Kevin Weekes always has a story. And there is a chance he will find a way to bring it back to Barbados.
Even when it comes to how he got into broadcasting. Weekes was considering extending his career in Europe when television networks called to declare their interest. CBC. MSG. NBC Sports. NHL Network. To get a phone call from one of those four networks would be a victory. Weekes had all four coming after him. This is what happens when you develop a reputation for being one of the most personable players in the NHL during your career.
Weekes listened to every network. But he needed time to think about it while consulting with his family and close friends.
“I remember having this conversation with a dred on a beach in Barbados,” said Weekes, the son of two Barbadian immigrants. “He said, ‘I would go and do the TV.’ … I swear to God, that dred on the beach was the last person I needed an affirmation from.”
Everything about that story – the setting in which he is telling it and his choice of words — is predictably and unapologetically Weekes at his core. He is Dexter St. Jacques if Dexter St. Jacques were a real person. Weekes is driving in his SUV on Interstate 84 from his Bergen County, N.J., home to ESPN’s headquarters in Bristol, Conn. The conversation about his broadcasting career comes in the middle of another normally hectic day. He had a meeting in New York City, hopped in his car, and made a few phone calls to check in with sources before heading north.
He arrives at his hotel, where he is mid-sentence on a phone call but still has the presence of mind to say hello to everyone around him — all while profusely apologizing to the person on the other line. The plan from here is to get in a quick nap before spending the rest of his evening doing pre-game, intermission and post-game studio work for two second-round playoff games.
And no. He has no plans to shoot another video from his hotel room on this particular day. Well, at least he has not said as much.
Weekes is not the first retired professional athlete to move into the broadcast booth. But what he is achieving in the sports broadcasting landscape as of late is unique. He is an analyst who can either predict what is going to happen or quickly react while providing color commentary during a game. He can be posted at a studio desk where his words are an important piece to a pre-game, intermission and post-game broadcast. His reputation as a broadcaster and player means he can host or co-host major live events.
**Breaking News** 📰 🚨
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) March 29, 2022
Now he has added another ability: Weekes is a news breaker. His move into that space breaks away from convention. Normally, trained journalists are the ones charged with breaking news. Weekes has gone beyond attempting to carve out a place in the news breaking realm. He has made it unique by filming a video each time he has news to share with his 223,000 Twitter followers and another 38,800-plus on Instagram.
“I love breaking news. I love being able to convey information on these transactions on behalf of the players who are the product and to the viewers who are our customers,” he said. “I love being a bridge between the two, being a keynote speaker at (Henrik Lundqvist’s) jersey retirement or breaking news. But breaking news certainly hits in a way where for the fans and even the players and stakeholders or reporters, we all love breaking news. It’s energizing. It’s a 24/7 business and not everything is about the power play and the half wall per se. This allows the game to live and breathe in a different way.”
Carl and Vadney Weekes always had some form of news going on in their home, whether on television or on the radio. Weekes grew to understand the media throughout his 11-year NHL career by constantly consuming those broadcasts. The respect he already had for the art of broadcasting amplified once he retired in 2009 and became the first Black analyst in NHL history. He credits Marc Jacobson, Sherali Najak and John Shannon for being his biggest believers and influences when he first started on Hockey Night in Canada and the NHL Network. Weekes said Najak would work with him every Monday morning at the CBC to review tapes to point out where Weekes could improve.
Weekes said he did not want to look at broadcasting like a fun post-playing career activity used to pass the time. He wanted to work at broadcasting in the same manner in which he worked to become a second-round pick who played in nearly 350 NHL games. This is how Weekes has become unavoidable on TV. On a given week, viewers can tune into NHL Network and they will find him doing studio work or a live game. It’s the same thing with ESPN. The network’s re-introduction into the NHL came with the Seattle Kraken expansion draft – an event in which Weekes featured prominently. He has also been present at other major events such as the NHL All-Star Game, the NHL Trade Deadline, the NHL Draft Lottery, the NHL Draft and the Stanley Cup playoffs.
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) March 21, 2022
Those who believe Weekes is nothing more than some enthusiastic guy with a fashionable suit and a prominent smile are missing something else. Sure, he watches hockey like one would expect. He also watches the NBA, the NFL, Major League Baseball, the Premier League along with track and field. Weekes is fond of those leagues because he loves sports. But he is also taking notes on how those sports are covered and the work done by those who cover them.
He rattles off names like Shams Charania, J.P. Morosi and Adrian Wojnarowski as those outside of hockey he admires. He extends the same respect to Darren Dreger, Bob McKenzie and Frank Seravalli, among others, when it comes to the NHL. Observing is only the start. Weekes and his wife, Megan, talk about things like how people retain information. Their collective hypothesis is that there is no shortage of information that can be found. They believe that having so many options means fans run the risk of moving on from what they learned within seconds of discovering what happened.
So why not add something to the news that makes it more memorable? Like tweeting out videos of you breaking news from the most random locations.
“We know news does not wait for us,” Weekes said. “It presents itself when it does. Not everything is evergreen. Some of those things are time sensitive. It presents itself and you gotta go and it is in real time. … Literally, there are times when I was at home. I was driving on the interstate. I am in the hotel room. The lobby of the hotel. In the closet in the hotel because I literally pulled out the iron and ironing board.”
Or like the time you put a recycling bin on your head at the NHL Trade Deadline to look like Daft Punk on a budget or a bootleg Mandalorian?
“I’ve just got my own personality as everyone else!” Weekes said with a laugh.
Those are the elements Weekes uses to be fun. But the decision to go into breaking news can be challenging. News breakers spend years, if not decades, curating sources in a manner in which few in journalism can attempt to replicate. Perhaps the most notable consideration that comes with being a news breaker is the fear associated with being wrong.
**Breaking News** 🚨 📰
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) May 3, 2022
Being first is always the goal. But it does not matter if you’re not right. That is what makes entering the world of news breaking so daunting. It is about striking the balance to get news right and get it first. Each time those goals are met is a step toward trust from fans and sources. But a misstep can prove costly when it comes to whether trust is real or a fever dream.
How does Weekes deal with that type of pressure?
“Let’s be clear. To become a goalie in the National Hockey League is almost an impossibility,” Weekes said. “To become a Black goalie is beyond an impossibility. I had to high-wire walk over Niagara Falls with no safety net. If you can imagine the pressure that comes with playing goal, delivering for fans, your teammates, your organization and your family. After doing that? To me, there wasn’t really pressure in doing this.”
Says the man who played a position that put him on blast by a vibrant red light followed by a goal horn telling an entire arena he made a mistake. As if he didn’t know that already.
Except now? His miscues can be viewed by fans around the world. They can become a trending Twitter topic if it reaches that level. Now add what it means to juggle all of that during the Stanley Cup playoffs while being on the airwaves for the planet’s largest sports TV network.
Then again, he may not have the time to think about that. Weekes began the postseason by flying to Minneapolis-St. Paul for Game 1 between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues. He flew the next day to Denver for Game 1 between the Colorado Avalanche and the Nashville Predators. He returned to Twin Cities for Game 2 of the Blues-Wild series before flying back to New Jersey to do the NHL Draft Lottery. He finished the draft lottery broadcast and immediately flew to South Florida to cover a playoff game between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals.
He returned to the East Coast to do a game in the New York Rangers-Pittsburgh Penguins series. He did have an off day before driving back to Bristol to do studio work for ESPN. He returned home to New Jersey the next day before driving back to Bristol the following day. On the day Weekes spoke with a reporter, he was scheduled to a 4:30 p.m. show, a 5 p.m. show while also being part of the network’s pre-game, intermission and post-game broadcasts for Game 1 of the Carolina Hurricanes and the Rangers in addition to Game 1 between Calgary Flames and the Edmonton Oilers. Driving back and forth between New Jersey and Bristol is a process Weekes will repeat over the next several days.
In the middle of all of that, he broke the story that Rick Bowness and his assistants would be leaving the Dallas Stars. He announced the news by standing on the sidewalk of a busy street in Rutherford, N.J. The tweet had more than 400 retweets, more than 360 quote tweets while attracting a little more than a quarter of a million views.
— Kevin Weekes (@KevinWeekes) May 20, 2022
Weekes is grateful for two things that help him manage. The first is the crew of people he works with. Namely those who work behind the scenes. He jokes that if he did their job, neither ESPN nor NHL Network’s shows would ever make the air. It is why he has no problem admitting he is better suited for being in front of the camera.
The second thing he is grateful for is a black, medium-sized travel bag he carries with him at all times. It’s known as the “Mother Weekes bag.”
Imagine a portable CVS or Walgreen’s at your fingertips. That’s Weekes’ bag. He had it as a player. Back then, it was called the “Bag of Beauty.” He had teammates who chirped him about it — until they needed something. Then, it became the greatest thing they ever encountered. Over time, however, it evolved into the “Mother Weekes bag,” and with good reason.
To have the bag provides him a peace of mind. He can be between flights and have everything at his disposal without the fear of forgetting something. Weekes said the bag received its latest name because “(moms) have everything.” If someone needs a breath mint? They have it. If they need Listerine strips? They have that too. It’s the type of accessory that Weekes, someone who never stays long in one place, carries everywhere.
“It’s essential to everything because I am always in motion,” Weekes said. “You are always making moves, whether it is traveling to work, business travel or family travel. Ever since I was in junior, that bag has been the jam.”
(Photo: Bruce Bennett / Getty Images)