Hedger going prime time

ROB BRODIE -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:11 AM ET

Just call Jennifer Hedger a ready for prime time player.

Her bosses at TSN surely think so. It's why you'll see Hedger co-anchoring the 10 p.m. edition of SportsCentre full-time starting Monday, beside Darren Dutchyshen.

"Jennifer has become one of our stronger anchors since she joined us," said Rick Chisholm, TSN's senior VP of programming and production. "She's worked extremely hard and learned a lot of broadcast skills. She brings a lot to the table."

The seat beside Dutchyshen hasn't had a full-time presence since Blake Price decided he wanted to return home to Vancouver at the end of last summer. While the NHL lockout has freed up the likes of James Duthie and Gino Reda to fill in, TSN decided the time had come to find a permanent replacement.

"Planning without (the NHL) has been very frustrating," said Chisholm. "We couldn't sit and wait and let someone else be doing our programming for us.

"We wanted to be proactive, and we decided we wanted Jennifer in that spot."

CRAZY HOURS

Hedger admitted the thought of surrendering her old 2 a.m. gig -- one she's held for almost three years -- definitely had her attention.

"Certainly, I had my eye on (the 10 p.m. spot)," said Hedger. "But I don't think I was the only one here at TSN who coveted that seat. It's what we're all working toward."

In her case, that and a chance to put an end to work shifts that often kept her out until 4:30 a.m.

"The idea of being at home at midnight is pretty appealing to me," she said.

"It'll be one of the perks of the new job."

The development of Hedger into a solid -- and popular -- SportsCentre anchor is a source of pride among those who saw her potential from the very first audition. She had originally been hired as the host of Fight to the Finish, a show on now-defunct WTSN, with some reporting duties on TSN.

"She had an unbelievable presence on camera," Chisholm said of Hedger's audition for the news desk. "We just had to see whether she could adapt her raw talent to fit into SportsCentre."

Three years later, she's moving to the big show. It's the fulfillment of a dream Hedger had "ever since I was a kid" growing up in a sports-loving home in London, Ont.

CHILDHOOD DREAM

"It's what I wanted to do when I grew up. I couldn't imagine doing anything else," she said. ""I remember watching (NBC's) Hannah Storm, and nobody made a big deal out of the fact she was a woman anchoring the NBA. She was up there (working) with all these basketball heavyweights.

"And I watched Terry Leibel, especially during the Olympics. I saw that, and I didn't think twice about doing it myself."

Chisholm said Hedger will retain her NHL on TSN update duties -- whenever the puck drops in big-league rinks again, that is. It's another thing that figures to keep Hedger, a proud Canadian, from straying south of the border anytime soon.

"I am 29, I'm not going to retire in the next couple of years," said Hedger, whose current beau is Rogers Sportsnet anchor Sean McCormick.

"I've been offered positions in the (U.S.) but right now, I'm very happy here."


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