Groundbreaking sportscaster finds the grass is greener in Saskatchewan

Daniella Ponticelli is the first female member of CKRM’s Riders Broadcast Team and the first female voice of the U of R Rams.

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On May 5, 2000, 10-year-old Daniella Ponticelli was looking forward to immigrating to Canada from Cape Town, South Africa.

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Excited about the adventure ahead, Ponticelli didn’t feel like she was leaving much behind, nor was she aware of a bright future on the horizon.

A local television news station was at the Winnipeg airport to report on her family’s arrival because Ponticelli’s mother, Maylene, was a radiation therapist who had been recruited to help with the brand new CancerCare Center in the area.

Along with her mother, Ponticelli was accompanied by her father Mark and older brother Stefano.

Despite being jet lagged after almost two days of flying, the family members were so excited to have arrived at their new home. As Maylene embarked on a new path in her career, the sight of the news crew sparked something in Daniella’s mind.

“It was also, I think, weird, when I thought, ‘I want to be a journalist,'” she says.

Now, 22 years after arriving in Canada, Ponticelli has worked a variety of journalism jobs in both Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The latest entry is notable for becoming the first woman to be part of the CFL’s Saskatchewan Roughriders radio broadcast and work as an aside reporter at home games.

“Standing on the sidelines is unreal — the sound of players crashing and colliding, how they communicate when the home crowd is so loud,” she says.

Daniella Ponticelli on the sidelines at a recent Riders home game.
Daniella Ponticelli on the sidelines at a recent Riders home game. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader post

You can hear Ponticelli before and after games as she hosts the Countdown to Kickoff pre-game show as well as the SportsCage Radio Roundtable post-game show on 620 CKRM.

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In addition to Ponticelli’s Rider gameday duties, she will serve as the radio voice for the University of Regina Rams in Canada West for the upcoming football season. Play-by-play is nothing new for Ponticelli, who also calls in games for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies women’s hockey team — a role she plans to return to once the CFL and Canada West seasons are wrapped.

Ponticelli may be breaking new ground over the airwaves in Saskatchewan, but it’s in the air where she first made a name for herself.

From 2006 to 2016, Ponticelli was an aerialist specializing in the use of silks, trapeze, hoops, stilts and ropes. She got into the sport simply because the Winnipeg studio where she studied and taught dance – Monica’s Danz Gym – began offering acrobatic classes.

“For a while I thought I couldn’t do it because I’m not a gymnast,” she says. “But I started training one summer and I was totally hooked.”

During Ponticelli’s career as an acrobat, she and her teammates—collectively known as the Momentum Aerial & Acrobatic Troupe—represented Canada at two world gymnastics events (Dornbirn, Austria, 2007 and Lausanne, Switzerland, 2011).

The Canadians didn’t bring home any prizes, but the events were more exhibitions than competitions to see which country is the best.

“It was incredible,” Ponticelli recalls. “Carrying the maple leaf, seeing and hearing the reaction of the crowd as Canada was announced and performed, and then the kindness shown everywhere we went – ​​I realized how special it is to represent this country. “

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It’s not lost on Ponticelli that she’s gone from representing Canada to a radio show crew member for Canada’s Team.

“I definitely see similarities, especially when it comes to the connections you make with sometimes total strangers,” she says. “We hear from fans around the world listening to matchdays.

“I also believe there is a significant responsibility to represent a country, a team or its official broadcaster. (It is important to behave with dignity and respect and to treat others the same way.”

In fact, interacting with Rider Nation is one of the things Ponticelli enjoys the most.

Daniella Ponticelli is the first female member of CKRM's Riders broadcast team and the first female voice of the U of R Rams.
Daniella Ponticelli is the first female member of CKRM’s Riders broadcast team and the first female voice of the U of R Rams. Photo by TROY FLEECE /Regina Leader post

After each Rider home game, she travels from Mosaic Stadium to Rose Street and 12th Avenue to watch the post-game show alongside “The Professor” Don Hewitt and former Roughriders backwater Wes Cates, a 2007 Gray Cup champion. to moderate.

Ponticelli plays the role of conductor as she and her co-hosts take calls from fans of all ages and mindsets.

“Everyone wants to be heard, and we give them this space to do that,” she says. “We’ve also had some amazing young callers who have shared their thoughts and that enlightens me inside; This should be an accessible way for people to feel even closer to the game.”

Once Ponticelli is done covering a game, it’s time to begin preparations for the following week’s competition and associated programming.

The first thing Ponticelli does is take notes on all the post-game reactions from players and coaches. As the week progresses, she begins plotting storylines for the next time she’s on the air.

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Once the dust has settled, it’s time to return to Mosaic Stadium and start the process over.

Ponticelli could be considered a pioneer of local sports broadcasting, but she doesn’t see it that way. She didn’t even know she was the first woman to work on a Roughriders radio show until she signed her contract.

“I am simply myself. And it’s hard not to feel that way. Like, ‘Hey, I’m just me; I have my dreams and I have my goals and I want to move forward,'” adds Ponticelli, who acknowledges that it would be an honor if she could inspire other women to get into sports broadcasting. “But at the end of the day, I only go into my work because I love it and because I always want to grow and always want to challenge myself.”

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