Sports broadcaster steals show at Virden Ag Summit

Well-known sports broadcaster Leah Hextall was one of four keynote speakers representing sports and agriculture to address the inaugural Ag Summit hosted by the Virden Oil Capitals last week.

She had the audience eating out of her hand as she dropped names and shared life lessons she’s learned from some of the greats in sport.

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From CKX to ESPN

Hextall got her start in television 17 years ago when she joined the now-defunct CKX TV in her hometown of Brandon.

Since then, she’s worked for TSN, ESPN, Sportsnet, New England Sports Network (NESN) and Hockey Night in Canada.

But in the male-dominated world of sports broadcasting, there’s one glass ceiling she has yet to break through: No woman has done play-by-play for NHL hockey.

It’s a challenging job, she says, but it’s a goal she’s set for herself and intends to reach it using life lessons from her sports gurus:

Adapt: “You have to adapt to win. Alexander Ovechkin had won every prize except the Stanley Cup. He changed the way he trained and came back to win it. You have to take your talent and skills, adapt them to what your team needs, and that’s the lesson I learned from Ovi.”

Foster chemistry: “I arrived in Boston (to work for the New England Sports Network, NESN) in 2013, the year the Boston Red Sox went from worst to first, and they did it with chemistry. The club got rid of its poisonous players and signed some top players with character, glue guys, who enjoyed being together. It brought them to success because they wanted to win for each other.”

Get a mentor: “My mentor is Doc Emrick (US sportscaster), that’s who I wanted to emulate. He believed I could do it…. He told the world that I could become the first woman to call play-by-play in the NHL.”

Work hard: “Sidney Crosby is the most underrated athlete of our time. He knows that ‘Hard work will outwork talent if talent doesn’t work.’ So I learned how to do play-by-play with hard work, by going up to the empty media box at Manitoba Moose games and practice with no one listening.”

Be positive: “I tend to be very negative. But being positive is so important, it makes you mentally strong.”

Live in the moment: “I got to spend time with Bobby Orr in Boston. His career ended at age 30 because of injuries. So he tells young players to enjoy the moment because you never know when that opportunity is going away.”

About the Ag Summit

This year’s Ag Summit is the first of its kind, a replacement for the Crop Club, the Oil Capitals’ annual fundraiser with its ag partners.

The one-day summit at TOGP on Nov. 15 included a trade show, guest speakers, supper, auction, and an Oil Caps game.

Jamie Hodson, the team’s Director of Business and Hockey Operations, said he was ecstatic with the turnout of about 200 growers, ag partners and vendors.

He says the club expects to clear about $25,000 in revenues for the day - not quite as lucrative as the Crop Club which brought in about $40,000 a season but required a lot of volunteer time and effort throughout the growing season.

© Virden Empire-Advance