Those who watched the Newfoundland Growlers hockey game Saturday didn’t just hear the familiar voice of play-by-play announcer Chris Ballard but also that of a budding sports commentator.
Seth Hyde, 14, a Grade 9 student from St. John’s, joined Ballard as the colour commentator for those watching from home — an invitation he didn’t think twice about.
“I came home from school and my mom said, ‘The Newfoundland Growlers want you to call a game’. And as soon as she said ‘the Growlers’, I said yes. It wasn’t even out of her mouth yet,” said Hyde.
“It was always my dream to be a commentator of hockey.”
Hyde began pursuing that dream in April 2021, when he started calling games for three minor hockey teams.
Since spectators weren’t allowed in the arenas due to COVID-19 restrictions, teams started to livestream their games — and Hyde seized the opportunity to offer his services as a play-by-play announcer for those games.
His commentary quickly gained widespread attention and Newfoundland Growlers play-by-play announcer Chris Ballard offered to mentor Hyde — a connection that resulted in Hyde’s appearance at Saturday’s game.
On Saturday, Hyde took over the colour commentary — a slightly different experience, but one he prepared for by looking up statistics and watching the World Junior Hockey Championships.
“I’ve been keeping an eye on the colour commentators and that, Mike Johnson, Ray Ferraro, and I’ve been listening to what they’re saying, when they jump in, trying to get as much experience as I can,” he said.
While Hyde tried to stay calm by treating the experience as no other than his usual commentary, Chris Ballard expected more people than usual to tune in because of the budding announcer.
“From everyone that I’ve spoken with, I think our audience is going to be a little bigger tonight because of this guy,” he said Saturday ahead of the game.
Ballard was excited to have Hyde in the booth with him, something he says has “been a long time coming”.
“I’ve been kind of connected with Seth for the last couple of years as he has made his ascent into broadcasting. And we had a few holes open up in the booth here in the second half of the season and he was the first phone call we made,” said Ballard.
“This is not a publicity stunt. He is here completely on merit and we’re really excited to see what he can do.”
The connection between the two commentators goes back to Ballard’s own teenage years — Hyde’s mother was Ballard’s theatre arts teacher in high school, and Ballard credits her with breaking him out of his shell.
It is “no surprise”, he said, that Seth inherited her “natural talent in performing” that makes him a great hockey commentator.
“He’s naturally witty and charismatic. Nothing seems to faze him. He knows hockey probably better than I do,” said Ballard.
“It’s the full package and to have that bundled together in an articulate 14-year-old, that’s what’s special about him.”
Having a young broadcasting talent emerge from the province, said Ballard, also inspires others to follow their dreams.
“Already there’s all kinds of young people across the province who have seen Seth and what he has been able to accomplish,” said Ballard.
“Who knows, maybe there’s other kids who say that they might want to get involved in something or take big risks.”
One of Hyde’s most recent accomplishments was his selection as one of this season’s NHL Power Players, a group of 25 teenage advisors to the league, in October.
He now hopes his commentary for the ECHL will get him some attention from higher up — like the Newfoundland Growlers’ parent club, the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“I’ve been cheering for them ever since I’ve been a little kid, so hopefully, I might catch their attention,” said Hyde.
“I know that’s definitely setting the bar pretty high but it would be pretty cool to maybe be involved with the Leafs someday.”
Ballard doesn’t think those goals are unattainable.
“I don’t like to make wild, crazy claims, but I think the NHL is within reach for him,” he said.
“I don’t think that’s out of the realm of possibility at all.”