The Nashville Predators home opener is upon us!
Ahead of tonight’s game with the Flyers, we were able to snag an interview with the Preds’ new rink-side reporter Kara Hammer. If you are familiar with Nashville’s sports scene, you may recognize Kara from her days reporting for News Channel 2, covering everything from the Titans to the University of Tennessee to the Predators.
We thought it might be cool to introduce the new face you’ll be seeing on the broadcast for Fox Sports Tennessee.
Also, don’t forget to tune in to FS-TN for a special early edition of Predators LIVE, which will start at 6 p.m. CT. The coverage will include:
- Coverage of pregame ceremonies, including the raising of the 2016-17 Western Conference Championship banner.
- Interviews with coaches and players as they arrive on the Gold Carpet outside of Bridgestone Arena.
- Reports by Hammer with a behind-the-scenes look at festivities from Broadway, including the 57th birthday bash of Tootsies World Famous Orchid Lounge.
So, Kara, what’s your story? How did you find your way to Nashville?
I’m from Denver, Co. A total mountain girl. I got to Nashville because my very first job when I was in college at the University of Wyoming, I was an intern. I interned with Joe Leadingham (currently at News 2 Sports) at Channel 5 in Cheyenne, Wyoming for two years and then I worked there for two years. In the meantime, Joe was in Washington and then he got to Nashville. After Audra Martin left, News 2 was looking for a girl and Joe reached out to me. At that time, I was with Fox Sports Arizona, actually, and I was doing sideline for college football and basketball. So Joe got me down here at WKRN for two years and then that’s how I got in with the Preds. I covered their Cup run last year, I covered them in 2015 when they were in the first round of the playoffs... so then it was just like I fell into it. My contract was expiring at News 2 and the Preds reached out. That’s how I found myself at Fox Sports Tennessee.
It’s kind of a crazy cycle to be in Cheyenne, Wyoming, I would have never imagined that I would be in Nashville, Tennessee covering hockey.
I’m a big fan of News 2’s sports coverage. How did you like working there?
I loved it, I learned so much. I took that job, you know it’s really hard to give up sidelining and being on a network to go back to the local news grind, but the opportunity that they gave me, it propelled me just like it’s propelled every woman before me that’s had that position. When you look at Sara Walsh was there, Dawn Davenport’s been in that seat, Audra Martin who is at Fox Sports North now...
...But I loved it because I had the opportunity to sideline the Titans preseason games on the NFL Network. Then I did the coach’s show. But the best thing about it was they gave me the opportunity to travel. So I started with the Preds when they started this Cup run... I think I started on like April 18th or something crazy and went from Chicago, then we were in Anaheim, ending up in Pittsburgh... so it was really [News 2] that put me in this position. So I’m very thankful for them and that opportunity.
What can fans expect from you in your role with Fox Sports Tennessee covering the Predators?
Well I’m taking over the rink-side role, so I’m taking over Lindsay Rowley’s position, but just the home games, so you’re still going to get Lindsay when she’s on the road with the team. What she’s done for the past three years, the first interview when the game starts, working with the pregame, doing the coach interview, interviewing the assistant coach and the associate coach, that’s pretty much going to be my role, what she did.
I’m hoping that I can bring it to another level where I can give a little bit more perspective on who these players are now and talk a little bit more hockey. I think what we saw last year is that Nashville is turning into a hockey town... I think what we learned last year is that [the fans] know what’s going on. I want them to know a little bit more about the players, want them to know a little bit more about their new captain Roman Josi, introduce the new guys a little bit more, like Nick Bonino, bringing Scott Hartnell back. Just give the fans a little bit more of what they can’t see since they’re not at the game.
Of course, as a member of the media, you have to remain impartial. Do you ever find it difficult to put being a fan to the side?
That’s a tricky question, because obviously I am a fan of the Predators now. It’s exciting covering them. I guess where I’ve learned to draw the line is when I was working with Fox Sports Arizona, I covered NAU (Northern Arizona University). I technically worked for NAU, like now I technically work for the Predators. So, yes I want to be a fan and I want to support the team, but also if they’re losing and things are tough, you gotta go in there, you gotta ask them tough questions, you have to have the coach explain themselves.
When you interview a player, do you try to get a read before hand to gauge how far you can go, or do you just jump in with what you have planned? What’s the inner monologue in your head before talking to a player on the sideline/rink-side?
It’s more or less having a relationship with the players beforehand. Luckily for me I’m in a position where I know most of the guys and they know me, just from covering them for two seasons. But I think you can tell how far you can push a player and I think you have to understand, you know, some of these guys are so young. I take that into consideration. Here I am talking to a 21-year-old kid or like, if Sam Girard’s playing, 19-years-old. You have to go with experience, you look at veteran like Scott Hartnell or Cody McLeod, you can ask them tough questions because they’ve been in that position before.
With the captain, that’s kind of their job to step up and answer the hard questions. That comes with being the leader in the locker room.
What about coaches? Do you try to give them room or just dive-bomb them with the tough questions?
I think I’m pretty straight to the point. When you try to beat around the bush too much, things get lost in translation. It’s best to just go in there, ask what you want to ask, and they go from there. In my experience, everybody in our organization is very professional. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a coach where I’ve had a problem with him or her. I think there is some mutual respect between coaches and the media.
So, how many years have you been covering sports?
I have been in the industry now going on 10 years.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen so far?
I might have to go with Pittsburgh and the catfish on the ice.
I remember when I was at Wyoming, the coach got fired and the quarterback went in and was just adamant that if they were going to fire the coach, he wasn’t going to play football for the University of Wyoming anymore. That might have been one of the strangest things I’ve seen.
And you’ve also covered rodeo as well?
Yeah, so when I was at Wyoming, here’s a fun fact for you, I probably could have told you the top 10-12 guys in every rodeo event and their world ranking. At one point, I probably knew more about rodeo than any other sport.
So after each event, you have to ask the bull-rider about his ride. The rankings go by how much money they earn, that’s how they get to NFR (National Finals Rodeo), which is like the Super Bowl of rodeo. It’s fun, I love covering rodeo.
If you could cover any event in any sport, what’s your pick?
I’m gonna say a tie, between a Stanley Cup run, because that was awesome, and also I love covering college basketball. I covered that Middle Tennessee State upset over Michigan State. Hands down, that was the best game I have ever been at. I love college basketball, I’m a March Madness junkie... I don’t think anything will ever be as cool as that game.
So who is your college team of choice?
It’s the Wyoming Cowboys. People always joke with me, but no it’s the Wyoming Cowboys. Larry Nance Jr. is my guy. When Larry Nance was drafted by the Lakers, they had won the Mountain West tournament that year and made it to the NCAA Tournament and I think I cried when they won that game. Because I started covering those kids when they were freshmen. When they come in as freshmen, they are like babies to me. And to watch them win, it was... that was probably the third coolest thing I’ve ever seen.
What’s the funniest thing that’s happened in your time covering sports?
Whiplash, the monkey that rides the dog at football games... I don’t what it is, but that monkey riding the dog will give me the giggles on TV, uncontrollably.
And finally, what was the most awe-inspiring moment for you personally in sports so far?
When I was in college, another intern Austin Ward and I went to the University of Tennessee football game when the Wyoming Cowboys upset the Vols on their homecoming. I remember sitting in the pressbox, I was probably 19 or 20, and I thought to myself, “Wow, one day I want to be back here and I want to be working. That would be really cool.” So then when I got to News 2, I went back and I covered the Tennessee-Florida game when Tennessee beat Florida for the first time after so many years. I walked out to Neyland, I was by myself, and I was like “Wow... I made it. It took a long time, it took a lot of hard work carrying the camera and tripod and ‘one-man-banding’ and... here I am.”