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Radio Crews Brought NHL Stadium Series To Life

“This is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of or broadcasted before. The little kid in me and then the broadcast nerd in me are having a field day. It’s incredible.”

Jordan Bondurant

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USA Today Sports

The NHL held its annual Stadium Series game over the weekend between the Washington Capitals and the Carolina Hurricanes, putting the city of Raleigh and the Canes’ fanbase in a unique national spotlight.

While it wasn’t the largest crowd ever to witness an outdoor pro hockey game, 56,961 fans packed Carter-Finley Stadium and got their money’s worth as Carolina beat Washington 4-1.

For the radio broadcast crews for both teams, the Stadium Series offered them a unique vantage point to call the game – rinkside seats.

John Walton has been the Caps radio play-by-play voice since 2011. Having called Washington’s appearance in the 2015 Winter Classic and the 2018 Stadium Series, Walton said the outdoor games are truly a memorable experience and a nice pick-me-up from the sometimes monotonous grind of an NHL season.

“I think it’s a nice mid-season event in the middle of 82 games and the sleep deprivation, you don’t know what day it is – you’re home or you’re not home – these are the ones you remember forever,” Walton told BSM Friday at Carter-Finley Stadium. “I think that’s what makes these special. You may not remember a random Tuesday game at home against Florida, but you’re gonna remember this because of all that goes into it.”

“I didn’t really envision ever doing the outdoor stuff, but it’s a great thing to be a part of,” he added.

Joining Walton and his broadcast partner Ken Sabourin in Raleigh for the game was studio host Ben Raby and broadcast producer Mike Callow. Walton said getting the chance to have the whole crew on site made it an even more special touch.

Courtesy Jordan Bonderant

“They don’t travel as much as we do, so it’s fun for them,” he said. “And it’s fun to get barbecue and go out as a staff and do a road game together. It’s a rare opportunity, and we don’t get to do that very much. So we’re certainly glad to have them here too.”

Raby, who has been with the Caps since 2009 and was part of the broadcast for Washington’s first outdoor game at the 2011 Winter Classic, said being included in and attending these special events are what you work for.

“You do this a decade plus as I have, obviously the pinnacle is being able to work broadcasts,” Raby said. “These are bucket list items if you cover the league, if you work around the league, if you work for a team or with a team, these are showcase events.”

The Hurricanes don’t have a separate radio team, so the TV broadcast on Bally Sports is simulcast on the team’s flagship station 99.9 The Fan.

Mike Maniscalco has been the voice of the Hurricanes since taking over for John Forslund during the 2020 COVID bubble. He was a rinkside reporter for the team’s TV broadcasts for three seasons before that. He said he was pumped for the chance to be a part of a monumental moment in Canes history.

“For me, it’s been like Christmas this week leading up to it,” Maniscalco said. “I’m very excited about it. I want to do not just a normal call because this is a special game. And for the people listening you want to bring them into Carter-Finley Stadium if they can’t be there. This is unlike anything I’ve ever been a part of or broadcasted before. The little kid in me and then the broadcast nerd in me are having a field day. It’s incredible.”

Knowing he would be radio-only for the game, Maniscalco added that he knew he would have to change how he calls the action.

“The call changes dramatically from when you have the picture backing it up to when it’s just your words,” he said. “You have to be far more directional – right to left, near boards, far boards – it’s funny in TV you’re told less, less. Say less. You said four words when you should’ve said two. You’re always trying to cut because people can see what’s going on.”

“You’re charged with painting the picture of what’s out there,” Maniscalco added. “And to me I absolutely do love that because radio play-by-play was what I did coming up at any opportunity I could.”

Maniscalco added that when it comes to being that close compared to having a bird’s eye view of all the action for a normal broadcast, there could be a little issue tracking the puck in corners of the rink. But just having the opportunity to be able to reach out and touch the glass for the game makes up for any little issues.

“Any challenge that comes with being that close is far surpassed by the whole experience and the pluses of being able to have the game right in front of you at that pace and that point,” he said.

Mike was joined by analyst Tripp Tracy on the call. Maniscalco spoke glowingly of his broadcast partner, saying he’s been a huge help in the two-and-a-half years they’ve been working together. He said originally they developed a system where if Tripp needed to interject, he’d tap him on the shoulder or point.

Courtesy Jordan Bondurant

But now the two just kind of know when the other wants to say something.

“You get all those gestures out, and now we’ve gotten to the point we don’t even need the tap or the point because we have that rhythm and he knows when to have fun,” Maniscalco said. “He knows when to get serious and for me that makes my job very easy because I don’t have to create something that isn’t there. You follow the lead and go from there.”

Like a lot of other hockey broadcasters, Maniscalco has had dreams of being on the call for playoff and Stanley Cup Final games. The Stadium Series, as unique as it is, is an added treat.

“Nothing in your mind is like, yeah I’m gonna call a game with 60,000 people outside,” he said. “Not in my wildest dreams did I ever think yeah I’m gonna be rinkside calling a Stadium Series game.”

Mike said he spoke to Dallas Stars broadcaster Josh Bogorad ahead of this past weekend asking for any advice. The Stars also don’t have a dedicated radio play-by-play team, and Bogorad was on the radio broadcast for the 2020 Winter Classic between the Stars and Nashville Predators at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Maniscalco said Bogorad texted him to enjoy it and live in the moment.

“I’m just gonna look around and do my best to soak it all in because I’m quite sure that this opportunity – the first one here and how the fanbase has wanted it – you won’t have this again in this kind of excitement to it,” Maniscalco said. 

Joe Ovies, who hosts The OG with Joe Giglio on 99.9 The Fan, broadcasted live from the fan fest next door to Carter-Finley Stadium on game day. He told BSM that whatever preconceived notions the broader public or hockey world had about Raleigh as a hockey market were put to bed over the course of the weekend.

“You could just feel the excitement in the air all week,” Ovies said. “No other professional sports team in the state of North Carolina has galvanized a fanbase like the Hurricanes. There’s a reason why tickets for this game sold out as quickly as they did.”

The whole week of events went off without a hitch. The only issue came on game day when traffic backed up on the highways and inroads to the Carter-Finley Stadium/PNC Arena complex. But Ovies said if that was the only real glaring issue, then you know the Stadium Series was done right.

“I think you can see that the fans were hungry for this game,” Ovies said. “The atmosphere in and around the stadium made it clear that this week meant a great deal to everyone.”

Maniscalco echoed a point Ovies made about the idea of holding a game at N.C. State’s football stadium at one point seemed like a joke. But with the Canes having turned things around over the last several seasons and proven to be a contender in the Eastern Conference, it’s awesome that the fans showed up and showed out for the Stadium Series.

“I don’t think anybody envisioned that there would be 57,000 people at a Carolina Hurricanes game. Let alone that we’re gonna take it outdoors,” Maniscalco said. “People didn’t grow up playing hockey on the frozen rink in the backyard down here the way that others in hockey weather markets can.”

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Jen Lada Has Built a Multiplatform Presence at ESPN

“I always say my job is to make the viewer care about somebody and root for somebody that they might ordinarily not root for or care about.”

Derek Futterman

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Jen Lada
Courtesy: Phil Ellsworth, ESPN Images

When Jen Lada appeared on Around the Horn earlier in the month, she became the 58th panelist to be part of the program since its launch in 2002. Facing off against three other panelists from around the country, she garnered a victory in her on-air debut and elicited plaudits from her colleagues. Throughout the program, Lada demonstrated her deft sports knowledge and nuanced opinions that have crafted her into a venerated, skilled reporter at the network.

Although she had appeared on many ESPN programs previously, Around the Horn represented a show to which she wanted to contribute for many years. In fact, she has memories of watching the show just out of Marquette University and remarking about its brilliance and ingenuity.

Utilizing reporters with comprehensive knowledge of various sports who have chronicled several events, the show provides them an opportunity to give their opinions on issues and engage in debate with their contemporaries. Lada earned a spot on the show by being persistent, continuing to express her proficiency in commentary and sports discussion. The journey to arrive at this stage of her career, through which she has realized high-level assignments and a presence both at the local and national level, required adaptability and fortitude, and she continues to never take opportunities for granted.

“It’s great that I won, but it just sets the bar really high for the next time I go out there, which is not something I’m afraid of,” Lada said. “I love a challenge, and I love proving to myself that I can keep trying new things and doing new things well, and I hope that if people see me as some sort of example in the industry, that that’s what they walk away with.”

The approach adopted by Lada within her multifarious career ventures is to develop and maintain versatility, always innovating within her approach to content. As she looks to build off her initial victory on Around the Horn, she aims to be more compendious in her discourse and applying a more succinct approach. Making the adjustment in order to deliver compelling, distinctive points quickly differs from her other work, but it is all ultimately centered on sports.

While studying at Marquette University, she observed her classmates having a conversation about the men’s basketball team and what had happened in a recent game. Lada, who at the time was dating a player on the team and cheerleading at games, began to give her thoughts and was subsequently asked if she had ever considered sportscasting.

“I didn’t know that women could be sportscasters,” Lada said. “It wasn’t on my radar as a real career that women held because there were so few of them at the time doing it, and so once I realized that that was something I could do, then I kind of turned all my attention to, ‘Well, how do I make this happen?’”

As Lada began to complete internships and navigate through the media industry, she learned to develop a thick skin and refined her conduct. Out of school, she had completed a year of a non-paid sports internship and was waitressing on the side to pay the bills. The first interview she took for a job at a television station in a top-10 market ended with her being sexually harassed. It was a jarring experience that disappointed Lada because of her propensity to give people the benefit of the doubt, and it also forced her to evaluate her own disposition.

“I think it’s only natural that you wonder how you contributed to the circumstance or what you could have done differently to maybe not put yourself in that space,” Lada said, “but I was very lucky that when I told my family about what had occurred, they very quickly knocked any notion of that out of my head.”

In navigating the industry with good intentions, Lada recognized that it is not her fault if other people fail at treating others professionally and create a misogynistic work environment. Receiving the lesson early in her career has made her more aware of the people to avoid, and she remains wary of advice given to women in the industry that they should just be nice. Lada was recently on a panel where someone advised a broadcast class that being nice would result in things working out for them in the future.

“I felt myself cringing internally because I don’t think that that is a luxury women are afforded,” Lada said. “I don’t think – maybe now is different, but when I was coming up, and I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years, there were people who preyed on niceness. And so the way that I would tweak that is to be professional; to carry yourself in a professional manner and recognize that sometimes being ‘traditionally nice’ puts a target on your back to be mistreated, and the best thing you can do is alert those people who would see you as a target that you’re not going to fall victim to that or you refuse to be victim to that.”

Lada joined ESPN in 2015 where she was hired to contribute to Colin Cowherd’s radio program. When Cowherd left the network and joined FOX Sports on a full-time basis, she started co-hosting a new, national program alongside Jorge Sedano. The show, however, had an evanescent run and left her feeling as if she had failed.

It took her a full year to recognize that she had been involved in a series of circumstances and decided to enact the necessary change, asking producers for advice and attending seminars. One of these was an interviewing course hosted by journalist John Sawatsky where he synthesized the art of the craft. Akin to when she was in college, she overheard in passing that the network needed more women in the features space.

“I was fortunate enough to have done a lot of features during my time in Milwaukee because we had a 9 p.m. newscast that required a local sports feature every night of the week, so between our three-person department, we had to fill that timeslot,” Lada said. “I had done a lot of lengthy sports features in Milwaukee [and] had a good foundation of what that job required.”

The meeting led to Lada doing features on an interim basis at the network and later granted her a spot on College GameDay, where she works as its features reporter. Lada presents stories every week to the audience that go beyond the gameplay and divulge a bigger picture.

“I always say my job is to make the viewer care about somebody and root for somebody that they might ordinarily not root for or care about,” Lada said. “One of the things that has occurred to me over the last few years is just what a skill is required to do that job well because not only are you preparing questions to ensure that you have all of the details and information, you’re also gathering perspective on what they’ve been through – the adversity and the situation that has led them to where they are now.”

Lada recently found herself in a high school classroom at 8 a.m. sitting with other students taking the ACT standardized test. She had to complete the exam as punishment for finishing last in fantasy football at ESPN Milwaukee this past season. After four hours, Lada emerged from the school and revealed her score this past week on the Jen, Gabe, and Chewy morning show. Hosting the local program alongside Gabe Neitzel and Mark Chmura, she has established chemistry over almost four years in the three-person format discussing hyperlocal topics.

“I try to be conversational,” Lada said. “We don’t lean on stats – obviously, we want to be accurate, and we want to be, again, fair to the subjects we’re talking about, but we try to also just be friends who are talking about what’s going on on any given day on the Milwaukee [and] Wisconsin sports scene.”

In balancing a variety of different roles, Lada has tried to master everything that she is doing, refraining from being content with her abilities. Although working in local radio regularly has been a newer role for her, she has grown into the job and has co-hosts who understand the subject matter and allow her to utilize her strengths.

“I just want to keep learning,” Lada said. “I’m not satisfied with what I’ve done, [and] I’m not complacent about the skills I have. I’m always interested in adding more jobs to the résumé, and I think that in this industry, you’re rewarded for versatility.”

Once College GameDay commences, Lada adds the responsibility of feature reporting on that program to her schedule and continues making appearances across additional ESPN programming. Lada hosted the Friday edition of College Football Live last season and has also filled in as a host on shows such as First Take and SportsCenter. Moreover, she continues to complete projects for SC Featured and is working on a documentary for E:60 scheduled to premiere later in the summer. 

Lada aims to keep showcasing her indefatigable work ethic and passion for the craft without slowing down. Whether it is hosting a podcast, taking part in more panels or writing essays, she is open to exploring new forms of disseminating stories.

“I have a lot of knowledge and experience rattling around my brain, [and] I think the next iteration is figuring out a way to continue passing those experiences on to the next generation.” Lada said. “I don’t ever want to gatekeep the secrets of success – I think that’s selfish – so as I continue to do the media work, I think the next phase for me is figuring out how to pass a lot of these lessons on to future broadcasting generations.”

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Local Radio Advertisers Can Become Experts with Hosted Shows and Interviews

Overall, local radio interviews and talk shows can be a strategic and effective way for a local expert to enhance their business, build their reputation, and connect with the community.

Jeff Caves

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Photo of people talking on the radio

When looking for that extra edge for local radio advertisers, packaging radio commercials with an “expert” client-hosted talk show or interviews on your local shows or newscasts can be a game-changer. This strategy can build long-term business relationships with suitable clients, such as lawyers, business accountants, agents, psychologists, or sports handicappers. These professionals can provide valuable editorial contributions to sports and news stations. Of course, the expert must have good communication skills, be comfortable speaking their mind, and be ready to be the face of the business.

The radio commercials can tout the expertise the person has and give a call to action for listeners to move on. You can often find these experts on social media writing blogs or doing a series of vignettes about their business. For these types of clients, engaging in local radio news interviews or hosting a 1-2 hour talk show can enjoy several advantages:

Visibility and Brand Recognition

Visibility and Brand Recognition: Regular appearances on local radio help the expert become a well-known figure in the community. This visibility can lead to increased recognition and brand awareness and is a much faster track than just blogging on social media. Attorney Bill Handel and his ” Handel on the Law” show have created a directory business for Handel.

Public Trust and Credibility

By sharing their expertise and providing timely insights, the expert can build trust and establish credibility with the audience. Being perceived as an expert can enhance any client’s reputation and create top-of-mind awareness needed to lead business categories.

Client Acquisition

Listeners impressed by the expert’s knowledge and demeanor may seek their services. This exposure can lead to new clients who might not have been reached through other forms of advertising and give credibility to the expert who uses social media.

Community Engagement

Engaging with the local community through radio shows helps experts connect with potential clients more personally. This can foster a sense of community and loyalty. Question and answer segments can lead to deeper connections.

Educational Outreach

The expert can educate the audience on various issues, which can empower the audience. An informed audience is more likely to recognize when they need the expert’s assistance and whom to contact.

Stand Out in a Crowd

Stand out in a crowd: Being active on local radio can set the expert apart from competitors who may not use local radio. Often, the local shows or interview segments are exclusive to the expert.

Immediate Audience Feedback

Interacting with the audience through call-ins or live questions provides immediate feedback and allows the expert to address common concerns directly in real-time. The expert can be of service NOW.

Professional Development

Regularly discussing current topics can keep the expert sharp on trends and issues, contributing to their ongoing professional development.

Networking

Local radio stations often have a vast network of listeners and other professionals. This can open doors to new professional relationships and opportunities for collaboration. The station also provides a loyal audience who typically don’t follow the expert on social media. But they may start to after hearing the expert.

Overall, local radio interviews and talk shows can be a strategic and effective way for a local expert to enhance their business, build their reputation, and connect with the community.

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‘We Need To Talk’ is Insightful, Intelligent Conversation on CBS Sports Network

The show is not going to be a ratings giant like ESPN’s First Take or offer the decibel level of commentary on FS1’s First Things First, but it is a necessary and unique slice of sports television.

John Molori

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A photo of the women who host We Need to Talk on CBS Sports Network
Photo Courtesy: CBS Sports Network

CBS Sports Network’s ‘We Need To Talk‘ features a rotating roundtable of female sportscasters offering their views on a variety of topics in sports. The premise is important. Female voices in sports need to be heard. They bring perspective, weighty conversation, and thoughtfulness to each discussion.

Over the past few years, women have made major strides in being heard and seen in sports media whether it is hosting, commentary, reporting or play-by-play. This is a good trend, but We Need To Talk is about more than just female talking heads. It’s about insight, depth, and needed attention to athletes and sports that do not bask in the mainstream limelight.

This particular episode featured host AJ Ross joined by Summer Sanders, Katrina Adams, and Renee Montgomery. It was an eclectic and accomplished group with Ross, an experienced and versatile reporter, Sanders, the erstwhile U.S. Swimming star and a broadcast veteran, Montgomery, the former WNBA star, activist, and co-owner of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream, and Adams, former tennis player, CEO of the United States Tennis Association, and chair of the US Open.

Montgomery got the conversation going looking back on the Celtics winning the NBA Championship. She also made a telling comparison between the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, renewed in the 1980s with Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, and compared it to the current WNBA rivalry between the Indiana Fever and Chicago Sky with Caitlin Clark and Angel Reese. It’s a valid comparison, and Montgomery brought it to life effectively.

The WNBA was up next with Montgomery talking about Cameron Brink, the LA Sparks’ rookie who is making a splash not only on the court, but on the social media and fashion scenes as well.

It should be noted that this episode of We Need To Talk was taped before Brink suffered a season ending torn ACL, but Montgomery’s point was clear. It is not only important to be a great player. Today’s athletes also need to use multimedia platforms to raise their profiles.

Adams segued into a discussion on Wimbledon and No. 2 ranked Coco Gauff. It was good to hear some tennis talk on the airwaves, but this is a hallmark of We Need To Talk. The show makes it a point to move beyond the front-page stories and hit angles and areas that do not get much coverage.

These ladies are not afraid to get in each other’s grills as well. Sanders actually interrupted Adams to start a discussion about the upcoming Paris Olympics, but Adams would not relent and moved forward to an analysis of 2023 Wimbledon men’s singles winner Carlos Alcaraz.

The variety of sports continued with Ross starting a discussion about US track star Sha’Carri Richardson. I’ve been a fan of Ross for a long time. She does an expert job of mixing in her own commentary, while making sure all of the panelists on We Need To Talk get their due time. She’s also multitalented, seamlessly moving from reporter to host to debater.

We Need To Talk takes its roots in diversity with an all-female cast, but there is a deeper variety within the makeup of the cast. Sanders is a longtime veteran of sports, sports broadcasting, and entertainment. Ross is in the prime of her journalistic career. Adams brings perspective as an athlete, administrator, and leader, and Montgomery offers a fresh and contemporary style with her commentary.

Block 2 of the show featured Montgomery and Ross interviewing Naomi Girma of the San Diego Wave women’s professional soccer team. Girma was named 2023 US Soccer Women’s Player of the Year, the first defender to ever win that award. This is what We Need To Talk offers those who watch the show. It is almost like a smaller scale, studio version of the classic Wide World of Sports on ABC, “spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sport.”

The interview was managed well with Ross asking meaningful questions and Montgomery enthusiastically following up with her thoughts and input. This edition of the program also featured a wonderfully produced feature story on USC basketball player Aaliyah Gayles.

The talented Trojan hoopster was on the fast track to basketball stardom when, in April 2022, she was shot at a house party in Las Vegas. Gayles required two emergency surgeries to save her life.

The pace, video, and sound bites in the package were equal parts frightening, sobering, and uplifting. Gayles literally had to learn how to walk again as the feature focused on her rehabilitation and eventual return to the USC lineup.

Coming back from a break, the panel engaged in a great discussion on the talent link between collegiate and US Olympic athletes. A graphic showed that 75% of Team USA athletes and 82% of United States medalists played an NCAA sport.

As the discussion expanded, Montgomery talked about the fact that in order to enter the WNBA, players have to complete four years of college or be of the age of someone who has completed four years of college. I actually did not know that. We Need To Talk passes my personal litmus test for important sports television, namely, it tells me something I don’t already know.

Bringing still another sport and recognizable female athlete into the fold, Dara Torres joined the show next for an interview. The 12-time Olympic swimming medalist talked about her new role as head coach of the Boston College men’s and women’s swim and dive teams. Sanders asked a solid question about how, as a world-class athlete, Torres will manage her expectations of the BC athletes.

 As sports continues to meld with social issues, so too does the subject matter on We Need To Talk. Ross introduced a segment on the National Gay Flag Football League. Again, kudos go to the show’s production team for a slick and enlightening feature story. Praise should also go to the program itself for expanding the boundaries of sports and opening up a whole new world of knowledge for viewers.

Following the feature story, Montgomery and Adams made a point that sports unite people and bring diverse groups and personalities together as one. Montgomery is a fast-developing on-air talent. Her wit, energy, and knowledge go far beyond the basketball court making her a rising star in sports media.

The program continued to bring sports and life together by connecting the June celebrations of Pride Month and Father’s Day with an emotional poem written by renowned DJ Zeke Thomas, the son of NBA Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas. This was part of the We Need to Listen segment of the program.

Let’s keep it real. We Need To Talk is not going to be a ratings giant like ESPN’s First Take or offer the decibel level of commentary on FS1’s First Things First, but it is a necessary and unique slice of sports television.

The show consistently provides uncommon subject matter with an inimitable approach and tenor. Check it out when you get a chance and bring an open mind and a joy of sports. They need to talk, and we all need to hear them talk.

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