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All-female podcast takes new approach to talking hockey

The Broadscast has received both backlash and praise entering the male-dominated sports media market

By Ally Chesham , in City , on March 17, 2021 Tags: , , , , , , ,

Vancouver’s traditionally high-testosterone hockey media scene is being disrupted by The Broadscast, an emerging sports podcast exclusively run by women.

The five women behind the podcast set out to fill what they saw to be a void in the local hockey market. That void being female-led content.

After growing tired of waiting for substantial change, the hosts — Georgia Twiss, Vanessa Jang, Mallory McFall, Samantha Chang, and Danielle Huntley — decided to take matters into their own hands, starting The Broadscast this past July.

“I think we’ve disturbed the sports-podcasting ecosystem in that we’re five diverse women with different backgrounds . . . who are all tired of the typical hockey takes you see and hear in mainstream media,” said Jang.

“We each have our own interests within sports — from the cultural and lifestyle side to sports marketing and law — and our podcast is the merging of five different perspectives.”

The Broadcast hosts from left to right: Georgia Twiss, Samantha Chang, Vanessa Jang, Mallory McFall, and Danielle Huntley. Photos: Twitter

It is no secret that both professional hockey and the media that cover it have long been criticized for its lack of diversity and representation. In their weekly episodes, The Broadscast’s hosts dive into many deep-rooted issues within hockey: racism, homophobia, ableism, transphobia, sexism, and toxic masculinity, to name a few.

Diverging from the status quo

Having been in the position of disillusioned fans, the women have made a point to include the voices of those often forgotten or left behind by the sport. In the instances they felt unqualified to speak on certain matters, they have made sure to bring in guests who could.

An example of this was when the hosts invited Coast Salish artist Eliot White-Hill to speak on the cultural appropriation of Indigenous arts following the debates around Vancouver Canucks goaltender Braden Holtby’s mask and the team’s orca logo. Another, when Avry Lewis-McDougall, a sports podcaster, writer, and member of the BIPOC community, went on to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement and its impact on various leagues. 

“Those were moments where we knew we weren’t experts and that it wasn’t okay for us to go forward with this perception that we were experts on the topic,” said Twiss.

The Broadscast ladies initially got to know each other through Twitter’s community of Vancouver Canucks fans. They started a group chat to discuss their shared interests in sports and pop culture, along with the daily happenings of their lives. These informal conversations eventually translated into starting a podcast that could maintain the same jovial, casual feel.

“These are the conversations we would be having if we were able to just meet up, sit around a table, and have a couple drinks,” said McFall.

Although sports, and particularly hockey, are a major focus of the podcast, it’s far from all the women talk about. The five often dive into completely unrelated topics, whether that may be something as serious as discussing their personal mental health or as lighthearted as recapping the latest drama in The Bachelor franchise.

Four of the five podcasters are local to Vancouver, while McFall hails from Kansas City. The women are in their mid-20s to early 30s and the majority balance recording, editing, and promotion of The Broadscast with full-time jobs and university studies. In true pandemic fashion, their first-time meeting was over Zoom to record their inaugural episode. To this day, the four Vancouverites have only met in person on a single occasion.

Hosts surprised by their own success

According to the group, the podcast was started with little to no expectations in mind.

“We didn’t really think people would listen to this,” said McFall.

The five podcasters record their episodes once a week over Zoom.

But they are listening.

Since its inception, The Broadscast has averaged a listenership of around 1,500 per episode and accumulated more than 50,000 overall listens. The highest the group has ranked on Chartable’s list of Canadian hockey podcasts is third. With 5,223 followers on Twitter currently and a 4.5/5-star rating on Apple Podcasts, the women have found themselves a modest, but quickly growing, audience.

In a city already overcrowded with local sports podcasts, this is not an easy feat.

The Broadscast women attribute their success at least in part to their ability to bring something different to the table.

“We reflect a particular generation of fans who consume the sport differently. [Fans] who are interested in different aspects that the people in media right now, particularly in these positions of power where they have a voice, aren’t necessarily trained to do or cognizant of,” said Twiss.

The Broadscast has not been afraid to call out big names in the world of sport for injustices they have observed.

Taking this approach was important to the women as they felt traditional media was failing to properly criticize professional leagues where needed. Its hosts are more than aware this is a freedom they enjoy as a result of having full ownership of the podcast and not being tied to any sponsors at present.

“The space we exist in currently is very outside the realm of sports media,” Twiss said. “We like existing in that space and being able to talk about what we want and critique the current structures that exist. The concern is that if we become part of that power structure, what actual work can we do from within it.”

Local media market paying attention to the newcomers

The women’s distinct approach to discussing sports has also caught the eye of many other established sports-media practitioners in Vancouver, several of whom have their own podcasts as well.

Satiar Shah, TV analyst and host with Sportsnet 650, highlighted just how important the addition of new voices like the Broadscast is to a media community dominated by men.

“It acknowledges the role and presence of women in association with the NHL, and their growing influence in the sport, not just as consumers but as analysts, producers, coaches, managers, and statisticians, amongst a multitude of other roles within the NHL community which were not as welcoming to women in the past,” he said.

The five women interviewing Vancouver Canucks forward Tyler Motte.

Thomas Drance and Jeff Paterson co-host VANcasta Vancouver Canucks-centred podcast. Drance is a senior writer at The Athletic while Paterson is a former host of the now defunct TSN1040, and a current contributor to The Nation. The two had nothing but positive things to say about what the five women have accomplished so far.

“The Broadscast is a really big addition to the Vancouver sports-media scene and it’s been great to watch them succeed. They’ve managed to navigate a pretty difficult format — a relatively large table — which is a tough trick to pull off, and they’ve done it by playing to individual strengths and bringing an honest energy to their shows,” said Drance. “They’ve also managed to get some pretty big guests, which speaks to their hustle, and you need that when breaking in.”

Paterson echoed this sentiment.

“They seem to have found a lane in a cluttered podcast world to create unique content that has resonated with hockey fans in this market and beyond,” he said. “It also gives them a voice on hockey topics that are important to them, and ones that I’m sure they feel aren’t covered by other traditional outlets, and even other podcasts.”

Some fans still reluctant to see change

Not everyone in the hockey community has fully embraced the presence of a successful sports podcast run solely by women. A few reviews left for the group on Apple Podcasts showcase this.

“These women express hatred of males under their thinly veiled guise of social justice,” wrote one reviewer.

“I’m pretty sure these people hate hockey and only enjoy complaining about the sport,” another wrote.

The Broadscast hosts have all dealt with online abuse to varying degrees. After a bout of particularly disturbing harassment, Twiss decided to step away from her personal Twitter account.

“I think when we started, we expected a base level of misogyny to be hurled at us, which is just kind of the reality of being a woman existing in the world, and particularly being a woman in sports,” she said.

“We always said from the beginning that, if you don’t want to listen to us, that doesn’t make you a misogynist. What makes you a misogynist is when you . . . tell us how much you hate us and that we’re terrible people. With most other podcasts where it’s men, if people don’t like it, they don’t listen. They don’t necessarily go to the extra steps to harass them about it.”

Women facing misogyny and harassment as they move into areas largely occupied by men is not a new or surprising phenomenon. The adverse reactions The Broadscast has been met with illustrates a larger issue at hand: retaliation against those who attempt to create a space for themselves where there previously wasn’t one.

Regardless, The Broadscast women have chosen to persist amidst the animosity.

“[We] know they’re not going to change their viewpoint on how they respect women in sports and women who are making a voice for themselves, literally just talking about things they like. We don’t want those people as our fans, we don’t want them listening,” McFall said.

Onwards and upwards

These kinds of realizations are what have led the group to feel so passionate about being a source of representation for the sport’s growing audience, in addition to ensuring accessibility for those who have been routinely excluded from the status quo fan experience.

Some of the merchandise sold by The Broadscast. 50% of proceeds go to the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre.

“We love the game. We love watching it, we grew up watching it, and there’s nostalgia involved,” said Twiss. “We want it to be a sport in the future that is accessible to everyone  and where we are right now is unacceptable.”

Moving forward, the five women plan to continue growing their line of merchandise and landing interviews with players in the league, as well as other media personalities. With countless other hopes for the podcast’s future, their main goal is a simple one: making sure they keep having fun.

“I’m just enjoying myself,” said McFall. “I get to hang out and talk with my friends about sports. As long as I can do that, it’s great.”