By Mike Wilson
SPECIAL TO THE MINTO EXPRESS
VANCOUVER – Chris Pope has done a lot of things in his brief career as a broadcaster and a journalist.
He has done work with InSight Sports (NHL Network, WFN), TopSpin Radio (Tennis Canada), covered Kitchener Rangers and Mississauga Majors (now Steelheads) OHL action, and has even done play by play and analyst work for hockey games with CKNX AM 920.
Pope, a Palmerston native, currently works in Vancouver for Rogers Radio on News 1130, 104.9 SONiC, and 96.9 Jack FM as an overnight anchor. “It’s hard to believe that I get paid to talk for a living,” says Pope. “It’s not a job.”
Some of the highlights of his career thus far include covering big events like the deaths of Michael Jackson and Walter Cronkite, being able to cover OHL hockey (Pope is a huge junior hockey fan), and learning the trade from Jim Van Horne at the College of Sports Media.
“I used to wake up every Saturday morning when I was a kid to hear Jim Van Horne belt out, ‘Whoo-ha, the weekend’s here!’ on TSN SportsDesk,” says Pope. “He was my teacher, I saw him every day, Monday to Friday. We’re still in contact. That still hasn’t – and I’m not sure it ever will – sink in.”
On Feb. 4, after a long year of preparation and planning, Pope added another notch in his broadcasting belt with the launch of SportsUpFront.com (also known as SUF).
Using their connections from his time as a student at the College of Sports Media in Toronto, Pope and Kirby Barber – who is also co-founder of SUF – assembled a team of 20 young broadcasting professionals to complete their team for the feature-story-based website.
SUF covers all sports from hockey to soccer to the fighting genre, includes podcasts (Pope’s is “The Papal Address”) and the contributors of SUF each have sports they focus on, but are not held to that category.
“We leave it pretty open,” explains Pope. “We talk about different ideas and how to look at a certain story from a different point of view.”
SUF is not a blog; as Pope says, you can find blog anywhere.
“We really want to concentrate on the storytelling aspect of journalism. Who are we to tell you that the Leafs should trade Phil Kessel for some draft picks,” explains Pope. “We want to tell you something that you may not know.”
A prime example is Pope’s first article on SUF about Drayton native Nick Spaling, who is currently playing with the NHL’s Nashville Predators, living with Preds’ captain Shea Weber during the recent NHL lockout.
The hope is that one day SUF will become a staple in everyone’s daily online routine, but at the same time Pope hopes that the contributors will continue to chase their dreams in the broadcasting world. “That is what makes the site so unique, that the people writing for it are active broadcasters,” he explains.
Pope feels that now was the perfect time to launch SUF. “As we move up the corporate ladder, SUF will move up in popularity and could become a pretty great venture with a bunch of well-known Canadian broadcasters all writing in the same spot.”
He compares the group of talent assembled at SUF in much the same way that The Fan 590 (now Sportsnet 590 The Fan) in Toronto was 10-15 years ago when they had the talents of Elliotte Friedman, George Stroumboulopoulos, Jeff Marek, Tim Micallef and Sid Seixiero.
“They had all these guys working as interns and working part-time, virtually unheard of,” states Pope. “Now they’re the best broadcasters in the country. Looking down the road, I hope we capitalized on something and stick together and have a superpower of people working together on one of the best known sites.“
Based on the success so far – 550 page visitors on day one alone with nothing but word of mouth, Twitter and Facebook messages for marketing – the future certainly looks bright for SUF, and for Chris Pope.