“My mom always told me that being Black in America sometimes means you have to be twice as good just to be considered average,” Fitzhugh said.
Still, like his warm reception already with the Kraken, he said he’s had plenty of welcoming and supportive interactions with folks across the hockey industry. He attributes a lot of that to the hard work, commitment and dedication he’s put in over the years.
The No. 1 thing in his broadcasting work is preparation. Doing a three-hour broadcast isn’t only about the game coverage; he studies and prepares to be knowledgeable about not only the team he covers but also opponents.
Fitzhugh does his homework and likes learning things from NHL broadcasters. He said his goal each year is to listen to every NHL broadcaster at least twice. Fitzhugh has a few he looks up to, citing Jim Hughson as his “gold standard” for how he wants to go about his job. He also sees Jack Michaels’ (Edmonton) passion as “unrivaled.” John Walton (Washington Capitals), John Shorthouse (Vancouver), Brendan Burke (New York Islanders) and Alex Faust (Los Angeles Kings) are a few of the others that Fitzhugh said have been influential to him.
Fitzhugh recognizes his status of being the first Black broadcaster in professional hockey, while also adding that he doesn’t think anybody sets out to become a trailblazer like this.
“But I think if you ever are in a position where you can help inspire and you can help lead by example, I think you owe it not only to the culture and not just to the sport, but I think you owe it to yourself to pursue that,” Fitzhugh said.
Since his hiring, he said he’s had people reach out to him via social media letting them know they were inspired by his story or that they didn’t know there were other Black people who worked in hockey. Fitzhugh said he takes a lot of pride in being an influence for that next generation of hockey fans/broadcasters/journalists etc.
“I hope that there is somebody who is right there behind me, kicking on my heels about to break into the industry,” Fitzhugh said. “Because I think we need more faces, more different Black voices and Black faces. Different cultures and different backgrounds to help continue to grow this game.”
The ultimate goal is to get to a point where Black broadcasters are the norm and more commonplace, rather than the “firsts” needing to be pointed out, according to Fitzhugh.