For Brien Rea, his opportunity would not come right away, and life was not all that glamorous.
As a minor-league hockey announcer, calling the game is just one of many tasks that you are dealt with. Other tasks that a minor-league broadcaster is faced with on a day-to-day basis are press releases, game notes for each game, managing the team’s website, social media, sales, radio shows, just to name a few.
Beyond the booth, Rea remembers booking plane tickets for players, designing a mascot for an expansion team, designing a press box, installing phone lines, and even having a rat race at an airport.
Before getting his first shot in the booth, Rea attended a broadcast trade school to gain as he knew he needed more broadcast work. At the same time, he worked behind the seafood counter at the local supermarket.
“Luckily, I had some great people in my internships that prepared me for some of that uncertainty and what to expect or not expect. It was not the glamorous of jobs—but any entry-level job rarely is,” Rea said.
The opportunity finally presented itself for Rea landing a job with the Austin Ice Bats in the Central Hockey League (CHL) in 2007. He spent the next six years, working for four different teams - Austin Ice Bats, Odessa Jackalopes, Arizona Sundogs, and Denver Cutthroats - grinding it out in the league that eventually ceased operations in 2014. When he started there were 17 teams. By the time the league folded, there were just 10. Rea was very thankful for his time in the CHL and, when looking back on it, it was influential in his progression.
“I needed repetitions and the opportunity to learn different things,” Rea said. During his time in the CHL he also had the opportunity to experiment. “My three years with the Odessa Jackalopes were vital because I was fortunate enough to work for a strong ownership group. Surviving the minor-leagues is about learning to survive office politics and personalities of different bosses. It’s also about figuring out how to utilize the minor leagues to benefit yourself, to learn all the key skills you need in order to try and move up and advance out of the lower levels as quick as possible.”
Rea was laid off by the Denver Cutthroats due to budget cuts and was out of hockey for a year. During his six years in the CHL, he knocked on several doors in the American Hockey League (AHL) but never received an offer. After a year off from hockey, Rea realized that he needed to give it one more shot and start applying again for minor-league jobs. An email to a contact he had made a few years prior landed him the job with the Texas Stars in the AHL in Cedar Park, TX. “I immediately emailed a contact that I had with Texas Stars from when I interviewed there two years prior and asked if he knew of any openings in the industry. He immediately emailed me back and told me he was going to lose his broadcaster after the season and would I be interested since I was the runner up when I interviewed two years prior,” Rea said.
Rea’s big break to enter the NHL came during the summer of 2018. During his time with the Texas Stars, the Dallas Stars top affiliate, he was fortunate enough to network with people within the NHL team. Last season the Dallas Stars missed the NHL playoffs, but the Texas Stars made it to the Calder Cup finals, the championship in the AHL. While Rea was calling the Calder Cup Series, the Dallas Stars promoted Josh Bogorad to the play-by-play from his role of host of “Stars Live”.
“Because we had made a playoff run and Dallas missed their playoffs, people in the organization had been tuning into my broadcasts and seeing what their AHL affiliate was doing on the finals run,” Rea said. It was from there that Dallas Stars fans and personnel started considering Rea as a legitimate candidate worth considering. “After our playoff run ended those in charge at Dallas vetted me further and I had a couple phone calls and interviews which turned into my hiring for their pregame/postgame position.”
Rea’s days look a little different since now that he is out of play-by-play, but they come with a lot of excitement. His planning of broadcasts starts a day before game day when Rea meets with Matt Schliftman, the producer. From there, they will lay out about 75% of the show.
Once that is done, he will receive notes from his co-host, Brent Severyn, that the three will go before putting the final touches on the show. All of this is done before the show and game has even started.
“I’ll arrive at the arena or studio three hours prior to the game,” Rea said. During this time is when he will review and make sure how the show is going to flow and record any voiceovers that are needed. After the pre-game show Rea and Severyn will watch the game and make notes throughout the game. After the second intermission, the trio of Rea, Severyn, Schliftman convene for a quick conversation and to discuss what the postgame show will look like. “Once the game is over, the postgame show starts, and we recap what happened. After that, we head home and get ready to do it all over again for the next game,” Rea said.