By Alexi Knock, Assistant News Editor
WRHU 88.7 FM, Radio Hofstra University and the New York Islanders recently announced an official partnership where selected students will have the opportunity to cover and broadcast all Islander games during the 2010-11 National Hockey League season.
"Being the flagship station of the New York Islanders means that we are the first radio station to carry their games," said WRHU General Manager Bruce Avery. "If anyone else carries the games it goes through us on radio."
WRHU is the first non-profit college radio to have this type of agreement with a professional team. "There is not any other model like this that I know of where you have the possibility to be a student at a university and compete for a position to potentially do radio for professional sporting events in New York while you're in school," said Avery. "The opportunity is unprecedented as far as I can tell."
This new agreement has resulted in attention from outside the University. "WRHU signing this deal with the Islanders has created considerable buzz and press in the radio industry," said WRHU Director of Operations John Mullen. "We have been lead stories in many industry publications and I've gotten calls from radio managers all over the country congratulating students on this opportunity."
The Islanders approached the University's radio station, approximately ten days before the first broadcasted game, to become the team's flagship station, and negotiations were completed earlier this week. The commercial radio station the Islanders used last year was based in Suffolk County and its signal did not reach the Coliseum, the Islanders' home. WRHU's signal surrounds the Coliseum and covers a more densely populated region, including Queens and Brooklyn.
"We are excited to work with the Hofstra based radio station, WRHU, to not only broadcast Islanders game but provide opportunities for future members of the industry," said Justin Johnson, Islanders Senior Vice President of Corporate Partnerships in a University press release. "Hofstra has a terrific School of Communication and we are looking forward to the reflection of that in this season's broadcasts."
WRHU Sports Director Mitch Merman was excited by the Islanders' eagerness to work closely with the University's radio station. "It's certainly an honor to have any professional team approach a non commercial college station to be their flagship," said Merman, who was in Washington D.C. on Wednesday night as the color commentator for the Washington Capitals game. "Because of the connection that Nassau County as a whole has to WRHU it's great that the Islanders came to us to do this. When you say groundbreaking, I don't think that's an understatement."
Although this is WRHU's first official connection with a professional team, the station has covered Long Island sporting events in the past. "We were already working at a very high level in our coverage of Hofstra sports and of the CAA as a whole," said Merman. "This isn't the first time that WRHU has worked with a professional entity. We've covered the Long Island Ducks and the Long Island Lizards. This is just taking it to the next level."
Merman felt that students of School of Communication will greatly benefit from the agreement. "Any student involved in the communications program at Hofstra is going to benefit immensely from this because if you're looking to work in the sports field, there's no better opportunity then working hands on with a professional team," he said.
Junior Anthony Barra was one of the first students to broadcast live from an Islanders game through this agreement and has already covered two games as a color commentator. "This is probably the coolest thing that's happened since I've been at Hofstra," said Barra. "If you had asked me when I was coming into Hofstra if I'd ever think I'd be calling professional hockey I would have said you were crazy. It's an awesome opportunity, even two games in an NHL season is fantastic."
Barra also feels that the agreement will not only benefit the student commentators, but the University as a whole. "It's definitely going to get us a lot more recognition," said Barra. "I think a lot of times when people talk about top communications schools they talk about Northwestern or Syracuse. Hopefully now we'll start getting more respect and recognition in those conversations."
Chris King, the former color commentator for the Islanders will be moving onto to the play-by-play position, which will give students the chance to work as the color analysts and sideline reporters throughout the season.
"Working with Chris King and the other professionals was a really good chance to learn from the pros," said junior Tom Verde, who acted as the in-game reporter for Monday's game against the Rangers. "Just the fact that we can work with professionals like Chris King is really going to make us better broadcasters and get us prepared for life after Hofstra."
Being the flagship station for the Islanders means that WRHU will cover all 82 games in the team's NHL season, which could cause a time conflict in airing University sporting events. "We're still going to cover every Hofstra game," said Verde. Although the final decision has not been made, WRHU may broadcast some of the University's games on Connecticut's 1490 AM WGCH in order to make sure all 17 University teams are covered.
Despite potential time conflicts, most students and professionals at WRHU are excited about the new partnership. "It's not as if we're doing pre professional development. They're actually doing professional level games and it's something for the whole university to be proud of that we were asked to be involved in this," said Avery. "Radio Hofstra University and our students are elated to join in this unprecedented partnership between sports business and academic neighbors."