Kevin Dexter was 4 years old the first time he went to a New York Islanders home opener with his father. For the next 16 years, they never missed an opening game together.
But when the Islanders took the ice for the team’s 41st home opener at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in January 2012, Dexter, 21, who graduated from Hofstra in May 2012, was in the radio booth, doing color commentary for the game.
And his dad, Michael, was home in Levittown, N.Y., listening to Kevin work the game on WRHU-88.7 FM, Hofstra’s student-run radio station, which has been the Islanders’ flagship station since 2010.
“We never miss listening to a game when Kevin is on the radio,” Michael Dexter said. His son has done color commentary for almost 60 Islander games in the last two seasons alongside play-by-play announcer Chris King. “We huddle around any device that we can get WRHU on. It’s an extremely proud moment for us.”
And this year, for the first time since 2007, the Islanders earned a playoff spot. (The team was eliminated in game six by the Pittsburgh Penguins.)
When WRHU partnered with the New York Islanders in 2010, it became the only college radio station in the nation to broadcast fora professional sports franchise. Hofstra and the Islanders recently renewed the broadcast agreement through the 2013-14 season, which began in October.
It was a dream come true, not only for a young team that finished at the bottom of its division and conference last year, but also for Kevin Dexter and other aspiring sports journalists at WRHU, who never imagined they’d get such coveted assignments as students.
Along with Dexter’s work in the booth, Hofstra juniors Rob Joyce and Michael Sullivan reported from the Islanders’ and Penguins’ locker rooms, respectively, when the playoff made its way back to the Coliseum for games three and four.
In the week leading up to the first playoff game, the students, all broadcast journalism majors, were busy putting together charts of player and team stats, researching interesting story lines and doing ice-side interviews with players such as star center John Tavares. The clips were used for color commentary and intermission interviews they produced for each broadcast. One of the key questions they asked players: What is this moment like for you?
It’s a question the students could have asked themselves.
“We all saw the buildup coming,” said Rob Joyce of Coventry, CT, one of the station’s three color analysts during the regular season. “Once we realized the team would make it in, it was a pretty cool feeling to know that there are people who work 20 or 30 years to get to the point that we were at in college, covering a professional playoff.”
When WRHU partnered with the New York Islanders in 2010, it became the only college radio station in the nation to broadcast games for a professional sports franchise. More than 20 students work on each live broadcast as on-air color analysts and sideline and locker room reporters, and behind the scenes in production and engineering. “Our students take great pride in the quantity and major market quality of these broadcasts on Radio Hofstra University,” says John Mullen, the station’s operations manager.
Initial reaction to the arrangement was mixed, especially among diehards who were not familiar with WRHU’s programming.
“We experienced backlash on social media that first year,” said Joyce, 20. “People would say this is a joke. But as soon as people listened, they realized we’re not just a bunch of college kids messing around on air. We work as professionals. We do our homework. We know the team as well as anyone else would.”[quote style=”boxed” float=”left”] “Once we realized the team would make it in, it was a pretty cool feeling to know that there are people who work 20 or 30 years to get to the point that we were at in college, covering a professional playoff.” [/quote]
“When our students at WRHU were faced with the challenge of producing these Islanders games, they proved themselves with skills and smarts that would rival what you’d find in any other broadcast in the league,” says Evan Cornog, dean of the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication, who grew up in Illinois listening on the radio to the Chicago Blackhawks of the Bobby Hull/Stan Mikita era. “WRHU has been the flagship station of the Islanders for three years now. We have enjoyed witnessing the team’s success this year, and we’re glad our students shared in that success.”
Rob Joyce, like Kevin Dexter, grew up with a love of sports. Joyce wanted to be a play-by-play announcer since the age of 7, having had a firsthand look at the profession all his life: his father, Bob Joyce, is the voice of the UConn Huskies women’s basketball team and a former radio producer for the Hartford Whalers (now Carolina Hurricanes) hockey team.