TJ Chillot thought it was a long shot for to move from the NAHL to minor league hockey’s highest level. However, he also understands that the only way to score is to shoot the puck.
So he shot.
And he scored.
Chillot is the new Director of Broadcasting for the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL.
“I had known that Jayson Shaya, the former voice of the Checkers, moved on to Utica when Charlotte opted out of the 2020-22 season,” Chillot recalls. “After talking with [STAA Owner] Jon Chelesnik regarding openings in the world of hockey, he mentioned that Charlotte had yet to announce Shaya’s replacement — among other openings he knew of. Jon recommended that I reach out to the Checkers. The timing couldn’t have been better as they were beginning their search right at that time.”
Chillot leaps to the AHL from the NAHL where he spent the past three years with the Austin Bruins. He understood that the jumping to the AHL might be unreasonable – not because he couldn’t handle the job, but because of the optics.
“It’s not often you hear of a play-by-play broadcaster going from the NAHL to the American Hockey League,” he says. “Sure, I have experience working in professional hockey as an intern in the AHL and as the broadcaster for the now defunct Mississippi RiverKings of the SPHL, but I knew that on paper there were likely many more candidates who looked stronger.”
Chillot, though, trusts his skills. “All I needed was for a team to look beyond the paper and have a conversation with me. I felt that all I needed was a chance to interview because I know that I bring a lot of intangibles to my organization that can’t be viewed on a resume or heard in a demo.”
Several of Chillot’s colleagues contacting the Checkers on his behalf further strengthened his candidacy. “There were so many people who went to bat for me during the course of this process – and without them, I don’t know that I would have even gotten through to the second round. They helped me get that interview so I could showcase my unique skill set.”
One advantage Chillot creates in the sportscasting job market is knowledge. His habit is to learn as much as he can from each organization where he has worked.
“I absorbed all the front office information I could, from ticketing, to community relations, to, of course, media relations and social media. I like to think of myself as well-rounded because of this. It helped me fit into a very unique mold that the Checkers had made. From my days as a car salesmen before my radio career began, to being a board-op and talk show host, to running a community hockey league, to teaching myself graphic design, it’s all become skills that round me out as a broadcaster and a person.”
Working in the AHL seemed like a pipe dream in 2018 when Chillot’s team, the Mississippi RiverKings of the SPHL, ceased operations. “I had just started my career as a broadcaster and wasn’t sure if it was over before it truly ever began. STAA helped me find the Bruins, which bloomed into a great three years in Austin.”
Chillot joined STAA in December 2016 when his parents bought him a membership as a gift. “STAA is the whole package for us in the industry,” he says. “I talk to some broadcasters who say they only subscribe when they’re actively looking for a job. To me, that’s just backwards. We should always be looking to improve, even when we’re not actively looking, and STAA is the perfect place for that. Sure the job lead emails are GREAT, but there’s so much more for us on the site. From the community discussions boards to ask questions and share successes with others, to the resources that Jon posts, and all the other tips and tricks.
“By subscribing to STAA year round, and not just when I was actively looking, I continued to improve so that when the time did come for my next step, I was more than ready.”
More than ready, indeed. There is a saying that success is when preparation meets opportunity. As Chillot has proved, that is true even when the opportunity seems like a long shot.