Rogers landmark TV deal with the NHL will put the spotlight on the broadcaster's biggest personality, Nick Kypreos. But those around him think he's ready to shine after years of hard work.
As plugged in as Nick Kypreos is, he found out about the biggest Canadian media story of the year around the same time as most people: the morning after.
“I had woken up to the news,” he says. “I looked at my wife and said, ‘You’re not going to believe this.’ ”
The news Rogers Communications and its flagship Sportsnet entity would be in charge of all national broadcasts of NHL hockey for the next 12 years was pretty unbelievable, but now it’s time for the hard work to get done. And that’s one thing Kypreos’ bosses know he will deliver for them. Scott Moore is president of broadcasting for Rogers Media and has worked with ‘Kipper’ since he and the network hired the former NHL enforcer 16 years ago.
“He had a lot of raw skills,” Moore says. “A lot of ex-athletes come into broadcasting and think it will be easy, but Nick puts in that time. It’s his work ethic.”
Ask Kypreos and he’ll tell you it was necessary. He doesn’t want to watch old tape of himself from those early years and even says Moore nearly fired him after Year 1. The player-turned-talker was taken off the live broadcast with Darren Dreger and Greg Millen and put on a show that was live-to-tape, so the pressure was taken down a notch and the newbie was given room to improve if a take went sideways.
“In that second year, I was able to take a step back,” Kypreos says. “That saved me as much as anything.”
He also sought out those more experienced in the game and found out a bumpy road in the beginning is common.
“I had a conversation with Rob Faulds, who is as polished a broadcaster as you’re going to find,” Kypreos says. “I asked him how long it took for him to get comfortable and he said seven years. My jaw dropped. I said, ‘Seven? I’ve got a long way to go.’ ”
Now, Kypreos is one of the biggest names in the Sportsnet orbit. He’s not simply an ex-jock spouting off; he’s a go-to guy for breaking news and the now-ubiquitous hypefests of the trade deadline and the first day of free agency. But personality also plays a part and for Moore, that Kypreos is the type of guy fans would want to have a beer with helps the broadcaster’s appeal.
“He brings a real everyman aspect,” Moore says. “What you see is what you get.”
Other than the fact Rogers will be in charge of all NHL hockey coverage in Canada for the next 12 years, much has yet to be decided as to who will deliver the news and analysis of said games and in what capacity.
“We’ve shot the moose,” Moore says. “Now we have to get it out of the forest.”
Kypreos is the best known of Sportsnet’s internal stars, but he’s supported by other strong personalities. Doug MacLean, Hazel Mae and the duo of Tim and Sid (Micallef and Seixeiro) take some spotlight off him. And though you can now add the CBC team to the fold (Elliotte Friedman, Don Cherry and Ron MacLean being just a few of the big names), there will be hires to fill out the roster needed for multiple platforms and major broadcasts.
“The exciting part now is we get to put together an all-star team,” Moore says. “The challenge is that not everyone can be on the power play, some will have to be on the checking line. We need team guys and Nick understands that. But there’s no question we’ll see more of Nick.”
Expectations will be interesting. TSN’s No. 1 personality is Bob McKenzie, a former editor-in-chief at The Hockey News and a print journalist before he became a Canadian sports media titan. Kypreos wants no part of comparisons.
“I’ve spent 16 years trying to figure out who I am, not who I’m going to replace,” he says. “I’m not Don Cherry or Bob McKenzie. I’ve got to be who I am now.”
There is an acknowledgment, however, that the landscape has changed now that the underdogs have taken over the clubhouse. At the formal announcement of the partnership, Gary Bettman teased broadcaster Darren Millard, telling the journalist he’d have to be nicer to the NHL commissioner now.
“There is a perception change, to be sure,” Kypreos says. “We don’t take that lightly. But you have to be true to yourself. I pride myself on bringing fans insider information, but also on giving strong opinions.”
No doubt Kypreos will have the chance to do that next season when the Rogers takeover begins in earnest. Now the question revolves around his overall role and what he can do with it. Kypreos won a Stanley Cup in 1994 as a left winger with the New York Rangers. But Broadway’s got nothing on the pressure Canadian fans put on their hockey personalities.