5 Years from NAIT to TSN

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5 Years from NAIT to TSN

Postby jon » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:43 pm

Edmonton sportscaster goes to the show in Toronto
By Jamie Hall, edmontonjournal.com
September 4, 2011 4:02 PM

EDMONTON - For Edmonton’s Natasha Staniszewski, it was one of those surreal full-circle moments. Waiting to deliver her first live on-air segment from the TSN studio in Toronto, she glanced over at co-anchor Bryan Mudryk and thought of the day only a few years before when she had job-shadowed him at an Edmonton TV station.

At the time, he was a sportscaster for CTV Edmonton and she was completing a “career investigation,” a prerequisite for the broadcasting program at NAIT.

“And now, here I was, five years later, anchoring with him at TSN (in Toronto),” recalls Staniszewski of that moment earlier this spring. “I had come full circle. I remember being super nervous, even though he tried so hard to make me feel comfortable.

“My hands were shaking,” she says, then laughs. “Sometimes they still shake.”

Staniszewski’s career trajectory is trending ever upwards, and at Mach speed.

In the world of Canadian sports broadcasting, working for TSN’s SportsCentre, the nation’s most-watched daily sports program, is the gig to end all gigs. In the parlance of sport-speak, it’s the equivalent of “going to the show,” a term used in major-league baseball to describe a players move up from the minors.

Edmonton has long been fertile ground for TSN when it comes to talent; current alum include Mudryk, Gord Miller and Ryan Rishaug — even Darren Dutchyshen worked here many years ago.

Staniszewski watched “Dutchy” as she was growing up and considers him an “icon” in the industry.

“Now I’m on the desk with him sometimes, which is really strange for me.”

Until last year’s Grey Cup in Edmonton, and a chance meeting with a network executive, TSN wasn’t even on her career radar. But, then again, she never imagined leaving her hometown of Edmonton, either.

She was dragged to her brother’s hockey games as a kid, and, like most Edmontonians, bled the copper and blue of her beloved Oilers. The team was in its so-called “glory days” then, and Mark Messier was her favourite player. She was an athlete in her own right, too. She excelled at basketball and volleyball, winning a provincial title in the latter in high school.

She went on to earn a business degree from the University of Alberta, which she put to good use. It wasn’t what she wanted, though. Now 32, she learned at the age of 26 that she didn’t want to be in the traditional workaday business world. During a break at a mind-numbingly boring business conference, she glanced up at a TV in the hotel lobby and saw a woman — she can’t remember who — delivering the day’s sports news. And that’s when she had her ‘aha’ moment.

“I thought: ‘Why am I not doing that?’ ” says Staniszewski.

She went on to complete her broadcasting degree at NAIT in Edmonton. After that, she moved to five different cities in two years. It was a journey that took her on a driving tour of small-town Saskatchewan, often in the middle of winter, as she learned the ropes. She researched, reported and edited her own stories, often on hair-raising deadlines and in heart-stopping weather conditions.

“You know, it wasn’t easy but I sort of loved it,” she says, with a laugh. “I met good people in those small towns, and I learned so much about the business, and about myself.”

When she was hired by CTV in Edmonton in 2009, it was a milestone in an already fast-moving career.

“That was always my goal, when I started doing sports, to get back to Edmonton, to a bigger market,” she says.

The biggest market of all, in Canada at least, is in Toronto. It was while covering last year’s Grey Cup in Edmonton that she happened upon TSN vice-president Mark Milliere, who was looking for someone to cover anchor Jennifer Hedger’s maternity leave. The chance meeting morphed into a career opportunity, and landed Staniszewski at the anchor desk in Toronto in March, where’s she been ever since.

An online thread started mere hours after her TSN debut was a discussion comparing “the hot chick” to that of her colleague Hedger. Staniszewski doesn’t want to give the issue any more attention than it deserves, but she acknowledges it exists.

“I don’t know if that will ever change,” she says with a weary sigh. “You try not to pay attention to it, but sometimes it’s hard not to. You have to develop a thick skin, for sure, and I’ll probably always be working on that.”

The issue of women in the world of sports broadcasting is ever evolving and yet ever the same. Women are a greater presence on the field, in the dressing room and in the anchor chair. Still, they’re scrutinized in a way their male counterparts simply are not, and by a fan base that is made up mostly of men.

“I think some people are harder on women when a mistake is made,” say Staniszewski. “If a man refers to a wrong player on the ice, for instance, people will forgive it and think he got mixed up, but if a woman makes the same mistake, they’ll think it’s because she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.

“I feel as though there’s more pressure to be perfect.”

Regardless, she’s equal to the task, and looking forward to whatever the future holds. Since her move East, she has covered a little football, a little hockey and even travelled to Orlando to interview Montreal Alouettes’ quarterback Anthony Calvillo during the team’s pre-season voluntary workouts. A sports fan all her life, she knows her stuff, but admits she has had to brush up on her knowledge of MLB and the NBA.

“We’re not exposed to a lot of that in the West, but it’s easy enough to do the research,” she says.

Her contract with TSN expires in March 2012; whether she stays longer remains to be seen.

“I’m trying not to think about it too much and just live in the moment and worry about it when I have to,” she says. “I just want to keep moving forward and keep growing.”

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