Sportsnet’s ‘Canadian Tom Brady’ Kyle Bokauskas On His Viral Moment With Charles Barkley

Early in the second break, Sportsnet reporter Kyle Bokauskas leaned toward his guest to make sure he could be heard above the noise of the crowd. It was the third game of the Stanley Cup Final, in Tampa, and his guest was known not only among the audience, but also to viewers throughout North America.

Charles Barclay opened with a compliment.

“I have to say two things,” the retired NBA star told his Canadian interviewer. “No. 1: Your hair is freaking cool.”

Moments later: “Hey, you’re a good-looking guy too—you’re like Canadian Tom Brady to me.”

At 28, Bukauskas has yet to win a Super Bowl, but he has been a fixture at the net for the better part of a decade. He joined Sportsnet in October 2013, when he was just 20 years old, and will be one of the reporters on the ice whenever the Stanley Cup is lifted this month.

Growing up in Campbell River, British Columbia, but now based in Ottawa, he has taken time out of his schedule to answer questions from the athleteWe’re talking about Sir Charles, the now-famous Brad Marchand with plump lips.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Who is Canadian Tom Brady?

(Laugh) Oh this is good. Let me think about it. It’s definitely not me. you know what? I would put Ryan Reynolds in that category. I know it’s not athletic, per se, but in terms of looks and appeal… it would have been my choice. I wouldn’t have been anywhere near the top 100 or 1000.

So why did Charles Barclay wipe you out?

you know what? I think he was having a great time in the game. His friend John Cooper and The Lightning had a great night during two shifts. I don’t know. I think you really should ask him why he decided to go down this path. I have never met the man before. I didn’t get a chance to talk to him. For a guy who is 6 feet 9 feet 6 feet 10 feet tall, he made me feel incredibly comfortable. Standing next to you is a sports, television, and pop culture icon, and it’s huge. It is very easy to get scared. But once we started, I didn’t feel like it at all. He was incredibly kind, warm and welcoming. You feel like you are having a conversation with someone who is interested in chatting with you.

Did Charles Barkley give any indication he was going before you went on air?

No. Nothing. I kept asking him if he texted John Cooper with any words of encouragement before the game. It didn’t look like it did, so I wouldn’t go that route with my grilling line. But there was nothing about hair, nothing about any kind of celebrity lookalike. So my shock was just as much, if not greater, than anyone else’s.

How do you deal with unexpected moments in front of the camera when you know that a lot of people watch them at home?

Right now, you’re like, “How do I get out of this smoothly?” And how do you weave your way out without tripping over yourself too much along the way? I think it comes with time. And again, it was the fact that he made me feel comfortable in this scenario. If you’re talking to someone and you’re on the edge a bit and something like that bothers you, my response would probably be different. But it was a fun conversation that we’re just trying to enjoy.

What might most viewers not fully understand about the life of a rink reporter?

Perhaps all the work that goes into things has nothing to do with interviews. Because that’s where most viewers see me: I’m interviewing a player or coach, or someone important in the crowd. Sure, that’s a big part of the job. But I would agonize – whether it was the night before, or this morning – about our 45 seconds or a minute off the top of the show. Ron McLean opens it up and then comes to me at the rink. That little for me, this is one of my biggest moments. This kind of set the stage for your night. If all goes well, it’s no different for a player: you have a good first shift under your belt, and you are now in the game.

Why did the break match survive with breathless players after all these years?

You know, I thought he was on his way out. Because quite frankly, we stopped doing it for a while. Part of it is that on Saturdays, with “32 Ideas” it takes one of two breaks, and there’s not enough time to squeeze into an 80-second player interview. And we quit doing it on the first break for a long time too, because we got that feeling too. She wasn’t getting much of it, which is understandable. You are not criticizing the player in this scenario in any way. I’m sure that’s the last thing he wants to do, talk to me or anyone else at the end of the period. So let’s just let that go, and whatever time we have to do that, let’s use that at the beginning of the period to do some storytelling. Only recently did we get back to that. … why did he survive? I’m not sure. Maybe it was so rooted in the establishment of hockey broadcasts that it just won’t go away completely. There are definitely times when you do one and go, “Man, we could have gone without it.” But every now and then, you get a little nugget where you think, “Okay, that’s why we keep coming back.”

What would you ask the player who scored the ultimate goal in a 4-1 win for Rich Midget A Tyees, helping him become the first Campbell River, BC team, to win the Vancouver Island dwarf title, in 2010?

(Laugh) You have done your duty here. You may have asked how long they had that moment. I know, for my age group, we didn’t win much while growing, certainly at a rep level. In the year you’re talking about, we faced Nanaimo in the final. The same teams have played up and down the island your whole life. I started playing hockey at the age of five. I didn’t beat a team from Nanaimo until earlier that year. I was, what, 16 then? So there are 11 years of your life where you are constantly being beaten up by Nanaimo, over and over again. Beating them in the third game and deciding on the ice was a very good feeling.

What was going on at Campbell River that took so long to win?

I think it was just our age group. We haven’t had the best crop of talent. Sure, as the years went by, we tried like heck. But you play with other teams in our league, on Vancouver Island, and the other players were better. It was none of the Campbell River. It was just my age group. There have been a lot of great teams emerging in the minor hockey league. We must have just been into Christmas year.

Why did Bruins striker Brad Marchand turn away from you when you asked him about sharpening his skates before a playoff in 2019?

Well, maybe because I was a bit clever, and I picked the wrong time to ask this question. Sure enough, there was a narrative that I was trying to have a “caught” moment with him. And honestly with God, I wasn’t. I was trying to play up the story he created the day before. He spoke to the media between Game 1 and 2, after stepping on Cam Atkinson’s wand in Game 1 and saying, “Yeah, the guy was trying to loosen my skate blade, he put his wand in there on purpose and I stepped on it.” I laughed. I thought that was brilliant. So I tried to delve into his own story, which he created. It was just bad timing on my part.

Such a misconception: is it a job hazard when you only have 45 to 60 seconds of broadcasting?

yes. This just comes with the territory, I think. … This happened in 2019, in the playoffs. I’m back for the final conference. In the next round, they played Carolina. One day off, I was outside at their training facility and I went to their PR and said, “Hey, can I talk to him for a few minutes?” I think he may have forgotten that already. But I still wanted to check in, and if there was any problem, I just wanted to solve it. They came back and said he was busy – they had meetings and what you have – and I said, “No problem.” At that point, I decided I wouldn’t spend the rest of qualifying running around trying to talk to him. If this wasn’t a big deal to him, don’t worry, it wouldn’t be for me. We’ll just move on.

Where is your focus right after the final whistle and the coronation of a Stanley Cup winner?

Well, it’s “Who’s you interviewing for ESPN?” And then I’ll know who I’m going to meet. They get their first molasses here in the United States. Once you know the first guest, you can then address your first question. I had it for the first time last year when Tampa won, where I was on the ice and doing interviews after the trophy was handed out. All this happens quickly. Scott Oak was great at many things – and still does his job – but I really felt like he made his money every year when that moment came. The cup was distributed and it was like, ‘Here comes this player, here comes that one’. He was always very sharp, and he has the personal touch of every player. It was clear that the work was put into the backstory of each player. For me, it was the norm at that moment.

Back to Charles: He also complimented your hair – how could you not blush?

(Laugh) I thanked him for that, then let him continue. I’m going to have to give a shout out to my friend Dino Nusita, who’s been shaving my hair for eight years now, in Ottawa. I didn’t get any real compliments on my hair before I went to see it. And this is not to criticize anyone who has ever cut my hair before him, but that they looked different. As soon as they start coming – there Rick Astley Comparisons, Johnny Bravo – I’d always tell him, “You created a monster.”

What is the duration of the hair operation on the day of the match?

I’ve been able to get through about 10 minutes now. I get it dry, and then I have a couple of different products that I use before a match to make sure I have it in place. Put it on and forget it, that’s kind of the thought process behind it, right?

Where are you the day after lifting the Stanley Cup: Vacation?

No, I’m back home in Ottawa. My fiancée hasn’t seen much of me in the past two months. I have quite a bit of debt to pay off, in terms of spending time with her and trying to get back some of that time. No vacation. Just some time at home for a while.

(Photo: Tom Szczerbowski / USA Today)

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