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by Staff Writer / Buffalo Sabres
Kevin Sylvester (photo: Bill Wippert)
(While Rick Jeanneret is vacationing, Shootout host Kevin Sylvester has been handling play-by-play duties alongside commentator Harry Neale.  Sylvester called his first NHL game on Monday during Buffalo's 6-2 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes. caught up with Sylvester in Dallas to get his thoughts on his first game.)

What were your first impressions of doing play-by-play for an NHL game?

"It was a tremendous experience and I don't know if it's sunk in yet that I did it."

What was the most difficult part of the job?

"Boy, that's a great question.  I think the hardest part was staying in the moment.  Technically speaking, there are some different things that goes on during a broadcast that I wasn't used to handling.  Right now, I watch the game and jot down notes to analyze and talk about between periods.  Now, I was having to stay with the play and then all these things would start going on during commercial breaks with the broadcast that Rick [Jeanneret] and Harry [Neale] normally deal with. 

"Having to deal with some of those things was maybe the most difficult thing."

What types of things happen during media breaks?

"We're coordinating with the producer/director what we have coming up in the show.  We target what replays we're going to examine and identify which elements or promotions need to be read before the whistle starts.  

"All those sort of things start coming at you once the play stops."

What surprised you the most about that experience?

"The amount of support that I received, actually.  Before the game, players and coaches were wishing me luck and even a few people with Phoenix came up to give some support."

You've worked in the past on both the radio and television productions.  How difficult was it to do both at the same time with a simulcast on MSG and WGR 550-AM?

"I really tried not to think about that too much.  It was probably obvious to the radio audience because there was a couple times that I said, 'look at that' or 'look at this.' You try not to do that as much as possible but it happens sometimes.

"Also, I'm used to referring to the broadcast as MSG. Obviously the people listening on the radio weren't watching the game on MSG.  That was one of the things that I was told to just go out plain and not to name the broadcast like I do on the intermissions.

"But other than that, I just tried to call the game like I normally would call it.  There were a few times where I didn't always say who had the puck, so I guess I kind of aimed to call the game for TV and not radio.  I knew it was on both, but I didn't try to think about it a whole lot.

"I had too many other things to worry about other than that."

You've worked play-by-play at both the high school and college levels, does the speed of the game really become a factor when jumping to the NHL level?

"You're so high up in an NHL press box that I think there is an advantage where you get to see the plays develop.  I've called college games - as recently as Canisius/Niagara game in late Dec. - and you're so much closer to the ice that the plays seem to develop faster.  Any fan knows that the closer you are to the ice, the more you can see the real speed of the game.  When you're at the top of the arena, you can see things develop and the play appears slower because you are farther away.  That certainly helped out.

"The biggest advantage between doing a college broadcast compared to an NHL broadcast is that you know all the players from both teams. 

"Who doesn't know that Shane Doan plays for Phoenix and is on their top line? 

"The toughest part was the plays in front of the net.  It was very difficult to try and determine who had the puck or whether the shot was tipped.  That's where Rick's experience and knowing those plays pays off.  It amazes me how well he can determine whether or not the puck was tipped."

Does this give you an added appreciation for what Rick Jeanneret has done over the past 30+ years?

"Before I ever even did a game, I realized how good Rick Jeanneret is.  I knew it was a big seat to fill, figuratively speaking.  I just wanted to do it justice.  Obviously, I'm not him and I didn't try to be him.  I just wanted to call the game and still have the same excitement level in the game that fans have gotten used to. 

"Rick is Rick, but yes, it did give me a greater appreciation for what he does and how difficult that job is.  It's a fun job, but a hard job."
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