The United States and Canadian NHL corporations decided to make their own impact on International Women’s Day this past Sunday by featuring broadcast teams of female talent for the first time, making their mark on history.
Christine Simpson, Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Leah Hextall broadcasted the NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Vegas Golden Knights on March 8, the end of a week-long tribute to women in sports everywhere by Sportsnet. Hextall is a play-by-play announcer, Campbell-Pascall is a game analyst while Simpson is a reporter.
In addition to these three women, Sportsnet’s lineup also included tennis star Billie Jean King, Toronto Raptors vice-president of basketball operations Terea Resch and former Women’s Tennis Association head Stacey Allaster, as well as an all-women production crew.
“I can’t even say it’s a dream come true because growing up, I didn’t know this was possible,” Hextall wrote in a Sportsnet article. “Many of us didn’t see women occupying the space that we’ll hold during this landmark broadcast. I’m proud to join these talented women as we push for progress for women and girls. Representation matters because if you can see it, you start to believe that you can be it.”
Hextall is representing her grandfather, Bryan Hextall, who was a Canadian professional ice hockey forward for the New York Rangers from 1937-1948. Bryan was considered one of the top wingers of the 1940s, and was named a first-team All-Star three times. Bryan was the one who scored the winning goal in overtime of Game 6 for the Stanley Cup Final in 1940, winning the New York Rangers their third Stanley Cup, placing his family name in the Hockey Hall of Fame for years to come.
Although Hextall’s grandfather was a patriarch of hockey, her father was one too. Randy Hextall was known for winning a Centennial Cup with the Portage Terriers in 1973. This family of hockey gave Leah Hextall her path into a career of sports. As a woman, this trek hasn’t been easy, but she has made it to where she is today through hardwork and perseverance.
“When I step into the booth Sunday, I’ll be wearing my grandfather’s Hockey Hall of Fame ring. He left it to my dad, and my dad left it to me. That ring connects three generations of Hextalls, and it helps me feel like my dad is with me,” Hextall wrote in her article prior to Sunday’s broadcast. “As the anthem winds down, I’ll close my eyes and take a deep breath. Then, with my dad on my left and Cassie [Campbell-Pascal] on my right, we’ll settle in to make some history.”
When women entered into the wide world of professional sports, they were seen on TV as “eye candy” or people who could get more men to watch the program. This defilement of women’s ability has lasted a century since women’s suffrage in 1920, and now they finally are able to make their debut. Men are articulate in sports, yes, but their ability to cover and broadcast play-by-plays and analytics in no way overshadows a woman’s ability to do so.
It is 2020, and women are taking the sports sphere with more stride and grace than ever before.