If you’ve been playing NHL 21’s Be A Pro mode, you might have heard a new voice commenting on your rookie season. Newcomer Carrlyn Bathe joins core broadcasters Ray Ferraro and James Cybulski in giving updates on your progress and discussing important milestones. She’s no stranger to hockey: LA Kings fans should recognize her as she’s been covering the team for Fox Sports West, but Bathe also has hockey in her blood: Her father, Frank, played for the Philadelphia Flyers and Detroit Red Wings, and she also grew up playing the sport. Bathe’s role in NHL 21 marks her as the first female broadcasting voice in the franchise’s history. We recently sat down with Bathe to discuss her role, and found out she’s also taken a shine to gaming and streaming.
Photo credit: Gus Jaimes
The New Be A Pro
This year, EA Vancouver gave its Be A Pro mode, where you chart your path from inexperienced rookie to NHL star, a huge upgrade, adding a new conversation system, likeability meters, and presentation updates. The latter included involving the broadcasting team in presenting an authentic look at being in the spotlight as a highly touted up-and-comer. In the mode, the main commentator, James Cybulski, has his own radio show, where he comments on your efforts each game and how your season is going. He also brings along Ray Ferraro for an additional perspective.
To round out this effort, Carrlyn Bathe was brought in to be another voice on your talent. “I’m almost like what I am in real life – a rinkside reporter giving updates on what’s known as ‘the rookie’ throughout the game,” Bathe explains. “I give social-media updates, what I spoke with the coach in the morning about, and maybe how the teammates are feeling about the rookie. It’s literally all based around however the player is playing, and then my updates will come in throughout the game, kind of stating, ‘Oh, was that a good choice?’ ‘Was that a bad choice?’ Here’s how it reflected on the ice.”
Landing The Gig
A key connection brought Bathe to the role. Her husband, Mike Hammer, founder of enforcer-themed hockey-style brand Violent Gentlemen, is a big fan of the series, and one of his friends happens to be NHL 21 producer Sean “Rammer” Ramjagsingh. “Rammer and my husband go way back, and a female voice is something they wanted to add to the game, “ Bathe says. “Rammer thought of me, thinking, ‘Okay, well, this is something she does in real life.’ And after speaking with him, I let him know, not only do I report for the Kings, I took four years of improv and comedy training at the Groundlings school in California; like, that was something I always tied to my hosting resume. And I always thought that that helped me on camera and whatnot. Little did I know down the road, it would help me in a video game as well. So having that knowledge and having me in mind, I was one of the people that he submitted before his team.”
Bathe had to submit samples, so the team could be certain she was the right fit for the role. “I think it was one of my actual hits that I did during a game because I keep a big notebook or lots of notebooks, actually, little black notebooks, that I buy and keep them at my house, and I had leftover hits from one of my games and just recorded that.”
Bathe got the seal of approval from the team, and quickly found out how different things are when it comes to providing her voice for a video game as opposed to the live action on the ice. “It was a crazy process, because they start planning for these games in what feels like a year in advance,” Bathe says laughing. “So it’s crazy to think about like, ‘Wow, I’ve been talking about this since last December. And the game is coming out in October. It’s so crazy. And having to keep it a secret the whole time was just really difficult, but I did it!”
Photo credit: Katlyn Gambill
Getting In The Virtual Booth
Of course, when EA Vancouver and Bathe were in the planning stages last December, there’s one thing they couldn’t anticipate: COVID-19. The team had planned to fly Bathe into Vancouver to record her lines in the studio and were working with her to line it up with her schedule. Unfortunately, her free time to do so was in March, which was when everything had come to a head, forcing everyone to quarantine and the NHL to shut down. “I was just at home, and we had to figure out how to make it work,” Bathe recalls. “And luckily, they had experience recording remotely with James Cybulski and probably Ray [Ferraro] as well.”
Bathe ended up recording her lines over the summer in her home office; it took around five to six hours. “I had to have like James [Cybulski] on one call, and me playing off of what he was saying,” she explains. “Each line of mine had to be teed up by him, so he would create the toss. And it’s created off of a bullet point on a Google Doc, so the creativity that James has in those moments is what fuels me to say the thing that I’m saying that everyone’s hearing in the game. We’ve got a rough idea of like, ‘You’re the rookie, you just bought a new house, everybody on the team thinks he’s gonna play well, let’s see how that plays out.’ James gives an awesome toss, and then I go off of that and try and give my good one-liner.”
Bathe confirmed that Cybulski loves a good pun, and some of her favorite moments in the studio were when she got clever with one on the spot. There’s a fruit pun she’s especially proud of that she can’t wait for others to hear in the game. “She had great chemistry with our existing team, namely James Cybulski, who she interacts with during each segment,” says NHL 21 presentation lead David Pritchett. “It’s a testament to her skill as a broadcaster that she was able to fit into our already established group with very little lead time. She felt like part of the team from the first minute in the recording studio.”
“It took me about 15 minutes to get in the groove,” Bathe adds. “Because it’s not just reporting, it’s voice acting. So you have the producer saying, ‘Okay, now pretend you’re in an arena and raise your voice a little bit.’ So, I think I’m yelling my line. He then says, ‘All right, now do that and turn it up 5 to 10 notches.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, so I’m gonna be screaming.’ It feels like I’m literally yelling, and then you hear it in the game and you’re like, ‘That sounds totally normal behind crowd noise!”
The Start Of Something
Being the first professional voice in the game is an honor Bathe holds dearly and a role she hopes grows in the future. “It feels incredible,” she says. “And it also feels like the start of something bigger and feels like I will be the first of many. There have been a lot of male voices in this game, and it wasn’t lost on me that you know, ‘Hey, a girl in here would be kind of cool.’ I am so grateful that they chose me. I’m so happy that I am able to have this platform and speak about this game and get people excited about video games as well. Because this to me, it literally is a tool that brings people into loving hockey.”
Bathe also knows the importance of being a visible female voice and what impact that can have on other women. She recalls how even though she grew up surrounded by hockey, doing her current job never occurred to her until she was 19 and saw television sports reporter Heidi Androl covering the Kings.” I thought, ‘I want that job and I will do everything in my journey to work toward it,’ she says. “And so I hope there’s some girl that’s just growing up right now that gets her hands on this game and goes, ‘Wow, I can do that one day.’”
Right now, Bathe only appears in Be A Pro mode, but both she and EA Vancouver seem keen on continuing to work together and potentially expand that role in the future. Her energy is infectious, and she adds a fresh dynamic, speaking to the fans’ perspective, so here’s hoping EA works to have her show up more in the series.
When Bathe isn’t reporting what’s happening in the league and on the ice come game time, she’s focusing on her new hobby: streaming video games. Bathe started streaming in May, playing games like Animal Crossing: New Horizons and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. The pandemic actually caused her to discover her love for gaming, and she couldn’t be happier to share it with fans. In fact, she’s been playing NHL 21’s Be A Pro mode on her stream, as she wanted to share the special moment with her fans.
“I’m in my 30s,” she says. “It almost feels like, “Well, if I didn’t get in on [gaming] when I was in my teens, did I miss the boat? If I didn’t get on it in my 20s, is it too late now?’ During this time in our lives, I feel like it is absolutely not too late to pick up a controller, and it’s crazy how it can bring friends together. I can keep in touch with family members through a headset and my controller and bond and have this time with them, even if we’re that far apart. So it’s serving as this vessel of a little bit of happiness, a little bit of escape, and creating connections with people that are however many thousands of miles away or a connection with yourself that you lost when you were a kid.”