On March 14th, 2021, Kenzie Lalonde became the first woman to provide play-by-play coverage for a QMJHL game on television when the Halifax Mooseheads hosted the Charlottetown Islanders.
Since then, she’s been a part of the crew that provided coverage of the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Hockey Championship, the Canada/USA Rivalry Series for TSN and CBC’s coverage of women’s hockey at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, China. This has led to Kenzie being named to Sportsnet’s list of “25 Most Powerful Women in Sports To Watch.”
Kenzie was born and raised in Ottawa, playing hockey for the Ottawa Lady Senators before moving out east to play at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. She grew up a huge fan of the Ottawa Senators, sporting the number 16 in honour of her favourite player, Brian McGrattan.
From watching the Ottawa Senators to calling games on T.V. to playing ball hockey in the summer, Kenzie eats, sleeps and breathes hockey. She takes us through her journey to the broadcast booth.
What was it like growing up in Ottawa, playing hockey for the Ottawa Lady Senators?
I followed in my brother’s footsteps, so I was in skates from the moment I could walk. Learning to play hockey at the Johnny Leroux Arena, skating on the canal and driving to school listening to TSN 1200 are pillars in developing my passion for the game. When the Lady Sens program formed, it became the top-tier program in the city, and I hoped to play for them one day.
Not only did the Junior team provide an opportunity to play the best teams in the province, but it was extra special wearing an almost identical NHL Senator’s jersey; in a way, I felt like a professional hockey player. My coach in junior was former NHLer Luke Richardson. He and the rest of the coaching staff fostered an environment of constant support and encouragement to be our best. I am still good friends with a lot of my teammates from that year.
You were a big Sens fan and, most notably, a fan of Brian McGrattan. How did that come about?
Growing up in Ottawa, the Sens became a natural team our family cheered for. From Alexei Yashin to the Jacque Martin days to the Pizza Line, we watched or attended as many games as possible. I was always a fan of athletes with personality, so one year, when I had the opportunity to select my jersey number, I was drawn to 16, remembering that was McGrattan’s number. He was an absolute animal during the 05-06 season, and I was a fan of the Mohawk. Even though I wore a Sens jersey with the number 16, I never had a Mohawk; I think my parents would have freaked out (Laugh).
Why did you want to get into broadcasting?
In a way, it relates to why I was drawn to McGrattan as a kid. It wasn’t always the top goal scorers I was intrigued by; it was athletes who shared their stories or had a sense of humour…which is why I was a big fan of the sports segment, Cabbie on Street. We see these athletes do incredible things on the ice, but I always wanted to know what made them tick or their go-to meal; these were the things that made me a fan; I could relate to them.
I think that’s why I really enjoy play-by-play; you have an opportunity to tell viewers who these players are while they are excelling at their sport. When I get the chance to call women’s hockey, there is an extra layer of passion because your average hockey fan probably doesn’t know who these players are, but their dedication, skill and passion is just as elite as the NHLers we know, and they are just as relatable; they can inspire so many people if given a chance.
Last year, you made history as the first female to call a QMJHL game on TV. How special was that?
At the time, it was just another game on the schedule. I called many games before, but this one just happened to be a first for the league. At first, I didn’t think much of it, and then I realized the opportunity I had to pave the way for more women to pursue the role; it was just strange to me that I was the one doing the paving.
Looking back, I can’t remember much of the game itself; all I remember was the incredible support I had from my team, the league, sports media professionals and viewers. Receiving messages from guys like Brent Wallace and TSN 1200’s John Rodenburg was still a major highlight for me. I hope that moment will inspire teams and networks to seek out female voices and for women who are considering play-by-play to try it!
Since then, you’ve called games at the Women’s Worlds and were the rinkside reporter at the Olympics during the women’s hockey tournament. Would you ever have imagined this growing up?
Absolutely not (laughs). I had a friend say to me the other day that I am the only person she knows who accomplished their childhood dream. Broadcasting takes a lot of hard work (usually unpaid), risk-taking and a little bit of luck.
Those opportunities allowed me to call Olympic gold medalists, women I watched growing up, co-workers. Working alongside Cheryl Pounder, Carla MacLeod, and Tessa Bonhomme at Worlds was a “pinch me” moment. Then a few months later, board a flight to Beijing to cover the pinnacle of women’s hockey was an experience I will never take for granted. The Canadian women’s national team broke records; they were unstoppable, and to see Marie Philip Poulin score two gold medal-winning goals, in person, in one year, is unbelievable. Speaking with players from all countries at the Olympic games, I noticed they all shared a similar emotion of pride, pride in their team, their country, and the sport. The players knew the 2022 Olympic Winter Games would mean more than just the medals because it was a jumping-off point for the future of the game.
You were on Sportsnet’s list of “25 Most Powerful Women in Sports To Watch.” What does that mean to you?
It’s truly an honour to be listed as a Woman to Watch. I have had amazing opportunities these past few years to leave my mark, so if I can inspire women to try play-by-play, share an athlete’s story or encourage viewers to tune in to women’s hockey, that’s what matters. We are getting closer to having a professional women’s hockey league, and I think it’s important that there is a female voice behind the product. Whether I can be in the booth or behind the scenes, I just want to help women’s sports get the exposure it deserves.
You’re now living in Halifax. How do you enjoy the East Coast lifestyle?
I went to university on the East Coast, so I consider this part of Canada my home away from home. There is something special about living 20 minutes from the ocean. The summers here are incredible; I encourage everyone to travel the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton at least once in their life; the views will take your breath away. I also love that Atlantic Canada prides itself in being maritime made with their local restaurants, businesses, and shops. The lobster is good, but the beer is even better!
When you come back to Ottawa, where are the three places you visit?
I love to eat, so this will be easy:
Pure Kitchen and Baked goods at Quitters in Stittsville (which is soon to be Equators…I believe they sold it)
My parents recently moved to Carleton Place, so I have fallen in love with the homemade sandwiches at Olde Town Bakery.
What do you like to do when you’re not working?
I signed up for ball hockey this summer, so I will be in for a rude awakening with my fitness level. I enjoy going on hikes with friends in the winter and summer. There is great live music in Halifax, so if I am not in a rink on a Friday night, I will try to catch a show.
What advice would you give to a young broadcaster?
It’s all about reps, so grab a microphone and reach out to a local team or league to see if you can stream their games. Connect with your local community station and volunteer (I volunteered a few times at Rogers TV on Richmond road on their Daytime Ottawa show as a camera operator). Most importantly, be yourself; that is the magic ingredient that will separate you from others!