In 2010, the NHL’s New York Islanders signed a groundbreaking deal with 88.7 FM, Radio Hofstra University that titled the student-operated radio station as the team’s flagship broadcasting partner. WRHU became the first college station in the world to broadcast professional sports. The one-year deal was renewed for a second season and signs point to a third season of Islanders hockey on WRHU.
Over the past two seasons, WRHU has defied the odds. College students, most hoping to work in the world of professional sports, successfully put together 164 New York Islanders game broadcasts.
Student worked with professional play-by-play announcer Christ King by providing color commentary during the games, sideline reporting and conducting post-game interviews, in-studio engineering, live in-game sports updates, along with producing all 82 regular season games. Yes. College students run a professional sports broadcast.
Having been heavily involved with the sports department at WRHU, I understand the complexity of this deal and the unique opportunities that it provided. I am part of a select few in the country that can put on my resume, out of college, “on-air talent for NHL Hockey,” “in-studio engineer for NHL Hockey,” “New York Islanders broadcast producer.” These experiences are impossible to obtain anywhere else in the world.
The broadcasts are run exactly as they are at any professional station. The engineer is responsible for connecting, via ISDN, to the arena that the night’s game is at and for playing the different elements during the broadcast. WRHU is a non-commercial station, which makes advertising difficult. However, companies purchase underwritings that are played during the media time-outs. Underwriting contain no slogans, jingles, or any other form of marketing. They are simply elements that mention the company’s brand and their support of Islanders hockey on WRHU.
In addition to engineer, there is a student assigned to delivery three in-game sportsbreaks, containing the out-of-town scores and other local and national sports news. Basically, a student is writing and reading material on-air for a professional sports broadcast. No other outlet in the world gives this kind of experience.
The two remaining in-studio personnel are assigned to cut highlights and upload them to the NHL’s FTP so other teams have access to them and for producing the broadcast. The producer makes sure that each underwriting is played during the game and for overseeing the interviews and features that are played during the broadcast.
For home games and road games within the Isles’ division, the station sends one student color commentator and one student sideline reporter. The commentator sits alongside Chris King and delivers commentary during the games. The reporter interviews players during the intermissions and goes into the locker room for post-game interviews and press conferences. The student reporter stands with professional journalists working for MSG, ESPN, and NBC Sports, to interview professional hockey players.
I don’t think the significance of this partnership will be appreciated until the Islanders move back to a professional station. Once they do, and odds are that once the quality of play improves they will, the team and league will be able to see that WRHU broadcasts were on par with WFAN and ESPN Radio. It has been a fascinating experience to work on a professional sports broadcast as a sophomore in college. People are paid to do the jobs I did throughout the season.
The deal between WRHU and the Islanders opens up many more opportunities for professional sports teams to partner with a college station. It’s impossible to say when or if another partnership like this will take place again, but if it doesn’t I can still say that I was a part of it.