ontario's game Saturday won't be a one-shot deal.
"I've prepped like crazy for the last couple of years for this opportunity," he said. "My expectation is that this is going to be great, that I'm going to do a great job, that it will be something that I'm proud of and I can take beyond one broadcast."