At the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum on this November night, Kailey Townsend is in position and ready for the puck to drop on her first women’s ice hockey match.
Seated at an elevated table above the bleachers that overlooks the ice, Townsend is prepared. She knows the names of all the UConn players and their numbers.
People can’t see what you’re looking at, so you have to be the eyes for their ears. — Kailey Townsend '18 (CLAS)
Townsend ’18 (CLAS), a communication and political science major from New York, is the newest play-by-play commentator for the UConn Women’s Ice Hockey team. And this season is the first time commentary will accompany the live stream on the UConn Athletics website.
“Tonight’s game is my training,” she says, “This season is the preliminary, and from here I’ll keep going.”
The best commentators often become the voice of a team. Vin Scully – the famous commentator for the L.A. Dodgers who retired in September – guided listeners through epic moments throughout the Dodgers history.
Townsend’s commentary, available through a paid subscription, is broadcast to UConn fans and athletes’ family members when they can’t be in the stands.
At WHUS, UConn’s student radio station where she is now operations manager, she has crafted her knack for public speaking and covering live events. “So when it comes to sports,” she says, “I know hockey, I know how I can explain this.”
Townsend’s cheat sheets – filled with the names and numbers of the players, and technical ice hockey terms – are scattered across the small space in front of her, most of the table being otherwise occupied by switchboards, headsets, and other devices. Someone slips her a list of season statistics to add to the details that she can provide her listeners.
“I need to know how to be more descriptive in the moment,” says Townsend. “People can’t see what you’re looking at, so you have to be the eyes for their ears.”
She is consulting her cheat sheets before the game begins, reading a name and number on the list and looking up to match them to each woman practicing on the ice. She records the names and numbers of the visiting team, too, as each of their players skates by.
Even though Division I sports like basketball and football tend to cultivate the largest fan bases, Townsend feels strongly that this is the sport she wants to be covering. “It’s the empowerment,” she says. “In such a masculine sport, it’s awesome to support women’s part in it.”
Once the clock starts running, Townsend pops on her headgear and jumps right in to the commentary, effortlessly maneuvering between watching the puck and consulting her cheat sheets, never missing a moment of action or fumbling over her words.
The noise of the stadium completely washes out Townsend’s voice. Someone sitting next to her would have difficulty making out what she says. So to those around her at the media table, Townsend’s communication is limited to an occasional “thumbs up.”
She recognizes the valuable role she plays in this connection between fans and their favorite team, and says her goal moving forward is to gain a more professional footing. “I listen to the commentary for the men’s basketball games and think ‘How can I get on that level?’” she says.
Townsend plans to train for the upcoming semester by listening to other play-by-play commentators in hopes of polishing her work.
“It takes a lot of skill,” she says. “I still feel like I’m in the baby stages.”