DANBURY, Conn. – Danbury’s Ashley Leach believes her experience in beauty pageants helped launch her career as a hockey commentator.
Now, the trick for the rising senior at Western Connecticut State University is to juggle her education, job and pageantry contests and make them all fit into a crowded life puzzle.
“I saw the schedule for my job this fall and it’s going to be pretty hectic,’’ said Leach, who landed a job in May as a broadcaster for Gotta Love CT Hockey. “Every Saturday and Sunday I’m going to have to be at a rink. I’m going to try to make it work with the pageants. But if I had to choose, I would hang up my heels. My career is the most important thing.”
Leach first achieved notoriety as a beauty contestant. Last year, she won the title of Miss Connecticut 2012 and competed for the title of Miss United States. Strangely, given her penchant for hockey, Leach’s platform centered on anti-bullying.
“When I was a kid, I was always taller than other girls and I was bullied throughout high school,’’ she said. “As a kid, I didn’t know how to handle it. I had a friend who helped me handle it, and it’s always been something that’s been important to me. It’s important for kids to know that there is always someone who has your back. I didn’t always feel like that.”
Leach discovered something else in high school, and that was her ambition to combine her twin passions for hockey and on-camera communication.
“I knew what I wanted to do when I got to high school,’’ she said. “I wanted to be in front of the camera and do sports broadcasting. I want to do NHL player interviews. Some people want to do football. I always wanted to do hockey.”
Leach worked during high school at Danbury Ice Arena and was a media intern for the Danbury Whalers hockey team last year. She learned about the job opportunity with Gotta Love CT Hockey in late spring, and worked with a friend to develop an audition tape.
“I had never even made a reel before,’’ Leach said. “I thought I failed the phone interview. I didn’t think I was going to get it. They called me two days later and said they’d love to have me as the host. I was jumping around and doing my happy dance.”
One of Leach’s first assignments was to report on The Big Assist V in Stamford, which included several NHL players, including New Canaan native Max Pacioretty (Montreal) and Greenwich’s Cam Atkinson (Columbus). Leach knew instantly it was where she belonged.
“I just love the sport, and want to be around it the whole time,’’ Leach said. “Being in front of a camera is a great part of it.”
Leach believes the communication confidence she developed in beauty pageants carried over to her television role.
“I think it helped me realize what I need to do,’’ she said. “I think getting involved in pageants made my interview skills even better.”
The workload during the next school year, including her senior thesis, pageants and a job, figures to be daunting. But Leach embraces the challenge.
“Most of my classes are Monday and Wednesday,’’ Leach said. “I think when I’m not working, I’m going to be doing homework.”