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Women In Sports: Sherry Ross, New Jersey Devils Radio Color Analyst

Interview for Women’s History Month

Sherry Ross is an intelligent, funny, passionate about hockey woman you can find perched in the Devils/Sports Radio 66 WFAN broadcast booth at all New Jersey Devils games; home and away. She serves as the color analyst alongside play-by-play announcer Matt Loughlin, making her return to the booth back in 2007. She served as a radio analyst for the Devils back in 1992-1995, becoming the first female to broadcast a professional male sport.

Sherry had a series of first; being the first woman to serve as analyst for the NHL Stanley Cup Finals (1994), and the first woman to provide play-by-play broadcast for an NHL game when her broadcast partner had an emergency (2009).

I sat down with her one evening before a New Jersey Devils home game at the Prudential Center. We chatted a bit before heading up the press level and entering the radio broadcast booth. Let me tell you, they have a blast in this booth calling the game, talking league wide hockey, and talking trends. It was fantastic!


Photo credit: New Jersey Devils.

Photo credit: New Jersey Devils.


Here’s a bit from our chat:


Double G Sports – When did you know you wanted a career in sports?

Sherry Ross – Probably when I was about 19, I think? I was actually studying veterinary medicine at the University of Illinois, but my grades in physics and chemistry weren’t every good! So that was about the time women started suing for the right to go into the dressing rooms for baseball and hockey as it turned out, and I had been a fan since I was about 12 or 13.

Loved, hate to say the Rangers because the Devils didn’t exist then, but I was a big Rangers hockey fan. When it looked like the veterinary career wasn’t going to work out I decided I had to come up with another option, and I couldn’t think of a related field that interested me that much.

I actually had an editor at a small newspaper in New Jersey in Newton covering high school sports, went from there to a small paper that was a little bigger, and they did some national sports so they would occasionally let me fill in covering Rangers hockey. I went from there to a bigger, it was like going from A, to AA, to AAA and finally made it to the majors when I got hired by the Bergen Record and after that, the New York Daily News. It was just being in the right place at the right time.

DGS – Yeah, absolutely being in the right place at the right time! It was also very coincidental that being a hockey fan you got to cover hockey!

SR – A lot of papers were looking to hire women at that time, because there was this equal opportunity movement going on. So a lot of newspapers thought hockey was the least important beat, of the four professional sports. So, mostly they put women.

If they had to “hire a woman” they put her on hockey. They thought that would be the least damaging! That was the mindset at that point. Not knowing that that was my first choice anyway, so it worked out great!

DGS – Did you have a sports journalist that you looked up to when you decided this is what you wanted for your career? Someone that you admired their work?

SR – Some of the women who predated me, and it wasn’t by a whole lot, like two or three years. Lawrie Mifflin from the New York Daily News, because not only did she do the job great, but I love the way she conducted herself professionally. It’s like ‘I am in here because it’s equal access, this is what I need to do my job, I’m not here to make headlines no matter what anyone else is doing.

It was just a great role model for me. That’s what I have tried myself to do since then, because there are other woman who followed me since then.

DGS – That’s a good point you bring up, that there are other women who follow you, look up to you. What advice would you give to someone like myself, or younger than me who’s interested in pursuing something along the lines of what you do?

SR – My number one advice to a female or male is find your own voice. Whatever it is. Don’t do the obvious angle on a game or an athlete or whoever you have to be interviewing. Always ask one more question. You think you’re done, but ask one more.

DGS – Well you’ve inspired me because you were the first for the play-by-play as a woman. That is amazing.

SR – I know, it’s cool!

DGS – Yes, totally cool! So, obviously it was something that wasn’t “planned for” so how long did you have to prepare?

SR – I had a couple of days, knowing the possibility was coming up. They asked me if I would be interested in trying it. Lou Lamoriello, who was the person who hired me for this job, that was his idea.

DGS – Wow.

SR – So he had a lot of faith in me that I would be able to do it. So then he gave the OK.

DGS – Amazing. So tell me about it!

SR – I remember when the first game started, it was against Ottawa, the puck dropped, and I kind of froze. Because I was like, oh Matt’s supposed to be talking, then I was like, oh, wait! It’s me! I better start talking!

DGS – Did you someone do color for you?

SR- Yea I had Rob Skrlac, former Devils player, it was also his first game doing color! Yea, we were quite the tandem! But we had so much fun. It felt like it was 6 minutes long. The game goes by like a blur! Of course the studio would chime in and be like “you’re not giving the score enough”, they would sort of correct me, gently. I did two more after that, and those went better.

DGS – Very good. You’ve been here for a while.

SR – Yes, this is the ninth season.

DGS – What do you love most about this job you have here?

SR – It changes all the time. You often see something that you’ve never seen before. The other day there was a 5 min hooking major, another game where somebody played with somebody else’s stick. You never see these penalties ever! There’s always a cast of characters coming along that’s different. There’s a lot of people I come to like, and admire, and I get to stay in contact with them as we go along, which another fun part.

DGS – That is very cool. Give me a run down of one of your days.

SR – Usually get to the rink at 10 o’clock, get stats like the stats you picked up, you get what the lineup changes might be, you’ll listen to or talk the the opposing coach and your own coach, you’ll talk to some players. Whatever your interesting points are going in, you know, knowing guys you might want to talk to. You then have little nuggets, tidbits you can use through the broadcast. I probably don’t use 75% of the stuff I have ahead of time, but you don’t know what you’re going to need.

The afternoon I put my stat sheet together, possibly take a nap, although not usually. Hockey players take naps. Back to the rink, about three hours ahead of time. We’ll then double check changes from that morning, then watch warmups, go over my notes again and then we go on the air ten minutes of.


Photo credit: New Jersey Devils.

Photo credit: New Jersey Devils.


DGS – Now switching gears a bit, I noticed that you were involved in horse racing, when did you get involved in horse racing?

SR – Well I love horses. I was one of the typical horse crazy kids growing up. So besides having my own horse and riding, the other stuff I really loved was horse racing. I fell in love with the history of it, I made my parents and my aunt take me whenever I could go when I was little. I just kept that up.

That was actually one sport I was afraid to cover. I didn’t know if once I saw behind the scenes if I would see too much ugliness. I was happy to find out it’s not as bad as the public perception. Obviously there’s things that need to be improved. These are fabulous animals.

DGS – Maybe that’s why you wanted to be a vet!

SR – Oh absolutely, I was going to be a racetrack vet. That was my choice at the time.

DGS – Now that the radio waves are changing these days, what are your thoughts on podcasting?

SR – I don’t know anything about it! I’m sorry! I am a dinosaur as far as technical stuff is concerned, I mean, I know they’re out there! I sort of listen to some on the radio, I am a big Walt Disney fan, so I have listened to some of those, no sports ones though. Sorry!

DGS – What do you like to do outside of your job?

SR – I do some horseback riding in the summer. I work with a cat rescue group. I’m still involved with animals; I have always loved animals. I also like Bruce Springsteen, so when he’s ever touring, I just went to his show in Hartford recently.

DGS – Oh, that’s where I am from!

SR – Oh, okay! I’m a big Disney fan, I read a lot of stuff that’s going on at Disney and I go there when I can, and my two best friends also love Disney. Walt Disney World and Disney Land in California. I like to read, go outside in the summer, stuff like that.

DGS – Lastly, if you could choose any three people to have dinner with, who would they be and why?

SR – Alive right now?

DGS – Nope, anyone.

SR – Well I prefer to have dinner with live people, haha, just kidding.

No, but Walt Disney, because I was utterly fascinated by his life. The second would probably be, because I am reading her book right now, Gloria Steinem. Everything she’s done for women, she brought this bright intelligent voice to a battle we’re still fighting against sexism. She’s just so brilliant. And, my mother passed away, so if I could have her back. She never stopped me or discouraged me from trying things that were outside the box. She had a fierce energy.

DGS – Sounds like a wonderful dinner party. Is there anything else you want to add?

SR – I am really honored that women have sort of found me as an inspiration, because you don’t think of that when you’re just doing your job. The fact that you can unwittingly have this impact on people is probably the most important thing I have done in my life.


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For all of our 2016 Women In Sports Interview Series features, click here.


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Jackie Daly

Jackie Daly has been with In The Zone since 2012. Her contributions have been mostly in NHL and special events coverage. Jackie has been a writer, video host, and podcast host with ITZ. She currently co-hosts Tea Time with Mel and Jay. Outside ITZ, Jackie works with MLS's New York City Football Club and the AHL's Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
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