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Whether you’ve been watching the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs in the U.S. or Canada, you’ve probably seen Jennifer Botterill sharing her knowledge of the game.
Throughout the 2021-22 season, the three-time Olympic gold medalist in women’s hockey has been all over the airwaves on both sides of the border. She’s in her second season on the panel at Rogers Sportsnet/Hockey Night in Canada. This year, she also signed on with Turner Sports for the inaugural season of the NHL on TNT and TBS, where she has worked as an ice-level analyst and studio panelist.
Last week, that meant going on air at 10 p.m. ET on Friday night in her hometown of Toronto, for Game 2 of the Battle of Alberta series between the Edmonton Oilers and the Calgary Flames. Then, she flew to Atlanta on Saturday morning to join the TNT panel for Saturday’s dramatic Game 3 between the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues.
“Every day is different when it comes to the playoffs,” Botterill chuckled, reached by phone at her home last Friday afternoon. “In terms of preparation, I was fortunate. I snuck in a little bit of a rest this afternoon which takes you back to your days as a player. When you can have a little pregame nap, it always helps.
“For me, part of my routine on these busy days is getting some time with my family as well,” said the mother of three young daughters, who are all now playing hockey themselves. “Getting my kids off to school in the morning, and then making sure that I get some fresh air. I went for a nice jog this morning with my youngest daughter, along the lake, and then had the chance to come home and finish off some of my prep that I’ve been doing: notes and phone calls with producers and making sure that we’re all ready and organized for a great show tonight.”
Now 43, Botterill joined the ranks of the NHL’s broadcasters in the 2018-19 season, splitting between-the-benches duties with her one-time Harvard Crimson teammate A.J. Mleczko for New York Islanders games on MSG Networks. The pandemic put that assignment on pause in March of 2020.
With cross-border travel still an issue when the NHL’s next regular season began in January of 2021, Botterill got an opportunity to join Sportsnet’s broadcast team in her hometown. She quickly worked her way up the ranks.
This year, she was a panelist on Saturday night’s flagship ‘Hockey Night in Canada’ program. In the first round of the playoffs, she debuted her own segment, called ‘Botterill’s Breakdown.’
“We collaborated on the idea of this segment,” she said, about working with Sportsnet’s production team to bring the idea to life. “We talked about the possibility of it. Then, I present the material and what I would like to talk about during the segment.”
On top of her duties in Canada, Botterill has worked 17 games to date this season with Turner Sports. She was back between the benches about twice a month during the regular season and for three games during the first round of the playoffs. She also took care of reporting duties at the coldest Winter Classic in NHL history on New Year’s Day in Minnesota, and she has taken a seat on the panel in Atlanta for three playoff games.
Building off the success of their ‘Inside the NBA’ studio show, the ‘NHL on TNT’ panel is known for blending serious analysis with a healthy dose of irreverence.
“They want it to be a fun environment,” Botterill said, “Whatever personality you want to bring, they encourage you to let that shine.”
Working at the Turner studios is a very different from her Canadian experience, she added.
“They’ve also had their basketball playoff coverage on, so they had some of their personalities and talent from their basketball show there as well.
“There’s quite a few people coming and going, with lots of excitement for the sport. And Charles Barkley — he loves hockey, so he’s coming in to watch the game with us for a few minutes, then heading back to do his show.”
Considering the success that Botterill had during her playing career, it should come as no surprise that her strong work ethic and hockey smarts have quickly vaulted her into the top ranks of hockey broadcasters.
Born into a sports family in Winnipeg, Manitoba, she was just 17 when she became the youngest player to suit up for Team Canada at the first-ever women’s hockey tournament at the Winter Olympics in 1998. After winning a silver medal, she headed for Harvard University and received an Ivy League education — and an honors degree in psychology — while helping to build up the Crimson’s women’s hockey program.
Botterill won her first of five World Championship gold medals with Canada following her freshman year. She won her first of three Olympic Golds in 2002. She won the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top player in women’s collegiate hockey in both her junior and senior years, while serving as team captain. And she still holds a number of NCAA and women’s college hockey records, including most points ever in a season — 112 points in 32 games, or an average of 3.5 points per game, in 2002-03.
After she helped open doors for female broadcasters at the NHL level, women are now beginning to receive more opportunities in the world of men’s hockey. Most notably, Emilie Castonguay and Cammi Granato were hired by the Vancouver Canucks as assistant general managers earlier this season.
Botterill’s older brother, Jason, also played hockey. He was a three-time gold medalist at the World Junior Championship and has worked in management in the NHL since 2007, currently serving as the assistant general manager with the Seattle Kraken.
Jennifer isn’t ruling out the possibility of following in her brother’s footsteps one day.
“I feel so fortunate,” she said. “I really love what I’m doing right now, and I also feel incredibly thankful that I’ve been able to balance that with having a family.
“Right now, it’s a special time for me. But as I think about the future, it’s important to keep your options open and think about what kind of impact and possibilities you might want to explore down the road.
“I feel so encouraged — and yes, there’s a lot of work to do. But I’m really hopeful that for any role — whether it’s in the broadcasting world or the production world, if it’s in coaching, if it’s in management, if it’s an executive role in these organizations — if you’re qualified, regardless of gender, that should be an option for you.”