What does it take to be a hockey broadcaster? This 17-year-old is finding out

Thomas McComber, 17, does the colour commentary for the Valley Wildcats of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. (Submitted by Kevin Hubert - image credit)
Thomas McComber, 17, does the colour commentary for the Valley Wildcats of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. (Submitted by Kevin Hubert - image credit)

Thomas McComber reached a conclusion about his career plans when he was in Grade 6.

"I love hockey, I love being around the game of hockey and whenever I would watch a hockey game, whenever there's a broadcast, I was like, 'That's what I want to do with my life,'" said the 17-year-old from Kingston, N.S.

He does colour commentary for the home games of the Valley Wildcats of the Maritime Junior Hockey League, who are based in Berwick, N.S. McComber started in the role midway through this season and took part in 12 games.

To prepare, McComber pores over statistics from the league's website. He said he was nervous doing his first game.

"But then I just remembered to stay calm and to just make sure that I'm not speaking in a rush or speaking in a hushed tone, to just project my voice and make sure that I'm clear," he said.

The Wildcats were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs, but McComber, a Grade 11 student, plans to stay in the position next season.

'He has that gumption,' says broadcast partner

Kevin Hubert does the play-by-play for the Wildcats. He said McComber has a lot of passion and is a good listener.

"He has that gumption, that energy that he brings in every game," said Hubert.

McComber said one of his favourite sports broadcasters is TSN's Gord Miller. McComber said he likes Miller's personality and the way he describes the on-ice action.

Emily Brass/CBC
Emily Brass/CBC

CBC News contacted Miller to see what advice he'd have for an aspiring sports broadcaster.

"The most important thing is that it needs to be your passion," he said. "It needs to be something that you really want to do, not because you want to be famous or make lots of money, but just because you want to do it.

"And if it's your passion, you'll find that it's not work at all."

Miller said being a successful sports broadcaster requires a ton of preparation.

He said a typical day for him includes reading newspaper articles, web articles, watching highlights, studying statistics and talking to coaches, players and managers.

"You're always trying to find something new to tell the audience," he said.

The level of detail is so precise that it includes things like knowing how every player has fared in past penalty shots, just in case they get one in the game.

"You kind of need to be prepared for any eventuality and at the end of the day, almost none of the things you prepare for you'll need, but it's handy to have them," he said.

McComber's plans

McComber said he plans to take a gap year after graduating from high school and then attend journalism school. Wherever he attends university, he'd like to call games for their hockey team.

For now, he's focused on making the most of his opportunity with the Wildcats.

"This is a stepping stone for me to become a sports broadcaster," said McComber.