Life in front of the camera can have its share of challenges, especially for a young women trying to forge her path in the male dominated world of sports broadcasting.
The spotlight can expose the slightest of perceived imperfections.
Ottawa’s Kenzie Lalonde understands the spotlight, the pressure and all of the stereotypes that comes with the job.
For Lalonde it’s all about being authentic and turning the spotlight on the local sports.
“I remember seeing Holly Horton on TSN in the mornings and thinking how cool her job was.”
“You could say it was always a little kid dream of mine,” Lalonde said when asked about wanting to get into the broadcast world.
Lalonde put that dream on hold.
“As I got older, I ignored that interest and focused on a more “practical” career.”
The little girl who ate her bowl of Fruitloops while watching Holly Horton had a chance to come to life when she stepped in front of the camera for the first time.
For the Love of the Game
Hockey was a way of life for Kenzie Lalonde.
The game was a family tradition.
Like so many other young hockey crazed Canadians Lalonde loved the minute she laced them up.
“I was put in skates the moment I could walk.”
“My older brother grew up playing so I naturally followed.”
“I played boys hockey until Atom then switched to girls.”
By the time Lalonde was in Grade 12 she was playing on the Provincial Women’s Hockey League for the Ottawa Women Senators, the top level of Women’s hockey in Ontario, with none other than former NHLer and Senator, Luke Richardson as her coach.
“My teammates were committing to Harvard, Cornell, Quinnipiac and I had no idea what I wanted to do,” admitted Lalonde.
It was clear Lalonde was searching for balance.
“At the last minute I came across Mount A and realized I would be able to have a balance of social life and sport; something I was desperate for at that point in my life.”
Lalonde would five seasons as a Mountie in the AUS and was named captain in her final two years with the program.
“We made it to the AUS Championship in my second year, but lost the title to UdeM,” said a reflective Lalonde.
Lalonde’s search for balance had not only produced phenomenal hockey performances it all produced results in the classroom.
Lalonde graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree, was on the Deans List and was named an Academic All Canadian.
Her lifelong journey in sport continues to shape her path in the broadcasting.
“Having played competitive sports my whole life, I relate to the players I interview and will approach topics and situations from the perspective of the athlete.”
The sacrifices Lalonde has made along the way has certainly helped her relate to the young athletes she interviews.
“Chances are I have most likely been where they are,” Lalonde said.
“Taking every other Friday off of school to travel, spending your weekends in a rink, returning home late on Sunday tired, sore, knowing you have to be up and ready for school Monday morning.”
It’s all part of the process.
All of the sacrifices young athletes make build character, integrity and passion.
“Those memories are ingrained into me, so when I am interviewing a kid from Major Midget who may have had a rough game, I keep it simple and light because who knows what kind of week he might have had,” stressed Lalonde.
“The real heroes in this story are the parents.”
“They are the real MVP’s, fronting the costs, driving us around, taking time off work.”
“I’m forever grateful,” Lalonde said of her parents sacrifices.
For Kenzie Lalonde it’s all about the love of the game.
From Hobby to Passion
Kenzie Lalonde’s search for balance while attending Mt A led her to Eastlink TV.
The little girl that grew up watching highlights on TSN at breakfast was going to get her start in broadcasting.
It didn’t long for a new found hobby to turn into passion.
“I knew I wanted to turn this hobby into a full-time career when I saw first-hand the excitement in the eyes of a young female basketball player while I was interviewing her,” explained Lalonde.
“It was my first volunteer shift with Eastlink in Amherst, we were covering a local girls basketball game. The producer gave me the microphone and told me to go ask the girls some questions. I went up to the MVP and asked her a very simple question.”
“The sheer look of terror, happiness and anticipation all mixed into one emotion surrounded by her giggling teammates, was priceless,” explained Lalonde.
“It was in this moment while watching her formulate her response I realized I was seeing myself.”
“I was seeing what my reaction would be if someone came over to me and interviewed me on camera at that age.”
“That feeling of importance. That you were being recognized for your accomplishment..”
“You were being seen.”
“That’s when I knew I wanted to do this full time.”
Lalonde’s passion for sport and broadcasting is truly second to none.
Her unrelenting desire to showcase local athletes and their stories fuels her unwavering passion.
Inspiration can be found at every turn especially when you have a hidden or untapped passion a young kid.
“I looked up to many different people each for different reasons,” Lalonde said.
“Cabbie Richard’s creativity and whit, Katie Nolan’s humour, Tara Sloan’s authenticity and Leah Hextall’s determination.”
Of course, the great Doris Burke always deserves a shoutout when we talk about female on air idols,” explained the young broadcaster.
Lalonde’s broadcasting vision is clear.
“I want to be the bridge between athletes’ emotions and the public eye, but more importantly I want to give exposure to the players at the grassroot level.”
“The more stories I began to tell, the more invested I became in wanting to showcase the personalities of athletes,” Lalonde said proudly.
Lalonde is quick to credit all of the people that have helped her reach this stage of her career.
“Brett Smith at Eastlink is responsible for letting Fruitloop eating Kenzie have an opportunity to live out her childhood dream.”
“He followed my career from a distance ever since I was a volunteer in Amherst. When there was an opening at Eastlink Community TV he reached out to me after almost a year and a half to see if I was interested.”
Lalonde jumped at the opportunity.
“I signed on and had about three weeks to pack up my things from Ottawa and move to Halifax to get started.”
“Brett has given me a canvas and I have done the painting,” Lalonde said.
“Every day I am learning.”
“I am learning from my colleagues Mavs Gillis and Kevin Northup.”
“This industry can be pretty cutthroat, but Mavs and Kevin have taken me under their wing and have taught me so much about the industry, the Maritimes and also wrestling…who knew the word “Gimmick” would become a part of my vocabulary,” Lalonde said jokingly.
There’s a fine line between promoting sports, being credible and self-promotion, Lalonde is confident she can continue to navigate while staying true to herself and her values.
“In my opinion, sports media personnel typically talk about the same information, latest trade, the newest contract or tomorrows match up.”
“So the question is, why should someone listen to you as oppose to someone else?”
“What makes you different, is it your information, your opinion or your creative content,” Lalonde said.
“Find what makes you unique and do your best to stay true to yourself by doing what makes you happy,” she added.
From elite level hockey player to sports broadcaster Kenzie Lalonde will never forget the lessons she has learned along the way.
“The game of hockey has taught me so much, like what it means to be rookie,” Lalonde said.
“I understand how a hierarchy works.”
“I’ve learned to value other people’s sacrifices.”
“You give up a lot when you play competitive hockey, you need to respect others for showing up.”
“In sports broadcasting it can be a battle of the egos. I learned through hockey how to step aside and let someone else have the spotlight,” explained Lalonde.
“When you play sports you buy in, you buy in to be better.”
“You actively choose to be better every day, to do that extra set, to run the drill again until you get it right.”
“I have been actively choosing to be better since I was young. I know how to make good decisions. But more recently, in this industry in particular, being a young female, I’ve realized that hockey has taught me what it means to truly fight when odds are against you.”
It seems like the odds are always stacked in the favour of men when it comes to the world of sports, especially broadcast sports.
The fight for respect and credibility is endless for women in front of the camera.
“I know that it is going to require a five minute conversation with the coach, player or team staff before they take me seriously,” Lalonde said.
“I have asked men to join me as a guest on a broadcast and be turned down, to then have my male colleague ask, to which they agree.”
“I have made the conscious effort to select clothing that is reserved so that people hear me first and not see me.”
“The double standard still exists,” Lalonde said.
“A man can have a serious face on camera, but if a woman does, she looks mad, unapproachable, angry. “I have had a man message me saying he would have introduced himself to me, but I looked unapproachable.”
“I have been told I look like a Mime because of a shirt I wore, that my analysis is pathetic and the oh so classic assumption that I am “only in the industry so that I can date the players.”
Lalonde leans heavily on her past experiences in the game as a player as a source of strength and courage.
“I am desensitized to these kind of comments now a days, but every now and then, it can still sting.”
What has Lalonde learned about herself in her short time in business?
“This profession is like no other.”
“You are not selling insurance or stadium tickets, when you apply for a broadcasting role, you are selling you.”
“The product is you, it’s your personality, it’s your knowledge, it’s the ability to be transparent and authentic,” Lalonde said.
“Talk about an identity crisis when you try to “be yourself” with two cameras pointing at you, the commissioner of the QMJHL sitting next to you and 10,000 fans screaming behind you moments before going live on TV, it’s a very unconventional setting for a 24 year old women,” explained Lalonde.
Unconventional, but yet exciting.
Nevertheless, when the red light comes on it being in front of the camera can’t be quite intimidating.
“You are constantly putting yourself out there in hopes that people will like you and want to watch your channel, so it’s inevitable to have moments where you wish you could have said something different or worn a different shirt.”
“When I struggle to find my confidence needed to do a live broadcast, I always go back to the simple advice of “Be yourself…your whole self,” because that is really all you can do in this industry.”
“Be yourself and if people like you and want to follow along great, and if not, so be it.”
“The only opinion that should matter is your own, this is of course is much easier said than done,” admitted Lalonde.
The general public and viewers alike are often quick to criticize, the amount of work that goes into a broadcast, live hit or feature interview is lost on them.
Lalonde relishes her time behind the scenes.
“From a viewer’s point of view, talking on camera looks easy and everyone thinks they can do it better.”
“As for my game preparation, you could say I’m a “preparation queen.”
“My colleagues make fun of me for it sometimes because I can go overboard.”
“Covering multiple sports and leagues in a single week, the story lines blur and you can mix up the names, so I try my best to have all the rosters outlined, bio’s, and player interviews selected before getting to the rink or field,” Lalonde said.
From high school sports, to the QMJHL broadcasts, to sideline reporting, to color analyst, to play by play, Lalonde has done it all in her short, but very memorable time in broadcasting.
Preparation is everything, but you have to put all that behind you and rely on your instincts.
“You learn to adapt,” Lalonde said. “I have learned over and over again is that no matter how much I may prepare for a game, everything I study can go out the window in an instance.”
“I can be ready to go bench side with the Mooseheads Head Coach to ask a question and then someone scores, I’ll have only a few seconds to think of a new question before the camera is on me.”
“Having played the game for many years certainly helps, but ultimately, I have learned to trust my gut, follow the natural story line and ask the question you yourself would like to know the answer to.”
Knowledge, instinct and trusting your gut, spoken like a true scoring forward.
Living the Dream and the Reality
Kenzie Lalonde is living out her dream of being a sports broadcaster, but she’s still trying to find her niche away from the camera.
From being the first female TV play by play announcer to cover the Maritime Hockey League, to hosting and producing shows Lalonde continues to expand her role within the business.
Where does she envision herself being in five years?
“I hope to bring more attention to women’s sports in Atlantic Canada, explained Lalonde.
“I believe there is a place on television for women’s sports and I want to be a part of that movement.”
“There are so many strong female athletes, coaches and leaders who are frontrunners in their communities whose stories deserve to be heard.”
“It is time we start having real conversations about the people who make our region the great place that it is,” Lalonde said.
Lalonde strongly believes the broadcast platform can become a powerful tool for advocacy around mental health initiatives.
“I even want to have tough conversations like discussing mental health.”
“The conversation of mental health is becoming more natural for athletes, but I believe there needs more attention on the crucial years that follow an athlete’s career.”
“The transition from elite level athlete to young professional. As someone who struggled with this transition, I want to continue to have these conversations so that we can bring awareness and provide help to those who may need it,” stressed Lalonde.
Lalonde’s raw emotion, transparency and honesty around mental health is truly inspiring and deeply profound for a person her age.
“I realized a few things after hanging up my skates. Since I was 10 years old, I was going from rink to rink, finding the best summer workouts, eating the best foods; ultimately preparing my mind and body for game day.”
“ I was planning my childhood around hockey not my hockey around my childhood.”
“I think it is important as a kid to play other sports, try new hobbies, go on family vacations, and eat junk food.”
“As a female, I knew there was an end of the road for my hockey career, yet I still neglected the other parts of me. I had to find my new narrative, find out who the real Kenzie was not “hockey player Kenzie.”
“I have had to figure out what my hobbies are, what kind of physical activity makes me happy, how to make friends and accept that my body will change.”
“When your worth is no longer defined by your physical capabilities you can feel lost,” Lalonde said.
“You just spent the last eighteen years aligning these two things so that you can have the best chance at success in your sport and then it ends.”
“The transition from elite level athlete to working professional is a tough one.”
“It is important to find friends and family who can relate to you and help you along the way,” stressed Lalonde.
Her broadcasting journey continues to evolve.
“Commentating is a skill I want to continue to develop because if you ask me there are a lot of women that can hold a microphone and ask questions, but not many can call a game.”
“I have been very lucky to be given the opportunity to put a head set on and I am excited to see where that path can take me,” Lalonde said proudly.
Authentic and empowered, Kenzie Lalonde’s passion for broadcasting and life deserves the spotlight.