A young Ottawa woman now living in Halifax is breaking the glass ceiling on the east coast as she’ll soon become the first woman to call a Quebec Major Junior Hockey League game on television.
Kenzie Lalonde is a 26-year-old broadcaster and host with Eastlink TV in Halifax. This Sunday, she will be calling the Halifax Mooseheads’ game, becoming the first woman to do that for the league on TV.
“It’s humbling. I can’t even wrap my head around it,” Lalonde said.
Growing up in Stittsville, in the west end of Ottawa, Lalonde has been playing hockey ever since she could walk.
“I played all growing up. I was pretty lucky,” she said. “I was able to really have very good development at a young age in the female game.”
By Grade 12, Lalonde was playing in the Provincial Women’s Hockey League for the Ottawa Junior Lady Senators, training under former NHL defenceman Luke Richardson.
However, she said that at the time, she was battling her relationship with hockey.
“I didn’t know if I wanted to keep doing it. And I was kind of sick and tired of missing out on all the social aspects of adulthood and being a young adult.”
She then went on a recruiting trip to Mount Allison University in Sackville, N.B., and fell in love with the east coast.
“It’s kind of like those things you can’t describe,” she said. “You’re just like, ‘This feels right.’”
Enrolling in commerce at Mount Allison — and finding the right balance between studies, hockey and her social life — helped Lalonde fall back in love with the sport.
She played forward, and was the team MVP in her third year.
Lalonde said being in university also gave her a new outlook on hockey.
“(I’ve) kind of always had it in the back of my head, how cool it would be to be on Sportsnet,” she said.
“When I was that little kid, I’d eat my bowl of Froot Loops and Holly Horton in the mornings, and I just thought that that would be so sweet.
“I never really thought it could be possible.”
Going the traditional route first, Lalonde said she briefly thought about going into sports management.
“But I always kind of had that, inner little girl desire to be on camera and interview players,” she said.
At the university, Lalonde grabbed the opportunity to host YouTube videos for the athletic program to gain some student engagement.
After getting a taste of what it’s like to interview athletes, Lalonde knew it’s what she wanted to do. In her fifth year, she started volunteering with Eastlink and gained some professional experience for the first time.
“When I graduated Monday, I had my commerce degree, I was a Dean’s list student and was captain in my final two years. So I kind of hung my skates on really getting everything I can out of Mount. A.,” Lalonde said.
She then went back to Ottawa to work for U Sports, the national governing body for university sports in Canada.
“We developed this role where I was kind of a personality for their social media. So I would… interview fans, athletes, and kind of give a game-day experience over the phone.”
In 2019, “out of the blue,” she got a phone call from Eastlink, saying the company was eager to have a female sports broadcaster.
“I had like three weeks to pack my bags and kind of fill up that little girl dream,” she said.
This week, Lalonde will become what is believed to be the first female play-by-play announcer for the QMJHL on TV.
“It’s so, so exciting. I’m honored, excited for the opportunity,” she said.
“They’ve had female radio commentators, which is amazing. But in terms of a television production and having a female voice behind the game itself and calling the action — that’ll be me on Sunday.”
The QMJHL said they do not have a record officially, but are 99 per cent sure Lalonde will be the first woman to call a league game on TV.
“I feel like I’ve earned it, so I’m excited to show everyone what I got,” Lalonde said.
“I thought my ticket to interviewing players would be to be a sideline reporter,” she said, adding that anchor desks were almost the only places she could see women on camera growing up.
“Now we’re seeing change,” she added.
Last year to commemorate International Women’s Day, Sportsnet hosted a Sunday broadcast produced by an all-female team.
“They had an all-female commentary team but also an all-female crew which is huge, to get a female director, get a female replay team. That’s where the challenging decisions are made.”
Lalonde said that’s what she’s hoping to achieve one day.
“It’s the behind the scenes work, in my opinion, where change can be made,” she said.
“I’m super excited to maybe get started here in Atlantic Canada for the women — I’m just step one.”
On Sunday, the Mooseheads will host the Charlottetown Islanders at 4 p.m. The game is being carried live by Eastlink TV, with Lalonde, of course, handling the play-by-play duties.
She has already begun preparing to call the game.
“It’s been nice that I’ve been familiar with the teams for a couple of years. So now it’s really just about learning those names and numbers a little better.”
Her goal moving forward is “to keep calling games,” she said with a laugh. “That’s what I love to do.”