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Sports broadcaster Kate Scott has a big night ahead of her in the booth at the United Center on Sunday. Not only will she play a vital role in the first ever all-female broadcast of an NHL game, but she'll also be calling hockey for the first time when the Blackhawks take on the St. Louis Blues.
"I always said it was the hardest sport to call," the Fresno, Calif. native said. "And I always said that I would never call it when people asked me if I would do it."
The significance of the broadcast and the thrill of the challenge changed her mind.
Scott will be joined by U.S. Olympic gold medalists Kendall Coyne-Schofield and AJ Mleczko, who will serve as analysts on the NBC Sports broadcast of the contest. Sportscaster Kathryn Tappen and three-time Canadian Olympic gold medalist Jen Botterill will anchor from the studio with producer Rene Hatlelid and director Lisa Seltzer leading the game production.
At first, Kate was concerned Sunday's groundbreaking telecast would be perceived as a publicity stunt when she was asked to do it back in January. NBC presented the big picture to her and she was on board.
"We want to make a very visible statement that young girls can do whatever they want when it comes to the sport of hockey," an NBC employee told her. "Because you all are already doing it.
"So we understand that it may seem a little bit weird and that it may seem a little bit stunty, but we think it's really important, especially on such a greatly timed day, like International Women's Day."
What she heard made sense and depicted the merit of the staffing decision.
"Hearing them say that really made me understand that, OK, this is a big deal," Scott said. "And I should say, 'Yes,' because it is really important. I agree with that.
"It really inspires young kids when they see people who look like them and sound like them doing something, that really, for a lot of people, is the first time that they think to themselves, 'Wow, maybe that's something that I can do.'
"I think it's really important for young boys to see women in positions of confidence and power and doing things that, again, usually they see men doing, just to give them that slightly different perspective."
Since graduating from UC Berkeley in 2005, Kate has wasted no time in compiling an impressive body of work which includes sideline reporting for MLS that won her a local Emmy in Northern California. She's also done play-by-play for men and women's college basketball, men and women's soccer, volleyball, softball and San Francisco 49ers preseason games.
Now, Scott has worked five-plus years with Pac-12 calling college football and has been wearing different hats with NBC Sports for three-plus years.
The career path was destined for Kate. She grew up loving sports, all of them.
"I have loved every sport since I was a little girl," she said.
She's not exaggerating.
"I remember, vividly, watching a lot of sailing, a lot of bowling, a lot of Aussie rules football, because that was all ESPN had at the time," Scott said. "You know, in the 80s and early 90s."
Kate planned on playing college soccer, but injured her knee her junior year of high school. She began writing for the school paper her senior year and became the sports editor, covering every sport.
Scott did a sports highlight show at Cal and took on all kinds of TV and radio internships. Her first pro gig came when an opportunity for a traffic reporter opened up at a Bay Area radio station and she'd fill in for sports at odd times, including one Christmas morning shift beginning at 5 a.m.
Later, her producer from the Cal highlight show presented her with an opportunity to do play-by-play for high school football. The rest is history.
The challenge of calling the speedy game of hockey helped Kate remember it has always had a special place in her heart.
As a young girl, Scott would go with her dad to watch the Fresno Falcons play. The team was in the Pacific Southwest Hockey League and the West Coast Hockey League before they joined the East Coast Hockey League in their final years from 2003-2008.
"My dad and I would go as often as possible," she said. "It felt like we were there almost every weekend. It was our thing. He would get cheap beers and let me go down between periods because the guys walked off in an area where we could high-five them or get autographs.
"And after going for a couple years, all the guys knew me and were wondering who this little girl is that knows all of our names and they were giving me pucks and sticks and stuff. So that was kind of my first experience with hockey and I loved it."
Kate has been tirelessly preparing for her first hockey call. She ran three practice games at arenas, including an 11-goal outing when the Blues beat the Blackhawks 6-5 in St. Louis recently. She's recorded other Blues and Hawks games, muting the TV to do play-by-play over them; she's regularly read offerings from both Chicago and St. Louis beat writers; her eyes have been glued to the NHL Network and her ears to Sirius XM's NHL channel.
Despite the thorough and meticulous preparation, it was advice from seven-time Emmy-winning hockey play-by-play announcer Mike 'Doc' Emrick that calmed her nerves during a practice game at the United Center in early February.
"He's a legend. He's so awesome," Scott said of Emrick.
"He said, 'Kate, I want you to know something, Al Michaels had called one hockey game, period, before he called the Olympics. He called one. But just in the same way that he was then, you are a professional play-by-play announcer. You call all the other sports, you know how to prep.
"You know exactly what you need to know to be prepared and to sound like a professional on those broadcasts. You're going to do the exact same thing for this. NBC wanted you for a reason. So you already have the foundation.
"If you have any questions about the specifics of this sport, ask me, ask anybody else and we will help you. And come March 8th, you're going to be prepared and you're going to have a great time because you are a professional play-by-play announcer.'
"And that just kind of blew me away, right?" Scott said. "I'm almost getting chills again just repeating that story back to you."
Kate hopes to live her dream of calling the Olympics and a World Cup but would be thrilled if hockey remained a part of her career.
"I just love the speed, I love the pace," she said. "I love the teamwork. It's one of the reasons that soccer was the sport I played the most growing up. Because you can have a superstar like a (Jonathan) Toews or a (Patrick ) Kane and they can be great and be magical at certain moments, but it's really hard to win a game if they're the only one on the ice who's playing well.
"Hockey is a team sport and I love team sports. Anybody can rise up at any moment. Some days you need that to be a goalie, some days you need that to be your blueliners, some days you need that to be your superstars. But it has been really cool getting to know the NHL and the sport of hockey again these last couple months.
"So, yeah, fingers crossed that things go well on Sunday. And if that leads to more opportunities in the future, I can't wait."
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Kate Scott ready to call monumental Blackhawks-Blues game on Sunday originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago