Broadcaster - Speaker - Emcee
“First” is a word often associated with Leah Hextall, who is blazing a trail for women in sports and beyond.
The National Hockey League Broadcaster is the first female to call play-by-play commentary for a nationally televised NHL game as part of Sportsnet’s first all-female broadcast team. Hextall also made history as the first woman to call an NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship game for ESPN in 2019.
In the face of convention and, on occasion - harassment, Hextall stands on a stage, at the podium, or behind the microphone, reminding anyone who can hear that she is not one of the boys and inviting more women to join her.
A veteran broadcaster of nearly 20 years, Hextall has worked for the largest sports networks in North America. However, it took Hextall being laid off and pivoting to a career in politics before she reinvented herself and began her pursuit to become a professional play-by-play commentator. Hextall’s personal story of perseverance is filled with intimidating and uplifting moments. Owning her own her uniqueness, asking for the opportunity, and overcoming obstacles are just some of the steps on her journey.
A native of Brandon, Manitoba, Hextall graduated from the Columbia Academy of Radio, Television and Recording Arts in Vancouver in 2003. She worked for CTV Winnipeg from 2005 to 2012 and for NESN as host of NESN Today from 2012-14. In 2016, Hextall pursued a career in hockey play-by-play, making her debut calling the Canadian Women’s Hockey League games in 2018.
Hextall’s hockey heritage is noteworthy, beginning with her grandfather, Bryan Hextall, who is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. In addition, her cousin Ron was a goalie with the Philadelphia Flyers and currently serves as general manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins, while her uncles, Bryan and Dennis, have had NHL playing careers that span more than 20 seasons.
In 2021, Hextall joined the ESPN broadcast team where she serves as a commentator and reporter for NHL games.
Energy NL Conference & Exhibition 2023
“Leah Hextall brought a compelling and relatable message about hard work, never giving up, breaking the glass ceiling, and being given a chance to succeed. A packed room of energy industry leaders hung on Leah’s every word, and those words were delivered not only with poise and purpose, but with an honesty that resonated with everyone present. Leah Hextall’s talk, and most importantly her message to hire with intent, should be heard and embraced by members of every sector, from sports to industry and beyond.”
Charlene Johnson, CEO Energy NL
NOT ONE OF THE BOYS
Keynote Speech "TCS Live" June 2022
Last season, Leah Hextall became the first woman to call NHL play-by-play full-time for a national network.
She’s also the first woman to call play-by-play for a nationally televised NHL game, the first to call an NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Championship game, and the first to do play-by-play for the Men’s NCAA Division I Hockey Tournament.
Hextall is a trailblazer and when the ESPN commentator speaks, well, she always has something important to say.
That was especially the case when she spoke as one of the headliners at TCS Live, hockey’s premiere coaching conference, this past June at the University of Michigan.
What Hextall had to say is raw, emotional and shocking, but sadly not surprising. She and I grew up in the same hometown and were coworkers way back in the day, so it was extra sad to hear that a friend of mine, a shooting star breaking barriers in the NHL broadcast booth, was being treated this way.
Play-by-play commentators often feel like friends to us all. They’re with us during some of the most memorable sports moments of our lives. Be prepared to feel as gutted as I still do when you watch the video below. ~ Derek Jory, The Coaches Site