For those of you who know me you would be aware that I have been a long-time fan of the Spengler Cup which is the oldest club team hockey tournament in the world. It takes place every year in Davos Switzerland and for some reason I just became fascinated with it. Canada sends a team made up of mostly pros who play in Europe. Many of them are former NHLers and there has been a great history of players who have a connection to Lethbridge being named to that team like Zach Boychuk, Wes Walz and Stacy Roest. When I mentioned on my Facebook page that the tournament was coming up I got a comment from an old friend and former Lethbridge College instructor Derek Debolt that the guy doing the play-by-play was Cranbrook native Dustin Nielson who was one of Derek’s former students. I reached out to Dustin and he graciously answered these questions while flying back home after Canada’s heartbreaking shoot-out loss to a Finnish team in the final.
How would you describe your life growing up in Cranbrook?
Quiet but busy because I grew up on a farm in Wycliffe BC smack dab between Cranbrook and Kimberly. We sold the farm and moved into Cranbrook when I was 15 because myself and my sisters had become too involved with sports.
Talk about your decision to go Lethbridge College & what it meant to you.
I always wanted to be a broadcaster and didn’t want to go too far from home so Lethbridge was the perfect choice. Funny story, I didn’t actually get into the broadcast program the first I applied. I was devastated so I went to the U of L for a year and reapplied.
Take us through your resume of where you went from College to what you are doing now?
Starting in the summer of 2003:
3 months CKVH High Prairie News
8 months AnySportAnytime.com in Edmonton doing junior/college play by play online/Save on Foods haha
5 months Lethbridge Bulls sales/PR
4 months AnySportAnytime in Edmonton again.
4 months Leon’s Furniture
6 months Country 95.5 weekend news/Lethbridge Bulls PR
2.5 years Country 95.5 News / Hurricanes colour analyst for one year
2 years Fort McMurray – Rock 97.9 Morning Co-Host, Country 93.3 News / Oilers Barons Play-By-Play
1 Year in Fort Mac I also doubled as the Bureau Reporter for CTV Edmonton
Ten Years Morning Host on TSN 1260 (2009-2019)
1 Year Sherwood Park Crusaders play by play (2009)
9 Years U of A Golden Bears Football and Hockey Play By Play (10-19)
1 Year Canada West Football Conference Play By Play (2018)
Tell us about when you got the call for the Spengler Cup.
It kind of came out of nowhere. I got an email from TSN Executive Producer Paul Graham asking for some time to chat. He called later in the week and offered me the opportunity. I had done play by play for TSN in 2015 for the FIBA Women’s World Basketball Championships and I had emailed him a new demo every six months since then.
Who were some of your influences in play-by-play?
Bob Cole, grew up with him. Chris Cuthbert, Gord Miller, Kevin Harlan and one of my favourites ever…Brad Curle. (Calgary Hitmen play-by-play guy)
What were your first impressions of Davos?
Beautiful city. Passionate about the event.
Describe the atmosphere leading up to the tournament and right to the finale.
It’s a football crowd at a hockey game. The party would start 2 hours before the first game and continue long into the night. Every night.
How would you describe the level of hockey that is played for this tournament?
I’d say it’s just slightly below the American Hockey League. In fact the AHL champions came over to this tourney one year and lost a game 7-1.
What is your sense of how big of a deal it is for the Canadian guys to play for their country in Switzerland?
It’s a really big deal. Especially for a lot of the guys who didn’t have a lot of experience playing on the World Junior team. It’s also made more special because they are all encouraged to bring their families.
What is your process for learning all of those European names?
I actually got lucky. A website called HockeyProspect.com actually has the proper pronunciations for the majority of the guys when you sign up for a free account.
What sort of off-ice stuff were you able to do?
Sadly there really wasn’t a lot of free time. I arrived on the 24th and took a day to settle in. We had a nice dinner on Christmas with our broadcast crew but once the games started it was a production meeting at 10:00 AM. Final prep and getting ready until 1:00. At the rink from 2:00-11:00 calling two games a day.
Having a good chemistry with your color man is vital. How easy/hard was it with your guy during this tournament?
It was super easy. Doug Honneger has been the color analyst for 15 years and is a wealth of knowledge so it came together nicely.
How expensive is it to be a tourist for this tournament? (I want to go one year. How many Swiss Francs do I need?)
It will be expensive, probably not a trip you could do every year. If you were going to stay for the week I’d say you’d need 1500FR for spending plus hotel/tickets etc.
Former Lethbridge Hurricane and First Round Draft Choice of the Carolina Hurricanes Zach Boychuk had a great tournament. Why in your mind has he not been able to stay in the NHL?
Good question. He’s lit this tournament up two years in a row. Only thing I could think of is he’s missing the top level explosive speed for a guy his size. He makes more over there than he would in the AHL though.
Shoot Outs for Championships. Discuss.
Horrible way to decide the game but a super exciting event to broadcast!!!
And now for a few random questions. Name a song that was playing when a significant event happened in your life. In other words, when you hear that song, it brings you right back to that moment.
Macklemore, Downtown, danced with my boy to that song every evening for about a year when he was little. It happened often but will always remind me of those times. He will be 4 in March.
Did you ever know Broadway Star and fellow Cranbrookian Brett Carver and could you have ever gone into theatre?
I never knew Brett but the name certainly sounds familiar. I was named Top Drama student in Grade 8….so…maybe haha
What was the best advice you got from your professors at College. Feel free to name names.
Veryl Todd. Two things. If you are getting into broadcast to make money you will be disappointed and if you are stuck in the same place for two years while working your way up you probably don’t have the chops and might as well move on to something else.
He was blunt at the time but he was right.
The winner of the Stanley Cup this season will be………..
Tampa Bay Lightning. Too deep front to back. They’ve been close in recent years.
Final thoughts about Davos, The Spengler Cup and Canada’s participation in the oldest club tournament in the world.
I’ve always been a fan of the tournament and wanted to attend. Having an opportunity to broadcast it was a dream come true and hopefully I get to do it again. It’s a very cool event for Canada as it always Canadians all over Europe to come together for the holidays and try to win something for their country.