Kyle Bukauskas is an avid supporter of dreaming big. Growing up in a small town in BC, his love for hockey was fueled by his admiration for the game, the energy, and for hockey greats like Paul Kariya. After high school, he left to study broadcasting at SAIT in Calgary, and at only 19 years old, he traded the sprawling mountains of the West Coast for the bustling cityscapes of Eastern Canada, to land his first role working behind the scenes of Sportsnet in Toronto.
As he progressed in his career, these cityscapes also included Ottawa. Though Kyle admits that Ottawa’s small-town feel seems a bit more like home, it has been an instrumental market for the reporter to build a name for himself in sports broadcasting.
Kyle currently lives in the Capital, covering the Ottawa Senators. We caught up with him to discuss the most memorable moments of his early career, his thoughts on the latest edition of the Ottawa Senators, and some of his best advice for aspiring broadcasters.
Photography by Sean Sisk
You grew up in Campbell River, British Columbia. For those of us who’ve never had the pleasure of heading out West, tell us what your hometown is like.
Well, it’s a smaller town, about 30,000 people when I was growing up. Right along the eastern side of Vancouver Island. Big fishing community, heavy logging community… my father worked in the woods industry his entire working life.
It was a great spot for me to grow up because everything was outdoors. It wasn’t cold enough there in the wintertime to have the frozen outdoor rinks, but I played minor hockey.
In the summer, I played sports like baseball and lacrosse, went mountain biking, things like that. It was all just right there for me.
I love going home every time I get to now. It’s funny, as a kid, you take the scenery and the climate for granted. It was all I ever knew.
I did my broadcasting school in Calgary. In my first year on campus, I was up on the 9th floor looking at the Rockies and Banff. All of a sudden the mountains that I used to just reach out and touch from my bedroom window were way off in the distance. I thought “what have I done?”
So now when I go back, I never take any of it for granted. And I wouldn’t trade growing up there for anything.
Were you a fan of the Canucks? Who were some of your favourite players?
Paul Kariya was my favourite player. So naturally, the mighty Ducks of Anaheim were my first love as a kid. My dad took me to my first NHL game when I was 7 years old. It was in Vancouver when Anaheim came to town. Anaheim lost that night, 8-1. The only goal that Anaheim scored was by Paul Kariya. It came early in the second period, and at that time my dad had convinced me to go get stuff in the concession because the lines would be short.
Of course he scored then. To this day, I have no idea what that goal looked like, but you know I was in my seat for all eight Vancouver goals (laughs).
That probably played a role in why I wasn’t a Canucks fan growing up, and later on became a Flames fan.
You attended SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) to study Broadcasting. Even before you had graduated, you had an interview with Sportsnet in Toronto. What was it like to be a student in school flying, across the country to interview for a national sports network?
A whirlwind would be one way to put it. I mean, it was always a goal of mine to get to somewhere like Toronto, because I knew that was where the head offices were for TSN and Sportsnet at the time, I wanted to work at a sports network and I wanted to read highlights.
I mean, you go into media and you understand that there are certain steps you have to take in your career after school. You’re told that you have to start somewhere small to hone your craft and work your way up. And I was totally fine with that. So, when that all came about, I was completely floored. When I flew out there, I was 19 years old. I was obviously really excited and terrified all at once. But on the other hand, I also knew that this may be as good a chance as I was ever going to get, even though it came a lot quicker than I had originally thought.
I remember going in and doing an audition in the Sportsnet studios, just minutes after Hazel Mae finished her 6 PM connect show. It felt like I certainly wasn’t in Kansas anymore.
It was an incredible opportunity, and I’m so fortunate that it led to a career that has me still at the company over 7 years later.
Who were some of the people at Sportsnet that took you under their wing? Do you remember any advice that has stuck with you throughout your career?
Arash Madani was the first one. When I first got started there, I wasn’t on air right away. I was tagging along with different reporters, going to a Leafs practice or a Leafs game, or a Raptors game… just seeing how they went about gathering information and putting stories together. Arash was one of the guys that I worked with and we really hit it off right away.
One piece of advice he gave to me early on was “keep your eyes open, your ears open, and your mouth closed”. Be someone to absorb everything, but don’t be speaking out of turn. I’ve always remembered that and kept that in mind as I’ve tried to carve out a role for myself here at the Network.
Another piece of advice that still sticks with me now and I think about quite often is from Sid Seixeiro, a About a year after I started working there, and had moved to Ottawa but was back in Toronto on assignment for a couple of days. We were sitting in an Irish pub, and over a plate of blarney chips he told me that you have to pick. However many it is… the 8, 10, 12 people in your life. Maybe it’s your boss, your direct colleague, your close friends, girlfriend, parents or siblings… That close group of people whose opinion of you really matters. How they view you matters. Those are the opinions you really take to heart, and everybody else, you just can’t worry about.
That’s something I’ve always tried to keep in mind. In a business like this, you’re obviously in the public eye and it’s easier than ever before for people who want to tell you that they don’t like how your tie is tied or the suit you’re wearing or what you’re saying on the air that night. It’s very easy for them to let you know about that. So, it’s important to have those people in your life that, if they think you’re doing okay, then any other criticism you can take with a grain of salt and try not to lose too much sleep over.
You had a memorable encounter on live TV with the Flyers Mascot, Gritty. You showed incredible poise while the mascot was messing around with you. Did you know that was about to happen?
I knew going in that there was a pretty good chance that he was going to be part of our 30-second opening to the game that night, and that there may be some fun had at my expense. So, I was at least mentally prepared for that going in. But when I got blasted on the side of my face with the silly string, I honest to God had no idea that was coming.
So when you watch that back and you see my reaction, that was a pure, 100% authentic reaction to silly string on live TV.
You currently live in Ottawa, how do you enjoy the city? What are some of your favourite things to do and places to go around the area (when we’re not in lockdown)?
When the weather is good I love to golf, and though I’m not a member anywhere, I get out where I can. There’s a couple of really nice public courses in the area that I love to play at whenever I get the chance to. It’s funny, when things are normal and I’m traveling a lot for work, I don’t get as much of an opportunity to take in everything the city has to offer. But, we love skating on the canal, we also bought road bikes last spring so we’ve been cycling a lot.
That’s another reason why I like Ottawa so much, being a West Coast guy. I love how easily accessible the outdoors are here, even though it’s still a pretty big city.
We don’t eat out a lot (Dana is a great cook), but since the pandemic hit, we’ve been trying to support some local businesses and eat out when we can a couple of times a week. We really enjoy The King Eddy down there in the market. They’ve been very good to us.
What are your thoughts on the Ottawa Senators this season?
They’re a young team that clearly has some young potential. There’s some star power there, in Chabot and Tim Stützle. And Brady Tkachuk, too, just seeing how beloved he’s become in the city and in this market.
They’re a team that’s starting to make some strides. They’re a little ways off from being a serious contender for a playoff spot, let alone competing for a Stanley Cup.
But it seems like they’re starting to take steps in the right direction, even though there are nights when it doesn’t feel like it.
It’s been a long, slow grind since they first announced a rebuild, but they seem to be taking steps towards being a team that competes, and a team that fans want to come out and watch.
One thing you’ve become known for is your great hair. What’s your secret?
First off, I completely blame my man Dino down at Fernandino in Ottawa, because nobody took a second look at my hair until I started going to him back in 2014. He’s the brains behind the operation.
In terms of maintaining it, I use Davines. It’s really good quality. There’s no real trick to it, shower, blow-dry, and throw on a bit of that stuff and away you go.
I’m fortunate to have my mother’s hairline, so there’s a lot to work with there, and with the right product, I can wrestle it into the look I want.
What advice would you give to someone reading this that wants to follow in your footsteps and get into broadcasting, or someone looking to establish themselves in their career?
Because of the way we are seeing this industry change, I think the ability to be multi-functional in this business is key. Whether it’s on-air presenting, being able to write a little bit too, having an understanding of using social media to your benefit… just not being a one-trick pony.
You also want to be someone that people enjoy working with. I feel that I’ve been awarded a lot of special opportunities at Sportsnet. When I think back at where I was in my life and my career when I first got those opportunities, in hindsight, I was probably not totally ready for the job at the time. But, I was committed to working hard at it, and was going to be someone that got along with whoever I was working with.
So I think when you have those qualities, even if you don’t have the experience of some of your coworkers yet, people are willing to give you a chance and help you to work through the speedbumps along the way that you will inevitably face as you find your way in this business.