It doesn’t matter how you love the game, just that you love it. Perhaps you skate for the fun of skating, you’re a player, or maybe you’ve found that you’re better suited as a fan. For some of you, that will always be enough, while others may find themselves dreaming of something more. Chances are at some point in every hockey lovers life, the dream to become a rinkside reporter will skate through your head. It’s a dream held by many, pursued by few and achieved by a handful of women within the world of ice hockey.
Naoko Funayama, is a name that sports fans in New England are quite familiar with. While the Boston Bruins light the lamp, Funayama lights up the camera as the leading lady on NESN game in and game out. Sure, the position of rinkside reporter is a fantastic one, but it isn’t just game night duties. Practices, pre-game skates, charity events and travel, lots and lots of travel fall into the job description as well. Think you have what it takes?
The Pink Puck caught up with Funayama, who was kind enough to break away from her busy schedule to lend some insight on the sportscasting field, the increasing popularity of the sport among women, and of course her most memorable hockey moment to date. (If you’re a Bruins fan, you can probably already guess!)
The Pink Puck: What advice would you give to someone looking to get into sportscasting? How did you get into sportscasting?
Naoko Funayama: I’m often asked for advice and I’m never really sure what to say, because it seems everyone takes a different path to get to where they want to be. For me, it was a very traditional route, starting in a small market doing everything imaginable. It was such a fantastic experience to build character, skill, and work ethic, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. But everyone’s lives take different turns, so I say embrace every opportunity that’s given to you, and just go for it.
The Pink Puck: What are some components to the job that people might not realize are part of the job? What attributes do you think someone should possess to be successful in this field?
NF: Television means working nights, weekends, long hours, and holidays. You miss seeing friends and family, weddings, birthday parties, baby showers, vacations….the list goes on. Some of the most talented people have left the industry because they don’t want to make those sacrifices anymore. But it can be that sacrifice that can make you successful, as well as versatility. Knowing how to do everything and anything — shoot, edit, write, report, anchor, produce — and being willing to do it all will open many doors. And DEFINITELY making time for food and coffee runs during the day is clutch.
The Pink Puck: What’s the best thing about being a Bruins rinkside reporter?
NF: I work with an amazingly talented, brilliant television crew and that is the absolute best thing — I love, love, love being part of a top-notch television team and product. And I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the hockey! That and the endless supply of M&Ms for the media at TD Garden.
The Pink Puck: How and when were you introduced to the sport of ice hockey? Did you play growing up or were you a fan?
NF: Got into it as a young teenager because I had friends that were really into it, and I was immediately mesmerized by how the sport could be so graceful and furious at the same time. And it is truly one of the most fun sports to play, ever.
The Pink Puck: What was a major deciding factor in leaving your job in New Hampshire to join NESN?
NF: It was a dream opportunity, to work in my favourite sport and to be able to see and talk hockey every single day. But I was in tears leaving the WMUR family because they are wonderful people who helped me so much to grow and to become the reporter that I am. Success and happiness working in television is directly related to the people you work with because it is such a “team job” that requires massive time commitment, and I took a risk, hoping there would be a good family here at NESN as well, and I was very lucky to be right.
The Pink Puck: How do you balance home life with the traveling demands of your career?
NF: What balance? Argh! You just reminded me my laundry’s half done!
NF: To be honest, I feel like they are already very well accepted. So many girls play hockey now– Tyler Seguin has two sisters that BOTH play hockey. There is also a huge hockey community of women in Boston that I like to call “the hockey mums” who have kids that play hockey, and have started to play hockey themselves in their adulthood. And believe me, they are REAL fans of the sport, of the Bruins, and know their stuff…well, you guys would know from your website!
The Pink Puck: Women are slowly incorporating themselves into professional sports- do you think a time will come when a female will play in the NHL again?
NF: Maybe? The young female athletes these days are no doubt wicked strong and super ripped, but I think it would be very hard for women to physically match up to the speed, strength and fitness level of a professional male hockey player. But you never know.
The Pink Puck: What do you do in the off-season?
NF: I sleep, eat right, golf, breathe, take over the household chores, and actually see my friends and family. And I work some Red Sox games.
NF: Game 7 in Vancouver, OF COURSE!!! 🙂