Jennifer Hedger always loved being part of a team. No matter the venue and no matter the sport, life was good as long as there was a game to play.
“My dad is very athletic and always encouraged myself and my brother to join teams. So I played ringette, basketball, tennis and soccer, basically anything I could get my hands on,” she said. “By no means was I a star athlete, but where I was the happiest was going to practice or going to the rink. I loved sport and I loved the culture around it.”
When the London-born Hedger first set her sights on a career as a sports broadcaster, it was thanks to women like NBC’s Hannah Storm and City TV’s Kathryn Humphreys, both personalities Hedger looked up to immediately.
“I watched Hannah Storm host the NBA on NBC since I was in high school and I thought — man, that would be the coolest job,” she said. “To sit up there and talk basketball with those guys — that kind of gave me the idea that this was a job that existed. She was one of those women that was doing something that I wanted to do.”
After a few unexpected rejections, the aspiring broadcaster made her on-screen debut, but it wasn’t exactly what she had expected. Instead of sitting behind a news desk, Hedger found herself as a star on Canadian reality TV.
“Being on The Lofters was risky because it was the very beginning of reality television,” she explained, adding at the time there had one been one season of both Survivor and Big Brother, as the world had only started to embrace the new form of entertainment.
“The reason I did it was because the idea behind the series was that we were going to be hosting TV shows. It was going to be hundreds of hours of experience and exposure. Basically, I was really hoping that my face would be out there and people would see me and think I had talent.”
Needless to say, someone did. After a couple appearances on TSN’s talk show Off the Record with Michael Landsberg, the host asked Hedger what she wanted to do when she left the loft.
“I told them I wanted to work at TSN, I wanted to work in sports, and I wanted to be there,” she remembered. “That got the ball rolling and got me talking to the right people and I auditioned my butt off for about three months and they finally took a chance.”
These days, Hedger has made a name for herself as one of the most familiar and respected faces in sports broadcasting.
But regardless of how much experience she has acquired over the years, even the most seasoned sports personality can get a little starstruck. And sometimes that means not always knowing what to do when say, you randomly run into one of Canada’s greatest sports icons.
“The first and only time I met Wayne Gretzky was in an elevator at the Air Canada Centre and I can’t even remember what I said,” she said with a laugh. “I’m a sports fan first and foremost and I never forget that no matter who I talk to or who I’m around.”
In the end, it’s that kind of respect and excitement that keeps Hedger grounded in such a face-paced world.
“These days my office is basically a massive locker room with 65 guys all yelling and talking sports,” she said. “I’m so lucky I was able to find a career that had the same vibe that being on a team did. I always just wanted to keep that feeling.”