January 10, 2017
Career Profile: TSN Senior Producer, Live Events
Chris Edwards: I was born and raised in Edmonton, Alta. After high school, I was recruited to play football at Bishop’s University in Québec. During my time at Bishop’s I not only played football, but I was also the Sports Editor for The Campus, the student newspaper. In my third year, I sustained a shoulder injury, which prevented me from playing football. As luck would have it, I had a family friend who worked for TSN, and he came to cover one of our games and because I was injured the crew asked if I wanted to help. Two years later, after I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree, I was trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life. The same family friend asked if I wanted to come to Toronto to work at TSN for two weeks. I jumped at the chance! Those two weeks turned into 20 years and counting.
Bell: Tell us about what you do and your role at Bell Media.
CE: I’m a Senior Producer and work exclusively on the road producing live events. I produce the LEAFS ON TSN (25 games a year), our CFL ON TSN (30-35 games a year) and I am the Lead Producer for the IIHF WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS. I’m responsible for the broadcast from site (everything from handling commentators, preparing the game script, talking with players and coaches, to working with media relations staff and maintaining contact with the studio).
Bell: What are some of the challenges you face in your role and how you work through them?
CE: Depending on the magnitude of the event, we can have a team of 20 to 60 people working on a show. Working with a large team presents its challenges. The most consistent challenge is that you never know what’s going to happen throughout the course of a broadcast. We’ll prepare storylines in advance, but then a weather delay could happen or an injury, and you have to be ready to think on your feet.
Bell: What would happen if say something catastrophic happened? What is your course of action?
CE: Your first instinct is to panic, but the producer must be the person who keeps a level head and steers the ship back on course. Earlier this year, we had a football game in Winnipeg where 20 minutes into the game we had a lightning delay. Eventually, they had to fill the time back at the studio for an hour. The very first NHL game I ever produced was in Pittsburgh; 20 minutes before the game started, the Zamboni blew up and hydraulic oil spilled all over centre ice, which resulted in a half an hour delay. Once again, we were lucky to have support back at the studio, but it was another instance of not always being able to anticipate what is going to happen. You have to be able to roll with the punches. Don’t think you can stick to a script for a whole game, you can’t.
Bell: What does an “average” day look like for you?
CE: It depends on the sport I’m covering that day. If it’s a Leafs game, the teams skate in the morning, which means I’m at the Air Canada Centre for 10:15 a.m. During the separate practices, I’ll sit with the commentators and in between practices I’ll go into the locker room and talk to different members of the team from players to coaches to Media Relations personnel.
With football, it’s different, as we travel and perform the interviews with players and coaches the day before.
After the interviews are complete, I’m in the truck six hours before puck drop or kick-off for pre-production. Between the director, the crew, and me we’re building elements for the show and preparing the script.
After a meal break (two hours before game time) we look around the stadium/arena to plan what we can shoot to make the stories unique. Finding things, like a player in the hall preparing for the game or opponents on the field talking to each other, enhances the game. This is our time to ramp up before the game and communicate with the studio to ensure our ducks are all in a row. The countdown is on to the live feed!
Bell: What innovative projects are you and your team currently working on?
CE: Television technology is always changing. Recently we broadcast the first live microphone game where coaches and players wore microphones during a CFL game. As technology evolves we try to adopt it into our shows. That being said, there’s a fine balance between serving the viewer / making the best show possible, and adding new technology elements. You don’t want to sacrifice your show at the expense of the latest technology.
Bell: To date, what has been your career highlight?
CE: To date I’ve had three career highlights:
3. I had an amazing experience producing the Men’s and Women’s Curling at the Vancouver 2010 OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES in Vancouver. I produced two gold medal games and it was a very unique experience.
2. Two years ago we hosted the IIHF WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS in Toronto for the first time and, on home soil, Team Canada won the Gold medal. It was also the first WORLD JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIP game that I had ever produced.
2. The 2010 VANIER CUP in Vancouver is the one show that I walked away from where I can honestly say I wouldn’t change a thing. It was an amazing game and is considered not only one of the greatest Vanier Cup games, but one of the greatest football games in Canadian history. I produced the pre-game show and the game itself. We had an outstanding broadcast and an incredible finish.
Bell: What’re some of the misconceptions associated with Sports Broadcasting?
CE: I would say the largest misconception is that it’s all play and no work. You work major holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving; when your friends and family are at home watching the game, you’re at the game.
Bell: Where/who do you look to for inspiration?
CE: On a personal note, I’ve always looked up to my father. He’s the one who instilled a work ethic in me, as well as the belief that you should treat everyone with the same level of respect.
On a professional note, I’ve been lucky to have a small group of mentors throughout my career. My first mentor was the late Paul McLean, Executive Producer at TSN. He had a large influence on my career, as he was the first person to hire me and push me as a young person in this field. He gave me a lot of very good advice and still, to this day, I credit him with my start.
Bell: What was the greatest piece or pieces of advice you’ve ever received?
CE: The greatest piece of advice I ever received was from Paul. He taught me to never be complacent because when you become complacent, you start to believe status quo is good enough. When you believe status quo is good enough, not only do you get stagnant, but your show gets stagnant. You always have to push yourself and the team around you. When you push each other, not only does everyone work better and the environment feels better, but the show is better.
Bell: Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give someone who wants to get into sports broadcasting?
CE: This is not a field for the timid – it’s a very competitive field. You have to beat down people’s doors, volunteer, intern, and show that you’re willing to put in the work. You have to be prepared to work nights, weekends, and holidays. That being said, if you want to work in a challenging field, where you will build great relationships and experience great highs, then this is the field for you.
Interested in a career in broadcasting?
Learn more at: bell.ca/careers