Shawn Bednard knew he wanted to have a career in hockey. Growing up in Michigan had a lot to do with that.
Hockey runs in the family with the Bednard’s. They say in Michigan that hockey is first and breathing is second. That’s especially true for anyone who was raised in the Flint area like he was.
Bednard recalls having conversations with his father about the time he played hockey. One story in particular stood out for him.
“My parents loved hockey,” Bednard said. “My dad used to share stories with me about playing hockey with his brothers on frozen Lake St. Clair and how he had a wicked slap shot and he hit a guy between the eyes and he had to go to the hospital. He spoke in a tone of ‘oh man I shouldn’t have done that.’ But he also had a glimmer in his eye about that.”
“There was also a familial connection because of both of my cousins Shane and Ryan. Shane played for Fayetteville the team that I just came up from. Ryan was in the Panthers organization and now he’s actually here in Pennsylvania with the Hershey Bears as a goaltender.”
It was clear hockey was a way of life. But yet Shawn was still trying to find his role in the game. But then the eighth grade came along. After talking with his dad some more, one prevailing thought came to his mind.
“I knew I wanted to be a hockey broadcaster. He (my father) told me that if he could have had any job, it would have been as a sports broadcaster. He said he would have been unbelievable at that.”
After hearing this from his father, Bednard thought to himself, “I was like well, I like talking. I like sports. I can probably do that.” And thus officially began the journey of Bednard to the Erie Otters.
Davison High School
Bednard’s journey started at Davison High School. If the high school rings a bell to you, it should. Davison has one of the premier broadcast television stations in the country.
“I was lucky and blessed that the high school I went to, Davison High School just outside of Flint, has one of the best student run broadcast television stations in the country,” Bednard said. “(They’re) constantly awarded. (They) constantly have high level talent. There’s people at NBC, working in major sports. I was able to develop, cut my teeth and get my feet wet in that forum and have an unbelievable mentor in Randy Scott who was able to harness a lot of my passion and skills and turn it into professional abilities.”
“I got a lot of unbelievable opportunities there. But not in hockey actually in high school. I called every sport but hockey even though Ken Morrow from the Miracle Team and Tim Thomas both played for Davison.”
Sometimes getting to your goal takes some different twists and turns. Despite not being able to call hockey at Davison, Bednard took full advantage of the opportunity presented to him. That led him to his next stop, Central Michigan University.
Bednard’s Time at Central Michigan
The same theme that started at Davison continued early on in his time at Central Michigan for Bednard. He got to call lots of games in college such as volleyball and high school football. But Central Michigan and the Chippewas were a non-hockey school.
That didn’t stop Bednard from making a proclamation for himself.
“It was hockey or bust,” Bednard recalled.
There was a club team at Central Michigan. Even though he didn’t know anything about club hockey, Bednard saw that there was a job opening at the time for a PA announcer. He had experience being an announcer with other sports. Why not try to become a PA announcer for a club team? So he applied and after meeting with the coaches, he got the job.
This is where things really started to get interesting for Bednard.
Soon after getting that job as a PA announcer, he met someone by the name of Tyler Marcotte. One conversation changed the course of where each of them would go.
They each wanted to pursue a career in broadcasting. “Let’s just go all-in,” Bednard said. “Let’s broadcast the games. Let’s do highlight videos with goal calls over them. Let’s have social media coverage. Let’s make this a full thing.”
Marcotte and Bednard dove right in with their vision. But in their first year, things got rough. Adjusting to this new life was tough. One memorable quote sticks out with Bednard to this day about that early experience starting this venture up.
“We drained our bank accounts and quit our jobs just so we could start calling club hockey,” Bednard said laughing. But then, their investment finally started to pay off for them.
The right people heard what Marcotte and Bednard were doing. It led to them getting an invite from the ACHA to call Nationals in Grand Rapids. It was here when the belief of where Bednard could go really took off. “People must think I’m not that bad. If I can continue to ride this wave, the sky is the limit.”
Dominic Hennig’s Impact
Everyone in their career has a mentor they look up to. In the case of Bednard, former Flint Firebirds play-by-play man Dominic Hennig was his mentor. This actually was one of the catalysts to Bednard starting up the Chippewa Hockey Network back at Central Michigan.
One night when Hennig was under the weather, Bednard got the chance to call a game in Flint for him. Although he was sick, Hennig still took the time to come visit Bednard in the booth and offer advice. One piece of advice had to do with his goal call.
Bednard would say “and that’s a goal for (player),” Hennig wasted no time after hearing this and said “that’s terrible.” Bednard admitted that his mentor was right. That was a terrible goal call. It was harsh but it was true. But then once the game got back going again, Bednard was left on his own and called a great game while improving his goal calling skills.
Hennig knew back then that Bednard was going to be something special. He recalled telling Bednard that night to “enjoy your moment and call your game.” He did just that and took the momentum of it back to Central Michigan.
By his senior year, Bednard had the Hockey Network up and running to the point where there was a 30-person crew. On top of that, they became associated with the school broadcasting department as a co-curricular. With everything from a weekly show to a full broadcasting experience, students now had an opportunity to go through the full broadcasting program. Not bad considering how much time and money Bednard and Marcotte invested in getting to this point.
It was Hennig’s willingness and belief in Bednard that helped this all happen. If that doesn’t show Erie and Otters fans what they’re getting, allow this quote from Hennig to sink in.
“I think he’s going to be leaps and bounds better than me in this industry,” Hennig said of Bednard. “It’s exactly what Erie and the OHL needed.”
Bednard Calls His First OHL Game Saturday
The Erie Otters open their preseason schedule Saturday afternoon with a game at home against the Saginaw Spirit. This will be Bednard’s first OHL game behind the microphone with the Otters. This will also be the first time someone other than the great Aaron Cooney has been behind the microphone full-time for the team in several seasons.
Bednard says to expect him to make it a “60-minute (or more) entertainment event.”
“I like to make it a 60-minute entertainment event,” Bednard said. “I like to provide a broadcast that fulfills the role of an informational experience without negating a causal listener. I’m there to create a show. I like radio more than TV, in radio, I’m the only direct link between you and the ice. To be the eyes and the ears is such an honor and privilege to create the experience. When there’s a big play, there should be a big call.”
Bednard says the three broadcasters he looked up to on his path were Doc Emrick, (who doesn’t look up to him?) The great Rick Jeanneret and Jim Hughson. He believes Jeanneret is one of the best because you can ask any Sabres fan about big moments and most will know what the RJ call was. And as for Hughson, Bednard calls him “one of the most underrated broadcasters on the national stage.”
Living the Dream
But at the end of the day, Bednard says he’s living his dream.
“For me, I’m just a kid living his dream. I’m an extrovert. I can exude confidence, but I don’t take for granted anytime in front of the camera or to put on the headset. I recognize the sacrifices that family, friends, co-workers has had to make that has allowed me to get to this point.”
What made Bednard stand out for the Otters? Not only was it Hennig’s recommendation to hire him, it was his focus on community and the importance of it to the hockey team. This started with his time in Fayetteville working under CEO Chuck Norris (yes that’s really his name.)
After Central Michigan and before coming to Erie, Bednard really learned what it took to be in this position working under Norris in Fayetteville. Norris told Bednard that “if you’re willing to work, I’ll let you broadcast.” And work he did especially on the business side. Bednard says that he wouldn’t know where he’d be today if it wasn’t for Norris challenging him.
It started at Davison not even doing hockey. It continued at Central Michigan with a vision and an almost empty bank account. It then took Bednard to Fayetteville where he was challenged like never before. All that has led him to Erie to carry on the tradition of the Otters at the start of their 25th anniversary season.
Bednard is living his dream. Soon enough, fans will realize why he is the perfect person at the right time to be behind the Otters mic. His work ethic and passion speak for themselves. Starting Saturday, you will be able to hear it in his voice too.
I am a fully credentialed writer who covers the Columbus Blue Jackets, Cleveland Monsters and Erie Otters as well as the Ontario Hockey League and NHL Draft. The 2021-22 season will mark eight seasons with the Hockey Writers. I am also the site’s Credentials Manager.