Burke it to the bone: a young veteran behind the mic

Postat: 9 augusti, 2017 av Magnus i Okategoriserade
This week I had the opportunity of talking to the New York Islanders broadcaster, Brendan Burke. He told me interesting things about himself and his work. Also, a couple of fun facts that emerged along the interview. Read for instance about his longshot following graduation that paid off, big time.

 

I’m curious about your childhood. You were born in Milwaukee, WI, but your family moved to New Jersey when you were six. What memories do you have from that period?

I really don’t have a good memory so when it comes to my childhood I really have a tough time remembering much. But when we lived in Wisconsin my dad – a sports writer – was covering the Milwaukee Brewers, Green Bay Packers and the IHL’s Milwaukee Admirals. So I do remember tagging along with him at baseball games and hockey games. That was my first real exposure to hockey.

Did you practice any sports yourself as a kid?

In Wisconsin, kids learn to skate and play hockey at a young age. So I started skating at 3 or 4 years old and playing hockey shortly thereafter. So hockey has been a part of my life since I was a very little kid.

When I moved to New Jersey, I continued to play hockey at a pretty competitive level. That took up most of my free time on nights and weekends. I played all four years of high school and played on the club team at Ithaca College. So while I wasn’t playing hockey to help my broadcasting career, I have to imagine that it helped out quite a bit. 

Your father Don has a long record as a sports writer. How do you think that affected you in your career choice?

He has covered many sports and teams for few different newspapers. For a good portion of my childhood he was a beat reporter covering the New York Yankees. So as a kid I was afforded some great opportunities to spend time behind the scenes at Major League Baseball games. The experience that had the greatest impact on me was that I occasionally would be able to sit between the Yankees radio broadcasters while they called a game. It was that experience that sparked my interest – and ultimately love – for broadcasting.

You became the youngest broadcaster in the ECHL in 2006 when you began calling Wheeling Nailers games, only 22 years old. How did you get the job?

I got the job in Wheeling with a little bit of luck. The summer that I graduated from college, I had sent a demo tape and resume to every team in the ECHL and AHL (and a few more as well), regardless of whether or not they had a job opening. I didn’t hear back from very many of them and I was without a job as the season was approaching. Then the broadcaster in Wheeling left in late-September and instead of starting a full-blown search, they were impressed enough by my tape to interview me for the job and ultimately offer it to me.

Was it especially tough to take on a gig like that considering your age?

The job was challenging because I had never done it before but it was the perfect situation for me that I was able to feel my way through it the first year. Broadcasting is something that you get more and more comfortable with the more you do it. On top of that I was also in charge of the media and public relations for the team and I had no experience doing that.

It certainly sounds like quite a challenge. I guess it was a good time for picking up useful advice from colleagues around the league?

I certainly leaned on a lot of other guys in the ECHL that season to show me what to do. I also did some research and paid attention and tried to excel in that role because in the eyes of many, that part of the job is even more important than broadcasting.

What was your immediate reaction when the Islanders asked you to take over from Howie Rose?

My immediate reaction was total shock, even though by that point I was pretty confident that I was going to get the job. It has been a lifelong goal to get an NHL broadcasting job, but to get it in New York City (which is home to me) and to get it on television was a dream come true. I still pinch myself sometimes and it’s been a year.

Did you have to apply for the job or did the organization reach out to you? 

There is no job application but you need to submit your demo tape and make your interest in the job known. Much of that is handled by my agent in the initial stages and then once it progresses past that then I met with MSG for an interview. After that I recorded an audition by calling a game off a television monitor alongside Butch Goring. It was a process that took 2+ months, but obviously well worth it.

What was the reaction of your family to the news?

It was an emotional time for my entire family. Some of my favorite moments were telling people like my wife and my dad that I got the job. They are extremely proud of me and I am extremely grateful for all the help that they have given me along the way. I am well aware that I don’t get to this point by myself and those two have been my biggest supporters.

Could you talk us through a usual game day from your perspective?

Game days are fun and the culmination of a lot of work put in on non-game days. The day usually begins with reading newspaper articles and web sites from the outstanding journalists that cover the NHL. Then it’s on to morning skate where we watch practice and can talk with the players and coaches for both teams. After that it’s back home (or to the hotel) to put the finishing touches on my preparation and grab some lunch. We have a production meeting with the entire crew at 4:30pm (for a 7pm game). We eat dinner after that and have a rehearsal at about 6pm. Then we go on the air at 7 and have some fun.

Is there any post game assignments you need to finish before calling it a day, something that isn’t shown for the TV audience?

After we’re done with the postgame show, I am done. If we are not traveling I try and relax a little bit before diving back into work the next morning. If we are on the move then I will work on my prep for the next game on the plane ride.

Advanced stats have become very popular among fans these days. What are your thoughts about it? Is it something you use at all in your pre game preparations?

I am not against advanced stats but, like any stat, they don’t tell the whole story. So while I will look at them and do my best to understand what they measure I think the use of them in the broadcasting world is a very tricky line to walk. I think our viewers would rather hear the English translation as opposed to the numbers. So while you won’t hear me say that “Team A is has the second-best Corsi in the NHL at 54 percent”, you may hear me say “Team A is one of the best puck-possession teams in the league.”  But it is certainly something that is still evolving.  

About the arena situation, where do you think the Islanders will play their home games in the future?

I am as interested as everyone else to find out what is going to happen. I’m happy to be calling Islanders games no matter where they play.

How is it to work with Butch, Shannon, Rick and Stan? You seem to have a lot of fun together. Do you just meet at work or are you also seeing each other in your spare time sometimes?

We do have a lot of fun together and obviously during the season we spend a lot of time together, not just when we are working. We eat meals together, we sit next to each other on the plane, we watch practices together. We don’t really have much spare time during the season. During the summer is when we pretty much all go our separate ways. We travel and spend time with family so we certainly see each other less frequently. But we will still text from time to time and will grab lunch if the situation arises.

Finally, what do you do in your spare time? Are there any favorite activities on your days off?

My spare time now involves entirely around my kids. I have a 3-year-old daughter, Quinn, and a 5-month-old son, Liam. So I am on full-time dad duty during the summers. We like to travel and explore New York City, but as boring as it sounds that’s pretty much all I do.

BrBu2

BRENDAN BURKE

 

 

FIVE QUICK ONES

  • Football or Baseball? – I love them both – to broadcast and to watch.
  • Brooklyn or Manhattan? – I live in Brooklyn so I have to say Brooklyn, but I love Manhattan and get over there pretty frequently.
  • Blue or Orange? – Most of my wardrobe is blue.
  • Beer or Wine? – I’ve never had either. Shocking, I know.
  • Trade Deadline or Free Agent Frenzy? – Probably free agency because almost everyone is involved.
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