In my first season on the NWHL Broadcast team, I got to work with Sherry Ross, a pioneer in hockey. Sherry served as the radio voice of the New Jersey Devils. She became the first woman to serve as an analyst during the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals. Again she cracked the glass ceiling when she called play-by-play for the Devils vs. Ottawa Senators on Nov. 25, 2009.
Last week for The IX Newsletter, I asked Sherry about her career and advice she would give to others looking to break into hockey broadcasting. I am very appreciative that Sherry was willing to share her experiences with me for The IX and throughout the 2017-18 NWHL season. Below is my interview with Sherry, you can access the latest hockey edition of The IX Newsletter here.
Five at The IX: Sherry Ross, NWHL Broadcaster
Erica L. Ayala: How did you get into broadcasting with the New Jersey Devils?
Sherry Ross: The broadcasting job was a happy accident. I’d started covering the Devils when they were sold and moved from Denver in 1982. At the time I was working for the The Record (Bergen County NJ). In 1988 I moved to Newsday and was the Islanders beat reporter for two years, then I was hired by a new all-sports paper called The National that was way ahead of its time. The National struggled and I was laid off around 1992.
— NJDevilsPR (@NJDevilsPR) July 1, 2013
I continued working as a freelance writer and one night at a Devils game (then NJ GM) Lou Lamoriello asked me to come by his office the next day. The team’s radio color analyst had left and Lamoriello wanted me to try out for it. Despite my complete lack of broadcasting experience, I was hired and worked at the job until 1995, when the Devils won the Cup. I returned to writing after that (a strictly financial decision) for the NY Daily News until being offered the job again by Lamoriello in 2007. I remained at the job until I was unceremoniously let go in 2017.
ELA: There are now more women—mostly former players—are breaking into broadcasting. What was the interaction with other female writers/analysts in your time with the Devils?
SR: When I first started as a sportswriter there were quite a few other women on the beat, especially in hockey. I respect so many of the women I have known through the decades of doing the job. Most of them were exceptional pros as reporters and writers. It seems that now there are fewer, but then there are fewer jobs available due to the attrition of newspapers. The standard has always been for ex-athletes to get the broadcasting jobs, but until the rise of women’s hockey as an Olympic and now a professional sport, there were no female ex-players to fill that role. I am very happy that females are getting chances at those jobs but always hope there will be room for qualified female non-jocks to have those opportunities as analysts and play-by-play announcers.
ELA: This season, you worked for the Riveters. How did you first get connected with the NWHL?
SR: After being dumped by the Devils, I was searching for freelance opportunities in hockey. Chris Botta from the NWHL contacted me to see if I would be interested in doing the Twitter game for the Riveters home opener last October at the Prudential Center. I had met some of the players during the course of the previous two seasons when we had them as guests on the Devils broadcasts. I was impressed with their commitment to making the pro league succeed and being role models for the next generation(s) of players. Because the NHL season kept me busy, I had not seen much of the NWHL but was hoping it would be a success and I was very happy to get involved. After working the first game, I was asked to stay on for the remainder of the season on Riveters home games and I was quite pleased to do so.
ELA: What is your most memorable call in all of your broadcasting career?
SR: There were several moments that stood out in my Devils career. First was getting to be part of the radio broadcast team for the 1995 Stanley Cup. The Finals sweep ended at the Meadowlands Arena and my aunt and brother were in the stands. I have one of those panorama photos where you can see me in the press box and them in the corner, and that is a cherished keepsake because they are both gone now. Certainly being the first woman to work a Stanley Cup Final in 1994 on the NHL Radio Network with Kenny Albert was another high point. It is also hard to top the first game that I did play-by-play on Nov. 25, 2009, between the Devils and Ottawa Senators. It was thrilling and terrifying.
Glad I didn't know that ahead of time. I'd have been so nervous. *Not really* https://t.co/JZTETwWPh8
— Sherry Ross (@SherryDarlingNJ) April 16, 2018
I can’t leave out calling the 2018 Isobel Cup Final between the Riveters and Buffalo. To think that a goal scored fewer than six minutes into the game would stand up in the championship was unthinkable, yet it happened and the game played at a packed Barnabas Hockey House was epic.
ELA: What advice would you offer to someone wanting to break into broadcasting? Would you change or add anything for women looking for careers in hockey?
SR: I am not very good at giving broadcasting advice since I sort of fell into this career, but I would give the same advice that I would to an aspiring journalist. That is, have your own voice. Don’t just pattern yourself after other successful people. They got to where they are because of some unique quality. You need to tap into yours. When you are starting out, take every job. People have interesting stories, even people who aren’t famous. Ask questions. Be curious. Don’t be afraid to take an off-the-wall angle. Work hard. Don’t complain on air or in writing. Read, read, read…and not just tweets or sports articles. Read good writing. When a phrase makes you take notice, figure out why and how. Learn to love language. You can be a genius, but if you can’t communicate your thoughts, no one will ever find that out.