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Kyle Bukauskas

Campbell River’s Own on Hockey Night in Canada

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Story by Joe Leary

Photos supplied by Sportsnet and Kyle Bukaukas

I just try to uphold the standard that was set decades before I got a chance to be part of it

Kyle Bukauskas with the Stanley Cup outside the Bellagio Las Vegas

While Ottawa may be his current mailing address, there’s no place like home for Sportsnet TV host and rinkside reporter, Kyle Bukauskas.

Home remains the Salmon Capital of the World: Campbell River, British Columbia. Impeccably attired, articulate, and genial in his presentation, and blessed with arguably the best hair ever among television sportscasters, Bukauskas continues to earn accolades among both broadcast peers and players alike, all the while expanding his profile on this country’s iconic sports telecast, Hockey Night in Canada.

Sportsnet has found a new star. While the plan may have been the thought of perhaps playing professional hockey one day, Bukauskas discovered that the sweet spot in his sporting life is covering the play and the players of the game he loves.

When I was young I had dreams of playing in the NHL, but as the years went on it became very clear, that watching the pros was the way to go, he says. The closest I got to being in ‘The Show’ was when I was eight years old. My minor hockey team got to play a mini-game during the intermission of a Vancouver Canucks game, at then GM Place

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Sadly, the commanding memory I have of that night was getting food poisoning and being sick all over the arena. I’m just thankful I kept everything down while we were on the ice! Developing an interest in broadcasting, watching the likes of former Sportsnet television anchor Don Taylor and TSN’s Jay and Dan, Bukauskas uncovered some early video footage of him interviewing a childhood friend in his youth, suggesting the broadcast bug must have been implanted early on.

But could he have foreseen playing a vital role in Canada’s flagship sports program? Never, he states emphatically. My dream when I first pursued this career was to be sitting on an anchor desk, reading highlights. To me, ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ felt like an entirely different world that I never even considered, let alone imagined I would have a chance to be a part of. It was a chance connection in Grade 10 when Bukauskas began the broadcast journey.

I reached out to Warren Andrews, he recalls. He was the longtime play-by-play voice of the Campbell River Storm and, at the time, also the afternoon host of a new FM radio station that had launched in town: 99.7 ‘The River.’ He took me under his wing and went to bat for me with the station to allow me to intern and learn everything I could about local radio.

Without him believing in me back then, I’m not convinced I’d be where I am now. Between my years spent there and two incredible years at SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology) in Calgary, taking their Broadcast News program—that was the foundation I had to build upon in the years since. Success has often been identified as the intersection where luck meets opportunity.

Shortly after moving to Toronto, that opportunity existed. The news dropped that Rogers had secured a 12-year national rights deal with the NHL, he says. A few years went by when I was reporting for Sportsnet but not part of the hockey department. That is, until 2016.

I moved from Ottawa to Montreal to be the rinkside host for the Canadiens regional broadcasts, but there was no mention of ‘Hockey Night in Canada.’ That September I was in the middle of covering the ‘World Cup of Hockey’ in Toronto and the email came out with the production schedule. As I’m scrolling, I stop dead in my tracks at the first Saturday of the season: ‘Ottawa versus Montreal’ – and there’s my name next to Bob Cole and Garry Galley—(cue the song ‘One of These Things’ from Sesame Street!) I thought, surely an oversight, right? Somehow, it wasn’t. It’s the realization of a dream and certainly beyond imaginable for a sports broadcaster, let alone a devoted hockey fan

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It’s not lost on me what kind of impact ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ has had on generations of Canadians, adds Bukauskas. Every time the red light comes on the camera, I just try to uphold the standard that was set decades before I got a chance to be part of it.

Cool moments have been plentiful thus far, including being on the ice amid the frenzy of a Stanley Cup Final, when the cherished trophy is awarded, before ultimately getting to interview the winning players during the greatest moment of their hockey lives. But for Kyle Bukauskas, there may be one situation in particular that stands out amongst all others. It’s a full-circle moment.

In the final season of ‘Rogers Hometown Hockey,’ they made a stop in my hometown of Campbell River, he recalls. Sportsnet was great for allowing me to fly out there for the broadcast and my heart was so full, being able to show off the place I grew up in and celebrate several terrific athletes and people that came from there.

When I started to pursue this career there was this understandable narrative that if I wanted to try to make it, it would have to happen far away from home. So the fact I was back in Campbell River for something like Hometown Hockey…it all felt even more improbable than working on a national TV show, to begin with. And despite his meteoric rise, Kyle Bukauskas puts it all in perspective, especially when walking those humble streets where he was raised, on the East Coast of Vancouver Island. When I go back home to Campbell River, I’m just someone who grew up there, he says. Or ‘Walt’s kid’, for the older demographic

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