How long have you been working with Sportsnet?
Christine Simpson: I started at Sportsnet on day one when the network first went to air in September of 1998. After 10 years I left the network in 2008 for 3 years but have been back at Sportsnet since 2011. I have also worked hockey broadcasts for ABC, ESPN, Versus, The NHL Network and MSG Network.
When did you first make the decision to get into sports journalism/broadcasting? What drove you to do so?
CS: It was by no means a lifelong plan but my career path eventually led me to hockey broadcasting. You could say it started partly by growing up in my family being the middle sister between 2 hockey playing brothers who both went on to play professionally. So my youth was spent in arenas and around the game because of them. That’s where my love of hockey began. Then professionally, in the early '90s I was marketing manager at the Hockey Hall of Fame and I also became the media spokesperson on behalf of the Hall so I was interviewed numerous times in that role. Then while working there, I was also hired by the Toronto Maple Leafs as their first in-arena host. Other TV opportunities followed so when Sportsnet went looking for new talent to start the network in ‘98 I sent in a VHS tape and was lucky enough to be hired because of my background experience in both television and hockey.
Is there a particular journalist that has influenced you in your career?
CS: I’d love to say there was a female hockey broadcaster who I grew up watching and inspired me to follow that path. But in reality there weren’t any women doing this when I was growing up. Which is what makes it even more fulfilling for me to see so many women in our industry now – and in all facets of the game. And I know we’re all inspiring the next generation of young girls to follow our path. You have to see it to be it.
What have the last 3 years during the pandemic meant to you personally/professionally? What were the biggest adjustments you made during that time?
CS: Professionally, the pandemic changed everything. Like the other sports leagues, the NHL stopped playing for months and we couldn’t do anything. Then even when it started up again it was in the bubble and we couldn’t be anywhere near the players so interviewing them meant Zooms or from a distance while masked. It was challenging to say the least but it also made us reimagine how to do our jobs. So I started my segment “The Big Picture with Chris” where for 2 seasons I did zoom interviews from a theatre setting so it at least upped the production value. It’s what has made it even more exciting now that things have gone back to “normal” and we are now able to shoot my Big Picture segments in person.
Personally, the pandemic was challenging with elderly parents, including my mother who lives in a longterm care home. As her family caregiver It’s made me appreciate the incredible work that nurses, PSW’s and all healthcare workers do each and every day.
What are your thoughts on how the media currently covers women’s sports?
CS: I’m glad to see there’s been some progress in women’s sports getting more coverage than it once did. But let’s face it, we still have a long ways to go. But with demand from the public, and with the huge success of sports like women’s soccer and hockey among others, the demand is there. And we see more of corporate Canada stepping up with $$. I believe we’re heading in the right direction but we’re by no means there yet. Women’s sports deserves more coverage.
With your job, sometimes the access viewers and fans have with you can be very rewarding but also very damaging; how do you take care of yourself?
CS: I have often said that I’m so grateful that social media didn’t exist when I started out in this business. I may have had detractors who didn’t think I did a good job or didn’t like how I looked but at least I didn’t have to read about it every time I turned on my computer. I’m not sure how I would have handled it then. You definitely have to have a thick skin in this profession, and fortunately at this stage in my career there’s not much that rattles me.
In your words, why is it so important to have diverse voices and viewpoints in media?
CS: I believe the media needs to reflect the society we live in. Otherwise it just becomes an echo chamber of like-minded people saying the same thing from the same viewpoint. Diversity of thinking comes from people with all kinds of different backgrounds having a seat at the table. And helping shape how the network runs and what it looks like. And if one doesn’t believe that argument, studies show companies with a diverse workforce are more successful, period.
Has your view of what Women’s history means now, compared to what it meant in the past, changed?
I’d say I honestly didn’t give women’s history a whole lot of thought when I was younger. My mom was a teacher and I remember her saying that in her generation she felt there were 3 career paths women could take - you could be a teacher, a nurse or a secretary. And they are all noble career paths. But as I got older, and perhaps more specifically when I ended up working in a field that was predominantly male, I recognized I was often the only woman, or one of very few, in the dressing room or in the press box. Having grown up around hockey and being used to having 2 brothers I wasn’t as intimidated as I imagine other women would be in those situations. And now that I am established in my career, I push to make it a more welcoming environment for women and for all people who didn’t always feel that they belonged there. I see that as my responsibility to advocate for the next generation to ensure they grow up believing they can do whatever they choose to.
What advice would you give to your younger self when you first started?
CS: I would tell my younger self to be more confident, to listen to her inner voice and not be afraid to share her viewpoint or challenge others. Sometimes I think we as women can be our own worst enemies. If we don’t genuinely think we deserve to be there, no one else will.
What’s the best part of your job?
CS: I genuinely love what I do for many reasons – the chance to work with incredible people, to travel, to create and share content – but most of all my joy comes from sharing the stories of people. I am always grateful when they trust me enough to do that.
What does being a woman here in Canada mean to you?
CS: I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to many countries in my lifetime. And have spent lots of time in the US for work. And while I’ve loved every minute of it I am always so glad to come home. I’m so grateful to live here and acknowledge and appreciate that I am valued and that my opinions matter. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.