January 25, 2011 - Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) - Lewiston MAINEiacs
DJ Abisalih is currently in his second season with the Lewiston MAINEiacs' organization. Abisalih made his MAINEiacs broadcasting debut last fall as color analyst along side Alex Reed. After Reed departed for the ECHL following the 2009-2010 season, Abisalih took the reigns. DJ received his degree in Sports Broadcasting from the New England School of Communications in 2007 and currently lives in Scarborough.
You have been incredibly fortunate to land a play-by-play job at such a young age. How did this opportunity come your way
The simple answer is to say that I was persistent and I worked hard. As far as how it actually went down, it's a fun story for me. Justin Pelletier invited me to join him on a trip to Drummondville during the 2009 playoffs. While there, I saw Alex Reed, and noticed that he didn't have a broadcast partner. I asked him about possibly getting involved, and he and I proceeded to keep in touch all summer. A couple of days before the season started, Alex brought me on board as his color man. For the year and a half after that, I did everything I could, hoping that one day, I would get the chance to be the next voice of the MAINEiacs. Sure enough, Alex got the call to Wheeling, Bill Schurman offered me the position, and here we are today!
Why did you choose to pursue a career in hockey broadcasting as opposed to, say, cricket or dog shows Have you covered other sports in the past
Hockey was always my favorite sport growing up, so that helped the decision process along. I have broadcast basketball, baseball, and soccer in the past, but for me, nothing beats the excitement of hockey. It's a fast game, there's something happening practically all of the time, and because of the way the game is played, great plays get magnified a lot more than in other sports.
There is so much more that goes into your job than simply talking into a microphone. Take us through your routine - starting with game prep, leading up to the opening face-off.
My routine is a bit different depending on whether the team is home or away. At home, my first step in preparation takes place the night before the game, as I am in charge of producing the note packets for the media, staffs, and scouts. On the day of the game itself, I usually try to snag a nap in the afternoon to sort of clear my head, before ultimately arriving at the arena at around 4:30. At that point, I will check in with Bill Schurman in the front office, as well as JF Houle in his office. JF and I chat about life, while also discussing that night's game. Following that conversation, I head over to the visiting team's side, where I drop off their packets, introduce myself to the coaches, and conduct any interviews I need with said team. At some point prior to my interview with JF (takes place one hour before face-off), I will also check in with the opposing broadcaster, see what's new in his life, as well as find out any notes I need to know about their team. After the interview with JF, I fill out my scoresheet, and get ready to start the broadcast. Most of that is similar on the road, except for the fact that I don't produce the game notes, and the schedule during the day (meals and whatnot) is decided by the team, rather than me.
Tell us about your time at the New England School of Communications. What skills did you acquire there that have helped you as a broadcaster
NESCOM was a big tool in helping me become a better broadcaster, as the school is practically all hands on (very little book work), and I was able to learn a variety of different skills. Aside from the obvious lessons in play-by-play, I also learned elements such as how to write/produce commercials and write/produce news reports on the air. Off the air, I gained a lot of my skills in the media relations side of sports, such as writing press releases. All of that put together gives me the whole package, which I believe will ultimately help in getting me to the next level.
Much like a young hockey player dreaming of playing in the NHL, are your sights set on the big show What would your dream broadcasting job be
Yes, my sights are absolutely set on reaching the NHL. My goal has always been to be the best that I can be, and since the NHL is the best of the best in terms of hockey, that is where I want to be. My first dream would be to get to the NHL (to me, that's the most important part, regardless of team). After that, my ultimate dream would be to be one of the broadcasters for the Boston Bruins, as they are by far my favorite team.
What makes this year's MAINEiacs squad so much fun to watch, and for you to represent
Winning always tends to make things more enjoyable, but aside from that, there is a ton of talent on this team, and win or lose, it seems like every game is exciting. Whether it's 2-1, 5-4, or 6-1, I feel like I leave every game saying something along the lines of, "Wow, that was fun!"
What is your favorite type of hockey player to watch
Being 5-foot-5 myself, it should come as no surprise that I like the little guys who have the talent to be successful, while also having the grit to sometimes be a royal pain in the rear end. Danny Briere has always been one of my favorite players, and I also took an immediate liking to Brad Marchand when I saw him in the Q and found out that he would some day wear the Spoked "B".
Pretend you are appointed Commissioner of the NHL. What is the first change you would make
If I'm allowed to, I would make two changes, and oddly enough, both rules used to be this way. First of all, get rid of the penalty for delay of game (shooting the puck over the glass). I understand why they have it, but after going to places like Gatineau (where the glass is insanely short), I am sick and tired of seeing that call. The other rule change would be to get rid of the trapezoids behind the net. I like seeing goalies play the puck, as I feel like it can be a source of offense if you have a netminder that is good with his hands.
When you're not on the air, or studying statistics with Jedi-like diligence, what do you like to do
If you ask the coaching/training staff, they will tell you sleeping and eating. Most of my life revolves around sports, as I work for the Portland Sea Dogs year round, and I am frequently looking around for games to watch/attend. Aside from that, I live a pretty chill lifestyle - nothing fancy, but it makes me happy. Since you mentioned statistics, I have always liked numbers and puzzles, so as I said in one of my prior road reports, I am a big fan of Sudoku.
Do you have a personal hockey background (i.e. youth hockey, street hockey, kitchen hockey, etc)
I was an amazing goaltender in street hockey and physical education hockey growing up. Other than that, I consider myself a solid video game hockey player, as in real life, my skating abilities aren't quite up to par.
Let's wrap up with your favorite hockey moment - both as a fan of the game, and as a broadcaster.
As a broadcaster, my favorite hockey moment was my first game doing play-by-play for the MAINEiacs - a 4-3 Lewiston win in Victoriaville last December 27th, as I was filling in for Alex Reed, who had travel issues. Regardless of the outcome, it likely would have been toward the top of my list because it was my first game, but the fact that the MAINEiacs killed off 1:25 of power play (including 0:39 of a 6-on-3) to end the game made it that much more special.
As a fan, I had the opportunity to attend the 2010 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Fenway Park between the Bruins and Flyers. For those that haven't been to a Winter Classic, it is truly an event in itself, almost like the Super Bowl. It happens once a year, and everything in the city essentially stops for it. Oh, I almost forgot, there was a game as well. After standing there (practically everyone in attendance stood for the whole game) for 57:42 waiting for a Boston goal, I not only got that, but also got to see Fenway Park explode when Marco Sturm tipped in the overtime winner. I don't think I ever yelled louder in my life, and the chills of seeing fireworks shoot out over Fenway Park after the Bruins' win was icing on the cake. I still get goose bumps when I see highlights of that day.