VIDEO: ESPN’s Leah Hextall Asked Wayne Simmonds If He Was “Soft” Last Night And Was Promptly DRAGGED By Hockey Twitter

Apr 22, 2022

Listen.  I’m not a fan of Leah Hextall calling games on TV.  Nothing to do with her gender.  It’s her delivery.  Like Paul Romanuk and Dave Randorf, certain voices grade the fuck out of me and Leah’s happens to be one of those voices.

Regardless of my useless preference for PXP voices, It looks like she was moved rinkside (out of the booth) and I think she does a great job of bringing some life to a broadcast in that role.

Last night she was caught between Patrick Maroon and Wayne Simmonds in the first as they called each other “Pussies” for a solid 15 seconds.  Leah handled it like a champ.

Between periods, Leah asked Wayne if Maroon was right when he called Wayne “Soft’.  She was there and was repeating part of the conversation SARCASTICALLY as if to ask a rhetorical question.  I’m slow and even I understood it to be a lighthearted, sarcastic approach addressing the televised scrap she was in the middle of.

Context is everything and when you watch it, you get it. Unless you’re a misogynist asshole who hates when ‘chicks’ call your hockey games.

It’s 100% OK to have an issue with how Leah calls games.  It’s not OK to default to gender when criticizing her and fired former NHL ref Tim Peel, who took it upon himself to aggressively make that point.  The problem most trusted hockey people seem to have with Leah is her level of hockey knowledge.  She routinely misses stats and can sometimes invent history where there isn’t any and purists HATE that shit.

Mouth breather will say it’s because she’s female.  I think A LOT of what Leah struggles with is attention span and prep-related or the dude in her ear fucked up which isn’t gender-specific so those guys can fuck off.  I liked Leah’s sarcastic question and don’t give a shit about Maroon/Simmond’s fight history but again, hockey purists do and she KIND OF deserved that portion of criticism if hardcore fans expect that kind of info.

It all begs the question: is it possible to treat female announcers like we treat male announcers we don’t like?  Do we have to weigh everything we say about females in sports media with a ‘Nothing to do with her gender, but…” preface before we say “Fuck! I can’t stand that person calling games!”




Short answer?  No.  You cannot treat, and critique women in sports media the same way we get after the fellas.  It’s a zero-sum effort.

The second anyone criticizes a woman who’s broken through the glass ceiling for ANY reason (her last name is Hextall which is ABSOLUTELY a draw for ESPN execs) your reputation turns to shit and you become an instant Twitter pariah in the woke hockey community.  It’s like a magic shield that seems to be wearing ff in Leah’s case but it absolutely exists and it should.

Sports media has LONG been an industry that uses women for ‘female roles”.  Sideline reporting and lockerroom soundbites, mostly.  Equality of opportunity has to be afforded to capable women in sports media and they deserve a LOOOOOOOONNGG runway after being systematically shut out by old white guys for the past 60 years.

Leah, like every human being, deserves the chance to learn and get better at her craft but she also deserves the space to make mistakes.   She chose this line of work because she loves it.  Is there a woman better at it than her who isn’t working on an NHL broadcast?  Maybe.  It’s year 1.  Cut her a little fucking slack.

In fact, cut every woman forging new ground for women in sports media some fucking slack.  Cassie Campbell, Tara Slone, Jenn Botterill, and Leah all deserve one thing from the rest of you.  Silence.

if you have an issue with eir competence, don’t make it about their gender.  And remember: YOU aren’t calling games for a fucking reason.

A few years ago I stepped into the booth with Joe Bown and Jim Ralph during a Leaf game.  I froze.  I was in awe of Joe’s ability to explain, in detail, with accuracy, what the fuck was happening, so fluidly.  I was so out of my depth and it was intimidating.  The COURAGE and skill people like Leah and other women show JUST SHOWING UP to do that gig blows my mind and should be remembered when they made a mistake.

Are there two sets of rules when it comes to shitting on your least favorite announcer?  YUP.  It’s the least we can do.

Dean Blundell

Dean Blundell is a Canadian radio personality. Best known as a longtime morning host on CFNY-FM (The Edge) in Toronto, Ontario. In 2015 he was named the new morning host on sports radio station CJCL (Sportsnet 590 The Fan). Dean started his career in radio in 2001 and for nearly 20 years been entertaining the radio audience. Dean’s newest venture is the launch of his site and podcast which is gaining tremendous momentum across North America.

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