The Pride of Porcupine Plain: In remembrance of Darren Dutchyshen, a profile from 1990

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Love him, hate him, but watch him; TV sports fanatics give thumbs up to Darren Dutchyshen’s ITV on-air antics

The Edmonton Journal
Tue Mar 20 1990
Page: C9
Section: Life
Byline: DAVID STAPLES Journal Staff Writer
Dateline: Edmonton
The kid with the rink rat vocabulary and bouffant hairdo hustles from his computer keyboard to the editing machine, back and forth, all night.
His boss, Ann Stark, looks on proudly. “I’ve never seen a harder worker.”
Where’s he from?, Stark is asked.
“Porcupine Plain, Saskatchewan. . . . And he’s a star.”
Stark’s appraisal of Darren Dutchyshen, 23, host of Edmonton’s only half-hour week-night sportscast, ITV’s Sports Night, is backed by Edmonton sports fanatics. They love or hate Dutchyshen, but almost certainly watch him.
In August, 1988, ITV switched from its seven-minute sportscast in the middle of its 10 p.m. news package to a half-hour, 11 p.m. format. Since then, Dutchyshen’s unusual style and the show’s comprehensive highlight package have taken Edmonton television sportscasting into the ’90s.
“Darren was very different from the really staid, suit and tie types,” Stark says. “We opted for his sort of vibrant personality just to get everybody’s attention.”
It seems to have worked. Since its inception, Stark says the show’s ratings have tripled.
Two hours before show time, Dutchyshen writes the script for that night’s Edmonton Oiler-Quebec Nordiques game, won 4-1 by Edmonton.
“Now the Oilers had to beat the Nords . . . Tonight . . . Why? . . . Because everyone beats the Nordiques . . . They are the league’s punching bag . . . Why do you think at times this year (coach) Michel Bergeron has looked punch drunk?”
In conversation, Dutchyshen speaks as he does on air, in short bursts, using the ungrammatical lingo of Western Hockey League players and his earlier days in Porcupine Plain, population 850. “When I think back to some of the stuff we said in Porcupine Plain, I’m almost embarrassed to say it, because it was so stupid. So stupid,” Dutchyshen laughs. “And I say it on air! That makes it even worse. But it’s got some kind of appeal.”
At times, Stark cringes when she reads Dutchyshen’s scripts. “I’m an English major,” she says. “I write magazine articles. And I hear him with really bad grammar at times and sometimes I go to correct it and I stop and I say, ‘This is how Canadians talk. This is The People.’ And we let him go with it, and we actually have not had complaints. But I don’t know how many people are sitting there, such as myself, and saying, ‘Ouch!’ ”
As a boy, Dutchyshen had no broadcasting idols — Porcupine Plain, about 250 km northeast of Saskatoon, only had one TV channel. He got his verbal style from his family, which argued and cheered wildly whenever a game was on. “I had to scream to get my words in,” he says.
He dreamed of playing for his favorite Detroit Red Wings in ‘The N,’ the National Hockey League, but didn’t make it in junior. On stage, however, he was a natural. “I was always kind of a class clown, jerk around, hyper, vocal kid,” he says.
After high school, he worked at a few odd jobs, had a son, Tyler, with his wife Candace, then took a half-year course at Western Academy Broadcast College in Saskatoon. From the start, he loved the camera. “My heart was pounding and stuff like that, but it was such fun. It was a great emotional lift.”
His instructors thought he would go places, but had a few suggestions, like changing his last name, (pronounced Duh-tish-en).
“It’s not a normal name,” Dutchyshen says. “It’s not a name that people are going to latch onto right away. But I said, ‘Well that’ll be to my advantage. It’s unusual. Maybe they’ll remember it.’ ”
His teachers also told him to relax, act more like other sportscasters. But Dutchyshen kept his high-energy approach, first in Dauphin, Man., then in Saskatoon, then at ITV. Nevertheless, Stark says Dutchyshen has calmed down from his first shows on Sports Night. “He sort of shouted at you, rather than tell you what’s going on.”
Stark says Dutchyshen is doing very well now — perhaps too well for ITV, which has lost a number of people to higher paying jobs.
“I’d like to go national,” Dutchyshen says. “That would be great. A national sports show. I wouldn’t mind doing color, play by play, or hosting hockey. . . . First and foremost, I’m going to be staying in the city and getting more experience. I’m just enjoying the show too much right now.
“When you first start off, you just get so energized for doing a show. And it still happens. That’s the odd part. It still happens. I figure, when am I going to run down? I don’t think it will ever happen. It’s too much fun.”
At work, Dutchyshen lives in a video world. He never sees a real athlete or live game, only video games and jocks, piped in through a series of “land lines,” “up points,” and “sky bridges” on The Bird (the satellite), as they say in TV. The scramble to gather every highlight from every game heats up at 8 p.m., when the feeds start coming from the East.
“For us not to have Oiler highlights is a fate worse than death,” Stark says.
Dutchyshen says the show goes for saturation coverage of hockey because Edmonton is hockey nuts. “We show them everything. Tell them everything. Minor trades. Doesn’t matter. There are so many people in hockey pools, we got to ‘font’ (put on a scoreboard) the goal scorers so the guy sitting at home can say, ‘Okay, I got five points in this game, and I got seven points in this game.’ ”
The Oiler-Nordiques highlights beam in from Les Nouvelles TVA in Quebec City. Dutchyshen sits down to edit and rewrite, since Grant Fuhr and Kelly Buchberger have been injured in the game, Buchberger in a fight with Dan Vincelette. On replay, Dutchyshen watches Vincelette hammer Buchberger to the ice again and again. “Geez, I haven’t seen Bucky get dropped like that. Man, did he get worked. Did he get worked!”
Some TV stations would cut the fight from the highlights, but not ITV, and Sports Night repeats the most violent of the week’s bouts on Dutchyshen’s Friday night highlight package, which he calls, Plays, Pops and Pokes, and the ITV’s edit room staff calls, “Friday Fights.”
Dutchyshen says he grew up with fighting in hockey — his childhood friend and brother-in-law, Kelly Chase, is the tough guy on the St. Louis Blues — and he likes the rough stuff. “It’s an element of the game that is exciting, interesting, and I think the mass majority probably want to see it.”
Before his three-minute teaser slot on the 10 p.m. broadcast, Dutchyshen goes to the bathroom to apply his makeup. “Worst part of the job,” he says. “I don’t know how women do it. It’s a credit to them, every day, every day. Of course, I put it on every day, too. But not at home. When I start putting it on at home, it’s time to quit this job.”
On the set, the ITV news anchors calmly read their reports, then introduce Dutchyshen. He speaks at least twice their volume. He leans forward, and waves his arms.
“Nice suit Dutchy,” the cameraman says, during a commercial break. “Who did you borrow it off of?”
“Yah, what time does it have to be back?” adds Sports Night assistant Pat Krauskopf.
Later, Dutchyshen says, “I try to keep it as nice and light and airy as possible on the set because who wants to go to work and not have fun, you know? If you’re not having fun, it really shows on the air.”
Sports Night starts. Hockey highlights whiz by. On the monitor, Chicago Black Hawk Adam Creighton scores.
“Great looking shot!” Dutchyshen drawls, and spouts his favorite cliche. “Beats him like a rented mule.”
The set director cringes. The light man shakes his head, and suppresses a laugh. In the commercial break, the crew marvels at how often they hear Edmontonians repeat Dutchyshen’s sayings.
“You always hear that, ‘Beats him like a rented mule,’ ” Krauskopf says.
“Or, ‘In the top shelf,’ ” says the cameraman.
“Hurtin’ for certain,” adds the light man.
“Nothing but net,” says the cameraman.
“I bet even your mother has a favorite, Dutchy,” Krauskopf says, and the others laugh.
“My mother doesn’t watch the show,” Dutchyshen says. “But it does get picked up back in Porcupine Plains. I wish they took our ratings there.” Dutchyshen pauses, then, speaking like the hot shot he is, adds, “Although the ratings are fine as it is.”