Courage of Cassie

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:08 AM ET

Most men will outright admit it: They turned on the Flames/Leafs game Saturday night and got angry.

Angry at the sound of a woman's voice on Hockey Night in Canada.

Instead of hearing Harry Neale reiterate the most blatantly of obvious "colour," it was young Cassie Campbell broadcasting alongside Bob Cole.

While some may have instantly found her surprising debut to be a refreshing change, even she knows the vast majority bristled at the sound of the first woman's voice in HNIC broadcast booth history.

"I'm sure many people turned their TV on and were very disappointed and I'm sure I would've been, too," said Campbell yesterday.

"Everyone has been used to hearing Bob and Harry's voices forever, which magnifies this. Not only was it a new person, it was a woman. I'm sure there are many people who didn't like it and don't like women's hockey but the only people I care about are my family and friends and the producers at HNIC who gave me good feedback."

So good, in fact, she'll be doing it again.

But first let's rewind to Saturday when eight hours before puck drop, the rookie sideline reporter was told by her producer Neale was snowbound in Buffalo and she was their first choice to fill in.

"I swear to God I thought it was a joke and they just wanted to see my reaction," said the 33-year-old Calgary resident, hired last month to be the third female in HNIC lore to play sideline interviewer.

"I said, 'Holy s---! This is like being asked by Melody Davidson to play goal for the gold-medal final.' "

Anyone who knows Campbell knows she would have done that, too, had her coach asked. However, it took a quick phone call to husband and Hockey Canada executive Brad Pascall before she agreed.

While there are those who will never accept a woman in the broadcast booth, the truth is she offered more insight than the out-of-touch Neale typically does.

An example came early in the broadcast when she pointed out that although it was important to watch Bryan McCabe's point shot on the powerplay, the Flames needed to watch the two-on-one between Kyle Wellwood and Darcy Tucker down low. Thirty seconds later, Wellwood found Tucker crease-side for the Leafs' first goal.

"I was thinking, 'I didn't care what happened from then on -- I just called a goal in the NHL before it happened,' " laughed the recently-retired Team Canada captain.

"It's very clear I will never replace Harry Neale nor do I ever think I could possibly do it. Whoever has to replace Ron MacLean -- good luck. These people are legends in our country. What we think of their broadcasts is irrelevant because we love hearing them. I completely understood that."

We haven't heard the last of her as a colour analyst.

"Obviously she proved she can do it," said HNIC executive producer Joel Darling, happy with how Campbell responded under tremendous pressure.

"She surprised a lot of people. She can say she's a much better broadcaster than she is a goalie."

Most men won't. And she knows it could take decades for that to change.


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