ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Matt Holmes & Laura Barney
By Sean Marranca, 3rd-year, Journalism Print and Broadcast
As a young Canadian growing up, most can only imagine of landing a career working in professional hockey. From lacing up and playing, to driving the Zamboni, most young Canucks dream of working on the ice. Those dreams have become a reality for Mohawk graduates Matt Holmes, ‘04 and Laura Barney, ‘06. Holmes, a Radio Broadcast grad, and Barney, a product of the Journalism program, both landed jobs with the Hamilton Bulldogs and are trying to take in every minute of the experience.
Holmes is the Play-by-Play Announcer and Communications Coordinator, and grew up in Hamilton following the Dogs. His first experience working with the team was actually during his high school days, doing his Co-Op at the Mohawk College radio station as they aired the Bulldogs games. Upon entering the Radio program Holmes began commentating the games on his own. “I remember the first time I actually went on the air, it was an absolute train wreck,” Holmes recalls with a laugh. “I remember how nervous I was, I kept banging the desk the whole time I was talking. I went back and listened to it, and it was a catastrophe, all you could hear was me banging the desk and not what I was actually saying.”
Holmes quickly improved his broadcasting skills, commentating for some Junior A hockey on top of the Bulldogs while working his way through school. After graduating, he jumped on at 900 CHML, and worked there for 10 years. After his stint on the AM airwaves, he found his way back to the Bulldogs, joining the team this past summer.
Barney had to be converted to a Hamilton fan, originally hailing from Toronto and calling the Roadrunners (now Marlies) her team. Coming to Mohawk proved to be the tipping point for changing her affiliations, witnessing the Bulldogs bring home the 2007 Calder Cup. “When I came to Mohawk it was easy to get attached to the Bulldogs,” says Barney. “It was really, really cool [being at the Calder Cup], I still have my flag and my hat. It was cool to come back and have everyone talking about that, and I remembered it too.” Barney was able to tag along with the TV Broadcasting students as they covered the Bulldogs games and took in as much as she possibly could before continuing her schooling, entering a specific Sports Journalism program.
After that, she came back to Hamilton, and is now in her second season with the Dogs, as In-Stand Host. So far the experience has been surreal for both of the Mohawk Alumni, and although they know it’s still their job, it’s always incredible when they take a step back and take in working for a pro hockey team. “For the average fan they don’t tend to notice the affiliation with the Montreal Canadiens as you do on the inside,” Holmes says. “You get that feeling that this is part of that overall organizational structure, and its kind of cool to know that you’re part of the most storied franchise in the National Hockey League.”
The early morning practices can sometimes be difficult for Barney, but it only takes a moment for her to realize the opportunity she has and to take it all in. “When you’re down there and you just stop, you go ‘holy cow, this is really cool”, because I get to sit there on the bench if I want to and just watch. You take a step back and go ‘wow’, because you forget how awesome this is.” Both grads consider themselves incredibly fortunate for finding jobs they truly love, and they know that it wouldn’t have been possible without the education they received from Mohawk.
Without Mohawk giving Holmes the opportunity to clock so many hours commentating games he never would have been able to master the art of play-by-play. “I was able to do that for years before I even got out of College,” Holmes recalls. “It was something I had a chance to do, when you really don’t get a chance to do that too many times in too many places. That is really the biggest thing today that has helped me.”
After some thought on what applicable skills Mohawk had taught her during her time there, Barney give a simple reply of “Technically, everything.” “Everything that I do now, that’s where I started it. I didn’t know how to write for TV, I didn’t know how to talk for TV.”