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In my own words: Kenzie Lalonde

The Ottawa native reflects on her journey, from growing up playing hockey to getting her start in broadcasting and memorable moments wearing the headset for TSN

Kenzie Lalonde
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March 24, 2023
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I'm someone who says yes to things. I go back to this quote I came across in high school: you get in life what you have the courage to ask for. Whether it was lacing up my first pair of skates, moving to the Maritimes or putting on a headset for the first time, I found the courage to say yes to opportunities that scare me.

I grew up in a household of hockey fans. Every morning before school, I would eat my bowl of Froot Loops and watch SportsCentre on TSN, amazed that people could talk sports for a living. My father and my older brother both played hockey, so it was natural for me to follow in their footsteps. I initially played boys’ hockey, switching to girls’ hockey in U11. That accelerated my passion for the game because I walked into a dressing room and immediately met 23 girls that loved the same sport I did. To this day, I’m still close with some of my minor hockey teammates.

Kenzie Lalonde early in her minor hockey career and at Mount Allison University

In Grade 12, I was playing for the Ottawa Junior Senators. My teammates were committing to colleges, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I was at a crossroad. I wanted more balance between hockey, school and life. My student teacher at the time, Andrea Leacock, recommended I check out her alma mater, Mount Allison University. From the moment I met the coach, toured the town and met a few of the players, it felt right. I had never been to the Maritimes before that trip, but I chose to call Sackville, New Brunswick home for the next five years, playing hockey, studying business and discovering television along the way.

I knew I wanted to turn my hobby into a career in my fifth year of university when I saw first-hand the excitement an interview could bring to a young athlete. I had a chance to volunteer at a local cable channel, Eastlink Community TV. It was my first time filming a story, we were covering a girls’ junior high school basketball championship. I went up to the MVP and asked her the good old question, “How does it feel to have won?” The look of sheer terror, happiness and anticipation all mixed into one emotion, surrounded by her giggling teammates, was priceless. It was in that moment I realized I was seeing myself, and what it would have been like if someone came up to me and my teammates wanting to interview us after a win, recognizing our accomplishment. I knew from that moment on, I wanted to provide women athletes an opportunity to have their accomplishments honoured and voices heard.

Kenzie Lalonde on the ice

When I joined Eastlink Community TV full-time, it was my manager, Brett Smith, who encouraged me to try play-by-play. For the first few weeks, I got my feet wet—I didn’t know much about live broadcasting. I learned quickly that in television, you learn by doing; it’s all about the reps. I knew I would either sink or swim, and I swam. Within two months, I was hosting the Halifax Mooseheads broadcasts, and within three months, I was calling hockey. Five months later, I was calling soccer, basketball, volleyball, even ringette. I began hosting a weekly community show, filling in as a camera operator and producing stories. I tried it all and loved it. I gained an appreciation for grassroots sports and began to feel a responsibility every time I called a game. A responsibility to pronounce names correctly, introduce viewers to the person behind the athlete and, most importantly, give an athlete their moment.

The night before I called my first QMJHL game on television, I was nervous. It was going to be the first time a woman provided play-by-play commentary for the league on television. People often ask me what that was like. Well, I felt as though if I did great, I did the job, but if I failed, I’d hinder future opportunities for women. The night before the game between the Halifax Mooseheads and Charlottetown Islanders, I got a phone call. It was Leah Hextall, someone who knows first-hand, on a much larger scale, the feeling of carrying the weight of your gender on your shoulders. She gave me some great advice—trust yourself, because you’ve earned this, and be present. Two tips I still remind myself.

Kenzie sitting at the TSN desk with Tessa Bonhomme and Carla MacLeod

It wasn’t too long after that, I got another phone call came from TSN for the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championship in Calgary. This was the first time Group B games were going to be televised, so they were looking for a second commentary team. I had a few weeks to prepare, get comfortable with international women’s hockey and European names, and go into the Calgary bubble to work with the network that inspired this Froot Loops-loving, sport-obsessed nine-year-old.

Since then, I have had the opportunity to be a part of some incredible sporting events. Reporting on women’s hockey at the 2022 Olympic Winter Games was very special. The event was so unique, I’ll never forget that experience in Beijing and how it shaped me as the reporter I am today in Montreal. The most recent World Juniors in Halifax was very memorable because I returned to the rink where my television career started, in the same role, as a rink-side reporter, on the same ice. The IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship in Wisconsin stands out for me because for the first time, the U18 women were receiving televised coverage and I was a part of it in the booth. Exposure of the women’s game is vital for growth, and I am proud to work with fellow team members that want to even the playing field.

And that’s why I love television—it’s a team sport. The crew and staff behind the scenes of a broadcast is where the magic is made. We all have to rely on each other; a skill I developed in hockey. I learned how to trust my teammates, who are now a colour commentator, a camera operator or the producer, who is like a coach. I know what it’s like to be a rookie, to value other people’s sacrifices and, most importantly, how to fight when the odds are against you.

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

emadziya@hockeycanada.ca 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

ssharkey@hockeycanada.ca

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

jknight@hockeycanada.ca

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