Richard Agecoutay has always loved hockey. He played as a kid growing up in Regina. When he enrolled at Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (now First Nations University) in the 1980s, he played hockey for the SIFC Chiefs. He left Saskatchewan to pursue a career in television. After working in Calgary, Banff and Whitehorse, he got a job at CBC. Agecoutay has worked for CBC for 13 years—three years in Iqaluit and ten in Toronto. Since arriving in Toronto, Agecoutay has worked for shows like Marketplace, Dragon’s Den and Fifth Estate. But, for the hockey lover, shooting for Hockey Night In Canada (HNIC) is a dream come true.
How did you get the opportunity to work for HNIC?
One of the senior camera operators said, “Hey Richard, do you ever shoot hockey?” I said I did hockey for Cable Regina (now Access) but, that was 30 years ago. He passed my name onto the sports producers and I started doing in between the benches.
How long have you been shooting for HNIC? I’ve been on the road with hockey for almost seven years. Really intensely in the last three years, since I’ve been doing playoffs.
So, what’s an average day for you during playoffs?
It’s a 14-hour day. I get to the rink at 8:30 AM. I’m assigned to shoot both skates – home and visitors. Then run into the dressing room, grab clips, and then grab the press conference with the coach. Once that’s done, the cycle starts again with the next team.
And shooting the game?
On any game, we have up to twenty-eight cameras, each with an assignment. There’s the main game camera. There’s net cameras operated robotically by guys with joysticks underneath the. Basically, they’re playing video games. We’ve got robotic cameras high on the glass. There’s a camera following the hero when he scores and one on the guy in the penalty box, or who coughed up the goal. There’s cameras assigned to shoot the benches and coaches, and cameras that zoom up to the general managers’ boxes. If there’s a shift in the game, our assignments change. If Crosby is on the ice, someone shoots Crosby. We have six cameras that follow the top three players on each team. I’m in the bottom left corner, so I’m containing the action on the ice and looking for goals. If the goal is scored at the far end, I spin around and get fan reaction. If it’s scored at my end, I’m going to the hero.
Whenever I get an opportunity, I try to be innovative. I started hanging the camera over the boards during line shifts and goals. The producers were saying “Wow, this guy loves his job. He’s giving us looks we’ve never seen before.” That elevated to a players’ walk during the anthem, where we march up and down the teams. These are all part of enhancing the viewers’ experience. You’re showing interesting things. Instead of just wide shots, you’re showing the players concentrating or praying.
What’s the biggest challenge of your job?
Some people think we’re just following the puck. I say, “Try following a puck shot by Zdeno Chara.” These guys are professional athletes – it’s the fastest sport in the world. I did the Allstar game in Ottawa when Chara broke the record shooting 108 miles an hour. My camera was directly behind the net and I’m standing right behind the glass. My shot is him shooting, than zooming into the radar… and I’ve seen him shatter glass.
Where do you see yourself going from here?
I’ve yet to be on the ice for the final Stanley Cup interview. This year I want to be crossing that off my bucket list.