From Delaney Arena in Thunder Bay to the bright lights of TSN, Julia Tocheri is a shining example of what women can accomplish in the broadcasting world
A Thunder Bay, Ont., native, Julia Tocheri has made a splash in the sports media industry in recent years. A well-known figure at BarDown and co-host of TSN’s Leafs Lunch, Julia’s path began by playing minor hockey with Hockey Northwestern Ontario (HNO) and the Ontario Women’s Hockey Association (OWHA).
With her heart set on converting her love for the game into a career, Julia enrolled in the sports media program at Ryerson University, becoming an on-air personality with the university’s Rams Live. From there, she hosted Mississauga Steelheads games in the Ontario Hockey League before joining TSN.
Her headstrong pathway has led her to where she is today and hopes to be a leading example for young women going forward.
As part of the celebration of International Women’s Day, HNO chatted with Julia and touched on a few topics regarding women in sport.
How have you enjoyed your endeavors with TSN and Leafs Lunch?
I have enjoyed them immensely. It’s been a crazy kind of ride, being able to start with the social media team at TSN when I was in university and then become a part of the BarDown team. Being able to work in sports is the biggest blessing in the world. I grew up loving hockey and loving sports, and watching sports is one of my main pastimes. So being able to call it a job is a huge honour.
When did you realize you had a love for the game of hockey?
This goes all the way back to my Timbits days at Delaney Arena. My dad was the president of [a local minor hockey association] for a while, all of his friends had sons who were all getting registered in hockey. He just tossed the skates on me when I was three or four, signed me up for Timbits when I was six and I fell in love with it right away.
So many of my childhood memories revolve around hockey practice, revolve around going to the rink, revolve around tournament weekends, even through middle school and high school. So many of my favourite memories growing up are about hockey and playing hockey and just being a part of a team.
What has growing up playing hockey in Northwestern Ontario meant to you?
Northwestern Ontario is a big part of my identity. It’s a big part of my brand as well, and I think there’s something really special about this corner of the world. All you have to look at is how many NHL players this place outputs. It’s crazy for the amount of people that live here.
I think my lack of an ego, my willingness to work hard and my willingness to start at the bottom, which is pretty Northwestern Ontario – a ‘get your lunchbox’ kind of gritty attitude – has helped me a lot in my career. I didn’t realize how helpful it would be as I was growing up, but I’m so grateful for my roots, and growing up there and playing hockey there and just how it was ingrained in day-to-day life and every-day conversations at school. Hockey was a part of everything that we did. Combined with that hard-work attitude has set me up for success in a big way.
Do you see your success as an inspiration for young women to browse all the potential avenues the world of hockey has to offer?
I get messages from a lot of girls saying things like, “I love seeing you on BarDown, I love seeing you on TSN. You’re such an inspiration,” which is weird to me because two years ago I would look at women like Chris Simpson, like Kate Beirness, like Tessa Bonhomme, Andi Petrillo. I host Leafs Lunch now when Leafs Lunch was one of my favorite shows to watch with Andi Petrillo as the host. Those were the women that made me realize there was a place for me in hockey and to think that I could do that for girls who are watching now is really… It’s really special. I can’t overstate that, and I just hope it continues on.
There’s so much more room for not just women in front of the camera, but women working for NHL teams, women working for junior teams, behind the scenes in sports. The women you see on the camera is a very small percentage of the women that exist in sports broadcasting. Representation is the key. If you see something, you could be it.
Do you have any women role models or influencers that inspired your path?
I just mentioned a few in Kate Beirness [and] Andi Petrillo. Chris Simpson was another person I watched growing up that I thought was really good, still one of the best in the game. And women in hockey, too, [like] Hayley Wickenheiser. So many women. My mom, even. So many moms would’ve been like, ‘Sports? Really? You want to talk about sports for your job?’ But my mom’s always really believed that I could fit in anywhere and do anything that I’d like to do. Having the support of women around you is really vital in having a career like I do.
What are your words of wisdom to young women around the world?
The first thing, just in terms of on-camera success and success in any industry – being yourself is a big thing. When I really started to own who I was as a person and lean into it, as I developed a brand and a personality and kind of a broadcasting style, the more I leaned into myself, the more I leaned into Thunder Bay, the more I leaned into things I like, the more success I had. Authenticity is the biggest thing in the world when you’re making connections, when you’re on camera, no matter what you do. When I stopped trying to be somebody else is when I found my greatest success.
Another thing is to use other women as your allies. For example, my producer at Leafs Lunch is a woman, and it’s been the coolest thing because I so rarely get to work with women in this industry. I’m used to working with guys. But when women work together, it’s awesome. Stop seeing other women as competition and start seeing them as allies. It’ll make your life and your career a lot more peaceful. When you have other women to lean on who get it and who have your back, it makes everything so much easier, whether it’s sports or any male-dominated industry. To be on one another’s side is the biggest piece of advice I can hand out.