From Lake Forest College to the NHL

From Lake Forest College to the NHL

By Cam McGuire '19

Although Lake Forest College does not have a broadcasting program, Brien Rea ’05 and Doug Plagens ’07 were able to utilize resources at the College in order to achieve their goals of becoming NHL Broadcasters. Cam McGuire ’19 has covered athletics at Lake Forest College during his four years, specifically working with the men’s hockey team, and hopes to one day be in the same shoes as Rea and Plagens. 

Plagens just finished his fourth year as the radio play-by-play announcer for the Florida Panthers, while Rea wrapped up his first year as the host of “Stars Live”, the pre-game and post-game coverage of the Dallas Stars on Fox Sports Southwest.

Growing up in St. Louis, Rea was always an avid hockey fan and was fascinated by media from a young age. When he started at Lake Forest, the campus radio station was not operational. “During my sophomore year, a handful of students began to work to re-launch it” Rea explained. Early in his junior year Rea attended a meeting for students to get involved in WMXM and learned they were looking for someone to cover athletics. “Since no one had expressed interest in covering sports, after the meeting I told them if they show me how to work the equipment, I would give them sport coverage.” Eventually Rea became the station’s sports director and helped with basketball, football, and softball games on campus. David Park, professor of communication, began teaching at the College in 2003 and served as the faculty adviser of the radio station. “Brien did an array of sports with WMXM, but the thing I remember the most about him on the air were his hockey broadcasts,” Park said.

Park and Plagens formed a bond immediately not only because they were hockey fans, but also the fact that it was their first year at the College. In fact, Park served as Plagens’ adviser and the first course he took at the College was Introduction to Communication with Park. “Doug was a great student. He was a really good writer and a really good thinker. On top of that he was a really sharp play-by-play guy.” Park said. “Over time he got sharper and sharper with his play-by-play in hockey. Due to his extensive work, he graduated with hundreds of hours of experience broadcasting sports.”

An avid hockey fan, Park was amazed by how both Rea and Plagens could describe the fast-moving action on the ice. “I can understand how football play-by-play is done because it moves relatively slowly and realistically there is about 12 minutes of actual play,” Park said. “Hockey is the exact opposite of that. Every second there is something happening and the play-by-play in hockey just seems like an impossible stretch to me.”

Rea and Plagens were truly the pioneers of athletic broadcasting at Lake Forest College and have paved the way for students, like McGuire, to follow. Athletic broadcasting did exist a few years prior to Rea and Plagens' arrival to campus, with contribution from Brian Monahan ’02, who laid the ground work while he was a student. Monahan is grateful they were able to utilize the station to its maximum capacity.

Although not in the NHL, Monahan serves as the Director of Public Relations for the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association (NCHA) and a producer for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. “I think Brien was the first person that took advantage of the work myself and others had put into the station,” Monahan said. “The things he was doing were what we had always envisioned. In terms of sports coverage, we had a real productive decade there. Brien took my work and took it to the next level; Doug took Brien’s work and did the same.”

Graduating at the same time as the hockey season ended left Rea and Plagens with little work right after graduation. The NHL Stanley Cup playoffs usually do not end until about the middle of June, while junior leagues and semi-pro leagues also have playoffs through June. Teams will then generally take time off as they have worked endless hours throughout the season and don’t necessarily look to hire broadcasters directly after the season ends. If there is one lesson both Rea and Plagens learned, it’s that you do not simply walk out of Lake Forest College and find yourself in an NHL broadcast booth. Rather, it was the extra time and effort the two put into their careers that helped them to get where they are today. 

Continue reading the stories of Rea and Plagens by clicking on the links below. 

Lake Forest College Alum Doug Plagens Voice of Florida Panthers

Lake Forest College Alum Brien Rea Takes Broadcasting Career To Dallas Stars