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From the football field to the press box

by Alexander Cole February 14, 2017
From the football field to the press box

Andrew Barlett talks about football and being a broadcaster at Concordia University

On any given Friday or Saturday night, the Concordia Stingers men’s hockey team is usually playing a game at the Ed Meagher Arena. On this particular Friday night, the Stingers are playing the Western Mustangs. They may not be the best team in the league, but the Stingers know they have to play well if they want to win and get those crucial points for the standings.

Meanwhile, up in the press box are Salim Valji and Andrew Barlett. Both men are broadcasters for the Concordia Stingers basketball and hockey webcasts. Valji does play-by-play, while Barlett does the colour commentary.

Up in the box, Valji and Barlett strike up a conversation with a couple of Stingers, who approach Barlett and shake his hand. He smiles, makes a couple of jokes and then turns back to Valji for some notes.

The men who approached Barlett are not just Stingers at the game, they are also his teammates out on the football field. Barlett is not just a broadcaster—he is first and foremost a defensive end and captain of the Concordia Stingers football team.

Born and raised in Burlington, Ont., sports have always been a part of Barlett’s life. His father won a Vanier Cup with the Acadia Axemen in 1979. With a desire to follow in his father’s footsteps, Barlett took up football and hockey.

“Just watching football with my dad, I would pick his brain, and later on we had Argos season tickets so I grew to have a huge passion for the Canadian game,” Barlett said. “Playing on great teams and having great coaches, with my dad alongside me, was my inspiration to keep getting better and better.”

With a bigger passion for football, Barlett eventually decided to ditch hockey and went through the recruitment process for university in his last year of high school. Despite calling Concordia his home for the last five years, Barlett never thought he would wind up in Quebec.

“I spoke to and got recruited by a number of Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) teams in Ontario,” Barlett explained. “Throughout my whole high school career, I figured if I played in university it would be in Ontario because that’s all I knew.”

After winning the Ontario championships with his high school team, a few coaches from Concordia approached Barlett and offered him a spot on the team. From that point on, the coaches stayed in contact with him and Barlett came to Montreal for a recruiting trip.

Barlett, who is studying human relations, immediately took a shine to Concordia and has done almost everything he can to stay involved in the school.

Last year, he was the vice-president of finance for the department of applied human science, and the year before, he was the vice-president of academics for the same department. Furthermore, Barlett is a part of two charities on campus, as well as Concordia’s SWARM, which aims to get more people to attend Stingers games. He has even earned the nickname “Mr. Concordia,” thanks to his pride in the university.

Barlett (left) and Valji (right) have been broadcast partners for three years. Photo courtesy of Andrew Barlett.

“One reason why I stay involved is to gain experience in so many different fields and really find out where my passions are,” Barlett said. “The main reason though is the fact that I get to give back. No one is self-made so, for me, the fact that I can help other people is special.”

When it comes to broadcasting, Barlett has been a part of the Stingers webcast for three years now. After working on the webcast in a supporting role, Barlett figured he would give being a broadcaster a shot. Some inspiration from a few former teammates helped guide his decision as well.

“I got into it because I used to do statistics for the webcast and some of my former teammates were on the broadcast and they had no prior experience,” Barlett said. “I eventually told myself that that’s what I wanted to do, and it happened.”

Valji and Barlett have been partners for the last three years. They linked up with one another when Valji started his first year of journalism at Concordia. Valji, who had an interest in broadcast journalism, signed on to be part of the Stingers webcast.

For the first year of their partnership, Valji and Barlett only called men’s hockey together. Over the last two years, however, they have been doing basketball and hockey together for the men’s and women’s teams.

According to Valji, working with Barlett has been fun because they both have laid-back personalities. Valji said they are always trying to make their audience laugh and, over time, they have been able to develop great chemistry.

“In terms of our chemistry and play calling, it was a feeling-out process,” Valji said. “Now, I know when he’s about to make a point or reveal some stat. Occasionally, we’ll scribble notes down, but at this point it’s instinctual.”

As Valji and Barlett prepare their notes with just five minutes until the broadcast, a Stingers employee taps both men on the shoulder and hands them each a headset for the game. Barlett and Valji adjust their ties almost in unison and then turn around to face the camera. They’re live.

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