In an industry defined by competitive masculinity, sportscaster Hannah Bernard is a blonde, bubbly standout – and she prefers it that way. Behind her 100-watt smile is a hardworking professional who defies the stereotypes of age, gender and university degrees to kick ass and call the shots.
“A lot of the time what society and the education system tell us is there’s only one way. That’s a misconception – you can actually do it your way. Feel the fear and do it anyway,” says Bernard.
This take-no-shit attitude comes naturally to Bernard and helps build a genuine connection with viewers. As the in-game TV host for the Vancouver Canucks and the field reporter for Crankworx, Bernard is constantly thinking on the fly, conducting last-minute interviews and performing on-air commentary. She admits she can sometimes get caught off guard, but that only adds to her authenticity.
Bernard is a force to be reckoned with both in front of the camera and in her own life. Outside of the world of hockey and action sports, Bernard co-runs the socially responsible agency Roots + Ardor, travels the world and is heavily involved in charity work. Talk about a powerhouse.
At the Loden Hotel in the heart of Vancouver, we spent time with Bernard to discuss women in sports, conquering nerves and the power of saying “yes.”
Kit and Ace: Did you grow up with a love of sports?
Hannah Bernard: It was my way to connect with my dad. I grew up around football and hockey – my dad would feed me knowledge about the sport and I totally ate it up. Throughout high school I would get into arguments with guys about who should be traded – I knew growing up that sports was something I was passionate about.
KA: How do you conquer nerves on live TV?
HB: There are no second takes, there are no pauses. It all starts with preparation – put in that time beforehand and it’s going to show in your presentation on camera. It’s 100 per cent mind control. Broadcasters need to train their brain just like a muscle because in one scattered thought your focus can completely shift.
KA: But it’s hard to be perfect all the time…
HB: Yes, at the end of the day we’re all human. There’s a reason they don’t have robots reading the news! What defines you is not the mistake, it’s how you handle it. Viewers want that human element. They want to see someone who is personable, someone who gives life to the story they are telling. I always remind myself that I was hired because I’m me.
KA: A lot of opportunities have come your way. It seems like you said yes to most of them.
HB: It’s been symbolic of my entire career to date – saying yes to things that are outside of my comfort zone and sometimes saying yes to things people thought I was crazy for. Never say no because you’re afraid. There are more ways of getting to where you want to go than just one. Say yes, and then don’t worry about it.
KA: How do you feel about the challenges that come with working in a male-dominated industry?
HB: I used to work in finance and I learned quickly that I had to outwork, outperform and ignore the obvious disrespect that comes with traditional perspectives. It definitely had an impact on me because I started to think, “I’m not good enough,” even though that’s not true. I used it all as fuel and I didn’t let it define me – I saw it as just another obstacle to overcome.
KA: It’s a tough experience to go through. What are some of the steps you take to handle a situation like that?
HB: It’s about looking at your goal, supporting other women and continuing to poke and pry. I’ve literally had to fight my way to get further in my job. I will never forget being in a scrum with 10 male reporters around me and no one would give me the time of day. I had to physically put my shoulders up and elbows out to make myself feel bigger with grown men pushing me out of the way. Now before I leave the house, I’ll do power stances. When I’m having a bad day suddenly it’s like, “What the hell? Am I Golem?” I’ll stand up tall and say, “You got this.”
KA: How do you want to see women better represented in your field?
HB: Women are starting to have a voice in sports, but I would love to see more opinions. Right now, women are only on a panel if it has to do with women’s basketball or women’s hockey. It would be cool to see a woman talking about the Stanley Cup and not only directing questions at men, but having the guys come back and ask, “What do you think?” There is a lot more work that needs to be done.
KA: When your job is so public facing, you must receive a lot of feedback – positive and negative. How do you deal with that?
HB: This industry is so interesting because the second you put yourself out there and take a risk and be brave, you have a target on your back. At a certain point, it’s bullying. The human mind will focus on the bad comments. You have to just work through it and focus on what makes you happy and why you’re there. I want to speak up because I’m still dealing with it. I hope my experience will someday pave the way for someone else. It sucks that women have to prove themselves more than men, but just keep on keeping on. Find it within your gut to let go of self-doubt.
KA: What is next for you in your career?
HB: I love that my career has come full circle. It’s leading me in the direction of giving people a voice with storytelling in order to make the world a better place, and that's the entire vision behind Roots + Ardor. I know it sounds cliché, but that’s what I truly believe my purpose is.