Example Play-by-Play Critique – First Review

Broadcaster: REDACTED
Broadcast: 12/15/13 – REDACTED
Video with Audio Play-by-Play

Overall – Very raw as far as hockey play-by-play experience. You seemed quite unprepared for the broadcast. While you appeared to know the XXX players, it was apparent that little to no preparation was done for the YYY squad. It took me about 2 minutes to locate their roster, as well as updated player statistics. There was also contact information for their head coach in case you wanted to give him a call and learn more about their team.

Considering your level of broadcast experience (relatively new) along with the poor video quality provided for your webcasts, I would strongly suggest approaching your broadcasts as if you’re calling a game on the radio. While I had an idea of what was going on from watching the video based on the picture, I could not see things very clearly. To compare, if you were to watch an NHL HD television broadcast with the sound off, you can see the game clearly and crisply enough to be able to identify the action very well, as well as most of the players. Your webcasts do not provide that level of quality simply from the video feed, so the play-by-play should be a radio style broadcast. If you watch some of the top television hockey announcers (Doc Emrick is a great example), while they certainly do not use the same level of description as a radio broadcast, their call without a visual is still as descriptive, and in some cases more descriptive, than most minor league level broadcasts. My point here is that even on television, it’s perfectly fine to be very descriptive calling hockey.

While I have some pointed comments below, my general thought is that you need to start from scratch when it comes to preparing for and delivering a hockey broadcast. Being adequately prepared is the first step in delivering a successful broadcast. I wrote an article for my website last year that discusses broadcast prep, and it can be found here:

The article is a good read. It doesn’t get into all the specifics on how to prepare for a game, but it outlines the areas of preparation, as well as how long one should prepare for a broadcast. In your case, because you’re new, two important areas to start working on are player memorization and identification.

In your submission, I could tell that you seemed to know most of the Temple players. Without knowing too much of their roster makeup I couldn’t guarantee that, but you seemed to be able to identify several of their top players easily. Because you were not very descriptive or consistent in player identification/puck location, I couldn’t tell if you knew everyone or not. Regardless, you should be able to have instant recall of your players and should be able to memorize the opposing roster to the point where you can also describe their actions as well, which didn’t happen in the Monmouth game.

Another major area that was lacking was description, which was bare bones at best. In a lot of the broadcast, you would identify who had the puck, but not where. And oftentimes, when you said where it was, it seemed generalized either at the point (blue line) or in front of the net. I never really heard references to such areas as the “circles”, the “boards – either sideboards or half-wall”, or “end boards”, or the corners.

We will touch more on this during our call to review this critique, but I wanted to include for you below a transcript of a twitter chat last year that specifically discussed hockey play-by-play descriptors. This is going to be quite helpful in getting you to think about how to describe the action on-the-ice:

When it comes to a radio broadcast, the goal in general is to “paint the word picture”, which is to describe the game in a way where it can be instantly visualized by the listener. Description is important. The link above will help you come up with some general ways to describe the play. Ultimately, it’s basic reporting—at least the “Who, what & where” part of it.

A. Who has the puck (player name/team)
B. Where is the puck (location on ice)
C. What is happening (skating with, shooting or passing the puck)

There can be a lot more to it, but those are the basics, and they should really be mastered before advanced work. In line with the above is the most important piece of the puzzle, which is time and score. Inevitably the first thing on anyone’s mind when they turn on a broadcast after the game has started is “what’s the score”? In hockey, you should be able to give the time and score about once per minute of play off the clock, if not more often when possible.

Broadcast Specifics – Below are more specific items that I noticed from watching your clip. Much of what I’ve summarized already is based off watching your clip, but the following are specific comments directed at specific points of the video.

Lack of Description – There are several examples below that illustrate your lack of play-by-play description.

As agreed, I started at 10:00 of the submitted clip and noticed immediately that the video quality is poor w/single camera shoot, which makes it hard for the viewer to identify players. Additionally, because this is club level hockey, you should really focus on player identification, which I didn’t notice very much. Typically, at the lower levels, the audience isn’t going to have an idea of who is playing on each team, so identification is important. It’s even more helpful when you can mention the player’s name and the team (e.g., “Jones for XXX starts from behind his own net.”)

At 12:43 you mentioned that Lombardi passes to his “d-partner, but not his normal d-partner, but his d-partner at YYY”. Unfortunately, you neglect to mention this player’s name, so I do not know who you’re referring to.

Additionally, you’re spending way too much time reading off stats and not describing the play. Right after the sequence above regarding Lombardi and his d-partner, you reference Kennedy and all his 1st year stats, missing the shot on goal from the point—only describing that after the play had stopped (I could hear the whistle before you mentioned Lombardi’s point shot).

On several occasions I’ve heard you mention a pass as “player A to his D-partner”, and then you’re fumbling around to identify who that player is. Being able to identify all the players on the ice for both teams is very important.

Accurate Reporting – During the first XXX PP on the clip you stated, “I don’t think they’ve gotten a shot on goal during this entire power play.”

Being factual in reporting is paramount to success. When discussing opinion, it’s fine to describe what you think, but when reporting details, you need to be correct. In this case, I didn’t know if you were correct or not because of how you described the lack of success of the XXX power play. Basically, you need to be right in knowing that they did not have a shot on the power play or not. And if you’re not sure, then you shouldn’t make that comment. There are other ways to describe the lack of offense during the Temple power play such as simply mentioning that they haven’t been able to establish any zone time, or mention that Monmouth has been successful in clearing their zone every time the Owls dump the puck in.

Unfortunately, adding to your comment above, your analyst had to fill-in the lack of certainty by confirming that the XXX did not have a shot on goal during the power play, which then makes me wonder about your accuracy, because he knew that fact, yet you didn’t seem so sure.

Lack of Preparation – It appears that for whatever reason, you didn’t have any materials, or neglected to prepare to know about YYY. Over the course of 20 minutes, I didn’t notice where you’ve identified one single opposing player by name. Anytime a YYY player touches the puck, you’re simply referencing “YYY”, instead of the player on YYY. I cannot even recall if you mentioned the YYY goaltender by name—and considering that he made at least 50 saves, that’s quite surprising as he was the busiest player on the ice.

Positives – A couple of items that I liked from your broadcast is that it appeared that you have a pretty good voice. The audio quality of the recording wasn’t so hot, but when the audio was clear your voice sounded fine. Additionally, it appeared that you had the potential to be conversational with your broadcast partner, which is also a positive. Many play-by-play/analyst combinations often work against each other, and not with each other—which is to say that they don’t play off of each other very much—the play-by-play announcer does his thing, and the analyst does their own thing.

It is worth noting though that on radio, the play-by-play announcer controls the broadcast. You will want to work out with your analyst when they’ll be afforded the opportunity to speak. Until you have the basics well covered, that should really be limited to when play is dead and during media timeouts. With more experience, you’ll understand when you’ll be able to lay out and allow the analyst some extra time.

Homework – You do have another session with me, to use at your discretion. However, before sending me another clip, it would be great for you to take some time to digest my points above and take the next 3-4 play-by-play assignments to work on the areas that I’ve mentioned throughout the course of this critique so that you can start to gain some competencies on the fundamentals for your next submission. When it comes to play-by-play, it takes a long time to develop the basics, and ultimately it is all about repetition, so use your next couple of opportunities to work on the basics.