By Derek Holtom
Shane Hnidy has just about done it all on the ice. Provincial championship in minor hockey. Successful junior career. Fourteen-year professional hockey career. Stanley Cup champion.
But just because his on-ice career is over, it doesn’t mean he’s done with professional hockey. Far from it, in fact.
Hnidy made the successful transition from professional hockey player to play-by-play analyst for TSN in 2011, working on both their television and radio broadcasts for the Winnipeg Jets.
Hnidy, a former standout blue liner with the Prince Albert Raiders (1992-96) works alongside Dennis Beyak (former general manager with several WHL teams including Saskatoon) and Brian Munz (himself a former radio man from Melfort and well known in the Prince Albert area) in the broadcast booth.
Born and raised in Neepawa, Man., Hnidy now works and lives in Winnipeg, a city which only recently reclaimed their rightful place in the National Hockey League.
In fact, before Hnidy officially retired and traded in his helmet for a headset, he eyed up a possible NHL swan song in his home province.
“In my last few years in the NHL we moved back here (to Winnipeg) with my kids and my family, and thought this is were we wanted to be, and it ended up working out quite well,” said Hnidy.
“When we were here in Winnipeg, we heard they were coming back, so I thought I might end up my career playing here” he added. “So I was training all summer, waiting to hear from my agent and the Jets, but it was actually the day I got the Stanley Cup that I got the call from somebody that wanted to meet with me from TSN radio in Winnipeg.”
So instead of playing with the Jets, Hnidy now reports on them. And while his initial plan was to play a final season of hockey close to family and friends, it didn’t take much work convincing him to make the switch.
“I had a talk with my wife and we felt it was time,” said Hnidy. “I think I had done everything I could, and my body had had a couple of major surgeries in the last couple of years, and we said this is a way to stay in the game.”
Making the switch from player to journalist was something Hnidy had to learn on the fly. But he credits his junior days in Swift Current and Prince Albert for eventually preparing him for his new position.
“When you’re around hockey that long, you learn to be comfortable doing interviews, and I think that’s something that you’re really thrown into, if you go back to junior,” he said. “I think that’s an excellent breeding ground, where you learn to talk properly and how to answer things, and from there you just grow.”
Hnidy also said he began to do more radio appearances while in Boston, which perhaps sowed the seeds for his new job.
“I really started to enjoy it, and when it was offered, I thought it was an area I wanted to explore,” he said.
When he accepted the job with TSN, Hnidy said his training began by literally being handed a mic and flown to Penticton, B.C., with the Winnipeg Jets‘ prospects.
“I went there for the rookie tournament - it was my first experience, and it was learning on the go,” he noted.
Into his second year covering the Jets, Hnidy has developed a style and schedule that works for him.
“I’ve talked to friends of mine, and players who have gone on to be analysts, and got ideas from them, but I developed my own style,” said Hnidy. “I go to practices, take notes from that, and between the morning skate and the game is where I put my notes together.
“But most of the time, you have to wing it. It’s a lot of timing, but you want to have your stats together. And you want to have stuff like a tip you might have heard from a player,” he added.
“Other than that, a lot of it is trying to describe what’s going on for the listeners, or bring in an interesting fact about a player - and being a former player, that can come in handy.”
Hnidy added things have gone well so far with TSN, and that he continues to learn and grow in his new position.
The schedule of a radio/tv colour analyst sounds a lot like that of a player - attending the morning skate, travelling on the road, and late nights. But there is downtime, and Hnidy likes to put that to good use.
“I still skate, though not as much as I would like,” he said. “Between my job and my kids skating - taking them, watching them, driving them - there’s not much time for me.”
Hnidy’s career has taken him all across North America. He played in Ottawa, Boston, Atlanta, Minnesota, Nashville and Anaheim - and that’s just in the NHL. He also played some minor pro hockey, and of course his junior career in Swift Current and Prince Albert.
That’s a lot of postal codes, and an even larger number of people he’s played with and gotten to know. Hnidy said he hasn’t been able to stay in touch with the people he met in Prince Albert as much as he would like, but he retains fond memories of the community and of the team he played on.
“That’s the unfortunate thing, I’ve lost a lot of contact over the years,” he said. “I did run into (former team mate) Russell Hogue, who lives just outside Winnipeg, and played with (Dauphin native) Brad Church during the 2004-05 lockout season, when I was the property of the Nashville Predators and they wanted me to go play for the Florida Everblades. You kind of lose touch, and that’s unfortunate.
“But you look back, and at that time you think you know so much about life and hockey, but that was a time when you learn a lot of things about yourself, the game, and becoming a professional,” he added. “And we had some real memorable teams, especially in the last two years. I think we had like 13 or 14 17-year-old, and it was just a matter of us coming up together. It was a real close group of guys.”
As Hnidy looks back on his career, winning the Stanley Cup is an obvious highlight. But Hnidy is also proud of his adaptability, and being able to extend his NHL career.
“The Stanley Cup was a great cap to a career,” he said. “Another thing, that wasn’t too obvious was to go back to the 2004-05 lockout. The game had become so different after that. I had been a physical-type player, and you have to be able to adjust to that, because it became a more wide-open game, with less clutching and grabbing.
“Being able to not just survive, but to be able to have some of my best years after the lockout, was personally a proud moment for me.”
And as for that Stanley Cup championship, Hnidy said when it was his turn to have a day with it, be made the most of those 24 hours.
“I took it to Neepawa - it went by in a blur but I’m glad I have pictures to look back on it,” he said. “It was fantastic - time with my family, and friends. And we had it in the arena where we took pictures of it for four hours.
“And one cool moment - my friends who I won (provincials with) in minor hockey, they set up a room in the arena and we had some bubbly and our old jerseys from when we were 12 - they fit a little snug, especially on some of them - but it was a cool moment for them and me.”
You can follow Shane Hnidy on Twitter at
Derek Holtom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org