It isn’t just players, the owners, and other official NHL entities that are waiting for the next NHL season to start. While we know that in-person attendance will likely not be a viable option for most arenas throughout the NHL, leaving hundreds if not thousands of game-day employees without jobs for the time being, other people associated with broadcasts of games have also been scrambling for employment opportunities.
Fluto Shinzawa wrote about this in The Athletic. Jack Edwards, Andy Brickley, and rinkside reporter Sophia Jurksztowicz all have full-time contracts with NESN meaning that they’re paid as long as there’s a season, even if the games aren’t played. Jurkzstowicz has taken on additional duties as a part-time host of NESN After Hours while the NHL season is being hashed out. One part of the Bruins broadcast team that is at the mercy of games being played is studio analyst Billy Jaffe. He is considered an independent contractor just like his gig for NHL Network. So when there are no games, there is no money coming in. To offset this, he took a job with the Eastern Hockey Federation, which oversees youth hockey teams. But the job he truly loves is talking hockey.
“I love breaking down a great play in a big game and being able to translate that to the audience. That’s what I love,” Jaffe said. “I love talking about hockey, bringing information to light and sharing it with people in a way they can understand, agree or disagree. That’s what I just love to do. I love to talk hockey anywhere they’ll let me do it and share what I know about it.”
Jaffe is used to making various appearances between NESN and NHL, calling college hockey games, and the conducting adult hockey camps at Warrior Arena during the summer months. Due to the pandemic, he roughly estimates he’s lost thousands of dollars. Still, even with this economic uncertainty, he’s not ready to give it up just yet.
“From when hockey went down to now, I’ve lost thousands and thousands of dollars,” Jaffe said. “It’s been a significant amount. I can’t even tell you. I try not to put pen to paper to understand the percentage of income I’ve lost. For me, I’ve lost a significant amount of money. March through May are my most profitable months, hands down.”
“I desperately still want to do the business. Absolutely,” Jaffe said. “I’m willing to give it a little bit of time. But how much time can I give it? That’s the question. I don’t want to stop broadcasting hockey and talking hockey. I hope I eventually don’t have to make the decision to do something else. But I’m not ignorant to the fact that things are changing and continue to change. I may have no choice.”
Even colleague Jack Edwards acknowledged that he is in a good place when compared to others behind the scenes who put on the show each night.
“There’s a lot of people who make the vast majority of their livings by working games — photographers, audio technicians, replay techs,” Edwards said. “The truck is a very, very busy place. All those seats are empty night after night. A lot of paychecks aren’t coming in. There’s very little safety net for those people. A lot of our friends have been in that position since the middle of March, scrambling for work and trying to find ways to make ends meet. I’m supporting my friends as much as I can. But I’m not capable of writing checks.”
So when hockey starts up again, many people will start to get back to a place that’s more normal nearly a year after the coronavirus stopped everything.