Photography: Iilich Mejia; Photo Assistant: Jen Bonnell; Video: Mike Antinozzi; Styling: Kerry Antinozzi, Kamilah Headley, Patsy Collins; Hair: Rana Alnaaj, Memo Agostini
Featuring: Kate Beirness, Tessa Bonhomme, Jordan Cicchelli, Sarah Davis, Laura Diakun, Kayla Grey, Lindsay Hamilton, Claire Hanna, Jennifer Hedger, Kenzie Lalonde, Cheryl Pounder, Marissa Roberto, Tekeyah Singh, Raegan Subban, Julia Tocheri, Kara Wagland
When TSN’s women sportscasters are asked about how they first fell in love with the world of sports, themes of community, comradery, and culture come to mind. Now, they’ve managed to forge that same dynamic behind the broadcast desk.
For Kayla Grey, growing up with a love for basketball introduced her to a community she could connect and share her passion with.
“At that time, people would say hockey was king. It was really hard to find spaces where we could talk and communicate and share and watch games together, so once I found that, the conversation just flowed,” she says, adding that oftentimes, basketball was the community’s choice of sport due to its accessibility. “Even though a lot of us were very different, it was like our common language was sport.”
Grey would get her fill of sports content through American broadcasting streams off the internet. She would tune into ESPN and Fox feeds to watch Stuart Scott, Jemele Hill, and Robin Roberts — Black reporters who looked like her. In 2018, Grey became the first Black woman to host a sports highlight show and now hosts TSN’s The Shift.
“I think [The Shift’s] napkin pitch is for someone who felt very unseen or unheard even in the space,” she says. “Also, I’m a firm believer that it’s not just sports anymore, it’s sports and culture. That’s what drives the narratives and the storytelling and the personality that we see. And so The Shift is at the intersection of all of that. It creates a safe space for all of that to exist.”
Long-time TSN host Kate Beirness’ introduction to sports reflects the lack of representation in the industry, and yet presents the same persistent and competitive drive and determination to succeed as her coworkers.
“I did not grow up watching female commentators. I just didn’t, it was basically all men broadcasting,” Beirness says, whose passion for sports began with Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
When she was first hired at TSN, Beirness says she was among four women anchoring on the network — today, there are more women anchors than men.
The sportscaster is also the founder of the annual HER MARK summit, a one-day event and registered Canadian charity sponsored by TSN and others, that brings together teenage girls and a diverse set of leading women in various industries, including sports.
“I always tell the story of how Christine Sinclair wears No. 12 because of Roberto Alomar. There weren’t women, we didn’t see female jerseys even when we were kids. So this has completely changed,” says Beirness.
“We decided to put on this event and bring in some of the top Olympians across the country and 250 girls that have shown leadership and excellence in their school or community. And we do an entire day filled with physical education, nutrition, education and mental health work.”
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Now in her 21st year at TSN, Jennifer Hedger attributes her passion for sport to three people in particular: her father, who raised her to live and play actively, American sports journalist Hannah Storm, and former CityNews sports anchor Kathryn Humphreys.
“One thing I liked about Kathryn is that she made it seem really fun. She was a person who took her job seriously, but she didn’t take herself seriously,” Hedger says.
“Kathryn was able to be herself. It wasn’t like seeing this older white gentleman being very serious about sports. Kathryn wore a jaunty newsboy hat on air, and she wasn’t wearing a suit and tie, and I felt like she made sports more accessible.”
Seeing herself in female sports journalists like Humphreys and Storm encouraged Hedger to enter the industry herself, becoming one of the first women to host TSN’s Sportscentre. Before her were trailblazers that included Teresa Hergert and Lisa Bowes, both of which helped pave the way for the current diversity in the sports media landscape. But even still, when Hedger arrived at TSN, it still felt as if women were competing with one another for airtime rather than immediately collaborating.
“I think there was an era where women were threatened by other women coming into space because there wasn’t room for all of us. Thankfully, we’ve gotten past that now to a place where not only are we not threatened by each other, but we are a team,” Hedger says, with a laugh. “You know, we are working together, we are bringing different things to the table.”
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