Mitch Peacock is a big supporter of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.
The veteran sportscaster, and former Castlegar Rebels goalie, follows the league on Twitter and makes a point to like or retweet posts to his nearly 3,500 followers.
His devotion to the league comes from his love of growing up in Castlegar and what the city offered him.
“It gave me an opportunity in terms of a good education, access to sports, great friendships, and a really supportive community. Castlegar is very dear to me, and the KIJHL was part of that,” says Peacock, now doing play-by-play of Europe’s Champions Hockey League after handling diving on CBC’s coverage of Tokyo 2020. “That was the next big thing. The first step outside of your minor hockey and a chance to play junior hockey. I want to see it live on and thrive. It was a great gift to me and I’d like to see it there as a great gift and opportunity for generations to come.”
Peacock played a full season for the Rebels in 1984-85, helping them win the West Division, while in Grade 12 at Stanley Humphries Secondary, after getting a small taste the previous season. Prior to playing in the league, he went to games whenever he could.
“You see the excitement of the community with a nice crowd in the rink,” says Peacock, who along with his teammates received a medal from the team for winning the regular season division. “You want to be those guys. You want to follow in their footsteps and in those days, to walk down the halls of the high school and wear that jacket, having that pride of being on the local team was a real thrill. It meant a lot then and it’s a great memory now.”
His experience with the Rebels gave him an opportunity to grow as a person and player, taking him out of his comfort zone and leading to a spell in the AJHL and a season with Queen’s University.
“You start to see what might be possible with time and dedication, it’s a good thing,” says Peacock. “It opens your eyes, your mind. It says, ‘Hey, bigger is possible and challenge yourself.’”
A love of sports, specifically hockey and soccer, led to a career in media starting in 1995 as the voice of the Bow Valley Eagles (now Canmore Eagles) in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. Peacock has six years of calling Western Hockey League games to his name and reached the pros working four years in the American Hockey League. He also spent four years as a rinkside reporter on Hockey Night in Canada and the Tokyo Games were his fourth for CBC.
Now is challenging himself as a freelancer with the Champions Hockey League.
Early into the season he worked eight European pro games in 11 days from his home studio setup.
The Champions Hockey League features eight groups of four teams, highlighting the top professional clubs in Western Europe. All the games are streamed, including highlight packages. Peacock is given a slate of games to call, as well as highlight packages to voice.
“It’s terrific. I think it’s really exciting to work with new software, an emerging form of delivery where you can work remotely,” says Peacock, who also covered Major League Soccer when Toronto FC joined in 2007. “I have always been interested in hockey, especially at this stage of my career, to be able to see new things in hockey and go beyond the North American system. It’s interesting to learn about new clubs and players – rivalries.”
One of the highlights of Peacock’s career is his lone MLS game in the play-by-play chair, nationally televised from BMO Field and the match fell on Father’s Day. A memorable assignment made more special because he and colour commentator Craig Forrest, a former Canadian national team goalkeeper, knew their fathers were watching.
“That’s definitely something I will always remember,” he says.
Another highlight relates directly to his KIJHL days. Early in his broadcasting career Peacock spent one season doing play-by-play in the ECHL for a team in Roanoke, Virginia.
“At that time, one of my former Castlegar Rebel teammates, Kelly Hurd, was playing for the Mississippi Seawolves,” says Peacock. “Roanoke went down south and ended up playing in Biloxi, Mississippi against the Seawolves and prior to the game, I went in and was able to do my pre taped intermission feature interview with my old teammate with Kelly Hurd. It’s one thing I will always remember. Seeing him come out on the ice for the pre-game warm up in the same number 27 he wore for the Rebels. That familiar skating style. It was a pretty neat experience for two guys from the West Kootenays to cross paths like that.”
What drives Peacock in his career is seeing how far he can go with it.
“You look up to the people who have been there before, and you and try to learn from them,” says Peacock, whose resume also includes hosting the FIFA World Cup on CBC and six-plus years as sports anchor at CBC Winnipeg. “You look into yourself and see what your strengths are and how you can make the most of those. You build a network of contacts. Once you see what you can do, you want to try to keep climbing that mountain. After a while, it becomes a craft. You want to keep trying to refine that craft.”
An approach many student-athletes around the KIJHL can definitely relate to.
Photos courtesy of Mitch Peacock