An Email Interview with Hockey Host Rob Pizzo
By Patrick Hoffman
When it comes to getting a job in hockey media and then doing everything you can to stay in hockey media, it is a very difficult thing to do.
One man who has found a way to do it is Rob Pizzo. Rob currently hosts the Hockey Night in Canada podcast and is also a co-host of Hockey Central Saturday's on Sportsnet 590 with John Shannon.
Rob was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to tell us about his experience in the industry, how he got into hockey, and much more.
PH: Growing up, how did you get into hockey?
RP: I grew up in an Italian household, so soccer was the first sport I played. My dad fell in love with hockey when he moved here from Italy and asked if I wanted to play in the winter. All my friends were playing so I said yes.
I’m 39-years-old and still going, although the scouts don’t seem to show up to men’s league games.
PH: Who was your favorite team and player? Why?
RP: I was a Detroit Red Wings fan. I grew up near Toronto, so 99 percent of my friends and family were Leaf fans. I just didn’t want to join them as there was nothing appealing to me about the Leafs.
The Red Wings had Steve Yzerman, and I loved watching him play.
That being said, my all-time favourite player (like many Canadians) was Wayne Gretzky.
I read everything I could about him, had posters all over my wall, and tried to copy everything he did.
PH: At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to work in hockey/sports as a member of the media?
RP: I was in high school and a couple times a week we got to go to this facility that had a TV and radio studio. It took me about 5 seconds in that place to realize that’s what I wanted to do.
I’ve always been told that I never shut up, so I figured I better find a way to get paid for it.
PH: What outlets have you covered hockey for?
RP: I started out at The FAN 590 (Now Sportsnet 590 The FAN). I literally did whatever they asked me to do; Reporting, producing, writing, getting coffee, everything!
From there I went to The Score TV network. There I did a lot of TV and Radio work (for Hardcore Sports Radio). I co-hosted Puck Daddy Radio with Greg Wyshynski, The Backhand Shelf with Justin Bourne, and did a lot of reporting at various hockey events.
I then got a call that changed my life. It was CBC and they wanted me to audition for the role of host of Hockey Night in Canada radio. I had dreamed of working at Hockey Night in Canada since I was a kid.
I went through the LONG interview process (which included a mock show). I didn’t get the job.
I remember being devastated because I came SO close to my dream job. My dad kept telling me that I had made great contacts and to look on the bright side.
A year later, they called back! The man who beat me out for the job the first time around (Gord Stellick, who I worked with at The FAN), was leaving. I had to do the entire interview/audition process over again, but this time with a better result.
Aside from hosting the show, I also filled in as a rinkside reporter and in-studio as the host of the iDesk. When CBC lost the NHL’s broadcasting rights, I wasn’t sure what that meant for my career in hockey, but I kept plugging away.
I covered Men’s and Women’s hockey at the Olympics in Pyeongchang, and now along with hosting the Hockey night in Canada Podcast, I also co-host Hockey Central Saturdays on Sportsnet 590 The FAN with John Shannon.
I would say it has worked out.
PH: Tell us about what you learned at each stop in your career.
RP: I learned that you have to be a sponge. Absolutely no one has “mastered” broadcasting, and you need to keep trying to learn. That also includes doing aspects of my job I never thought I would. Things like writing, editing, and producing.
I am extremely lucky to work with people who have done this a LOT longer than I have, and I am always trying to learn and evolve.
I always tell students that if you listen/watch something you did years ago and you don’t want to puke, then you have been doing something wrong!
PH: What is like being the host of the Hockey Night in Canada podcast?
RP: It's great. Regardless of what I would be doing for a living, I would still be watching/following hockey. I feel like half the battle is already done.
My favourite shows are when for a few minutes I forgot that I am “broadcasting” and just have a great hockey conversation with a guest like you would at a bar.
PH: What are you trying to provide listeners whenever you do the podcast?
RP: We wanted to attack this show a little differently that some of the other hockey shows you may listen to.
Each show has a “theme” as opposed to discussing what happened last night in the league. Sure there are times when we HAVE to discuss something going on right now (ie Playoffs), but other times we have had these like “The life of a referee”, or “The Art of chirping”.
We want people to be able to binge listen to the podcast if they discover us late, or even go back and listen to an episode they liked for a 2nd time.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.