by Patrick Hoffman on 11/03/09 at 05:45 PM ET
Good afternoon folks. I was lucky enough to be able to do an e-mail interview with Jamie Shalley of XM NHL Home Ice.
For all subscribers out there, you can hear his voice on the “Around the Rink Updates”, as host of “Ice Cap” and filling in on various programs. Shalley was kind of enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us how he became a fan of the sport, how he got into the game on the media side of things as well as his two cents on what’s going on around the league this season.
PH: How did you first get into hockey?
JS: I would say that hockey got into me! Growing up in Thunder Bay, Ontario, it is part of your life from when you’re old enough to stand. I recall countless pick-up games in my driveway, on the street in front of my house, and on outdoor rinks. I would go to watch games as a kid at the Fort William Gardens pretty much every weekend, watching our senior league team, the Twins, and the junior Flyers, who played in the USHL at that time.
PH: Growing up, who was your favorite team? How about your favorite player?
JS: I am part of the longest suffering fan base in the game. I’m a Chicago Blackhawks fan. Yes, closing in on 50 years without a Stanley Cup. I became a fan of the Hawks in the early 80’s, when Denis Savard was weaving his magic on a nightly basis. I would say he and Jeremy Roenick were my favourite players. Something exciting seemed to happen every night with those two guys. And although they practiced beating up on the Hawks regularly in those years, I was a fan of the way the Oilers played the game. It was a treat to watch Hall of Famers grow up before your eyes.
PH: At what point in your life did you know that you wanted to be involved in hockey?
JS: I figured out pretty early I wasn’t going to be a player, so I had to find a different way! I knew I wanted to be in broadcasting when I was 12 or 13 years old. My friend and I would get together at his house on Saturday nights to watch the games on Hockey Night in Canada, and he’d get his old cassette recorder out. We’d turn the sound off on the TV, and we’d sit there and ‘broadcast’ the game. The tapes were just hilarious, some of the things we’d come out with. I guess it was probably the start of my media career right there.
PH: How did you first get involved with the hockey media? What are some of the outlets you worked for?
JS: Prior to joining NHL Home Ice, I hadn’t covered hockey on an exclusive basis, so it was a fantastic opportunity. I had covered a lot of hockey working in my hometown in the early 90’s as a television reporter with the local station there, but was also doing news at the time. After moving to Toronto, I worked for The Score television network, and also with Fan 590 radio, and while we did a lot of hockey, we covered every sport on a daily basis.
PH: How did you get involved with XM’s Home Ice Hockey Channel? Tell us about your various responsibilities and the shows you work for?
JS: I had worked previously with several of the people who were instrumental in launching NHL Home Ice. They were looking for someone to host Ice Cap, the nightly recap show. They they also needed someone who could do the Around The Rinks updates, and also someone with reporting experience. My skill set was a good fit for what they were looking for, and the channel was definitely what I was looking for. In the four years that we’ve been on the air, I’ve mostly been hosting Ice Cap, but have also bounced around to fill in on all the other shows. I was taught early in my career to be versatile, and it’s served me well.
PH: What are you trying to bring hockey fans that listen to your channel/various shows?
JS: We’re in the entertainment business, so I think it’s important to bring energy and enthusiasm. That’s not usually difficult, as we’re very passionate about the game, and that comes through on the air. We’re obviously trying to deliver information, whether it be through the shows, the updates you hear every 20 minutes, or the various features that you’ll hear around those updates. One of the things I really enjoy about our channel is the fact that we have so many different types of shows, and personalities on those shows. No matter who you are, you’ll find yourself agreeing strongly with, or disagreeing strongly with, something or someone on the channel during the course of every day. I think that’s great for any listener.
PH: What direction do you think XM Home Ice will go in over the next couple of years?
JS: It’s a question that’s better posed to our Program Director, the semi-honourable Joe Thistel, but I’ll put my two cents in. The channel has evolved so much since we started in November, 2005, it’s hard to believe it will look like it does five years from now. When we started, we didn’t have a lot of coverage of the AHL, the Canadian junior leagues, or the U.S college ranks. We’ve since developed a good relationship with those leagues, we’re now carrying AHL games on the channel, and tournaments like the World Juniors. I think you might see us develop those areas further.
PH: Now for some actual hockey talk: In your opinion, which teams/players have been surprises so far this season? How about disappointments?
JS: I’ve been blown away by what Colorado was able to do in the first few weeks of the season. When Craig Anderson was signed,it would keep the Avs in a lot of the games, but I didn’t think they’d be winning them! The play of 2nd round pick Ryan O’Reilly was an eye opener, as was the quick start by Wojtek Wolski. First year head coach Joe Sacco has these guys playing with a lot of enthusiasm and confidence.
I was also shocked at how badly the Maple Leafs started the campaign. I did not think Beachemin and Komisarek would struggle like they did. The entire team really seemed to lack confidence in the first 10 games, and obviously lost most of those games. I think they’ve turned things in the right direction lately, but even with Phil Kessel ready to go, they’ll be in a dogfight to make the playoffs after that poor start.
In terms of players who have surprised me, I’ve mentioned Anderson, O’Reilly and Wolski. Anze Kopitar in L.A has been a surprise. We’ve always known he’s capable of big things, but now he’s showing what kind of player he can be. Chemistry’s a funny thing sometimes, but the acquisition of Ryan Smyth allowed Terry Murray to put Smyth and Kopitar with Justin Williams, and that line has been dynamite for the Kings. I’d also give mentions to Patrick Marleau in San Jose, Dustin Penner in Edmonton, Brian Gionta in Montreal, and Matt Moulson on the Island.
In a negative sense, the start of Vinny Lecavalier has been puzzling to me. Perhaps now we know why he was upset that Vinny Prospal was bought out in Tampa. Tampa’s a much better team this season, and while Lecavalier’s been putting up points, he’s also putting up minuses, and he’s not scoring goals. Other mentions go to Olli Jokinen, Derick Brassard, David Krejci and Eric Staal.
PH: Look into your crystal ball: If you had to pick the 2010 Stanley Cup winner right now, who would you pick? Why?
JS: I’m not one for predictions, but I’ve really liked the way the Penguins have started the season. It’s an easy mark, I know. How they come through without Gonchar and Malkin will tell us a lot about them. Tyler Kennedy’s been a better player this season, while Kris Letang and Alex Goligoski have taken big steps forward. Jay McKee has been playing steady defence helping to fill the departures of Hal Gill and Rob Scuderi. Marc Andre Fleury’s playing with a lot of confidence, and I love the Brent Johnson signing. Ray Shero’s quietly gone out and acquired depth in Martin Skoula and Chris Bourque, who are already being pressed into duty. When healthy, their top three centres are Crosby, Malkin and Staal. That’s going to be a tough outfit to beat.
PH: Any words of wisdom for our readers here at Kukla’s Korner?
JS: I’ve never been association with anything remotely close to wisdom, so I’m not gonna start now! I’m a big fan of the website, and writers like you help make it required reading for anyone who loves hockey.
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Patrick has a tremendous passion for hockey. Besides covering the Rangers and the NHL for Kukla's Korner, you can also find Patrick's work over at Sportsnet.ca, The Red Light District Hockey Blog, NHL Home Ice, and Liam Maguire's Ultimate Hockey web site.
Prior to writing for the above mentioned outlets, you could find Patrick's musings at hockey web sites/outlets such as TheHockeyNews.com, TheFourthPeriod.com, Spector's Hockey, Hokeja Vestnesis, Blueshirt Bulletin, SNYRangersBlog.com and many more.
For questions, comments and hip checks, feel free to e-mail Patrick at email@example.com.