EAU CLAIRE — Mogey McDonough and John “JC” Christophersen met on the hockey rink ice in 1990. A rivalry turned into a friendship. And now, over 30 years later, a friendship has become a partnership as the two co-host their very own hockey podcast, “The Breakout Sessions.”
McDonough, a retired educator, said it was his wife who had the idea for him to start a hockey podcast. McDonough recruited Chirstophersen, a retired law enforcement officer, and the pair released their first episode on June 24. Their 21st episode was released on Thanksgiving Day.
The pair said they aim to feature individuals from Wisconsin, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Minnesota who are involved in hockey in some capacity. This includes players, coaches, scouts, equipment managers and more.
“We have met individuals that we never dreamed we’d have the opportunity to meet,” Chirstophersen said. “We have met guys who have won Stanley Cups. We have met an Olympic gold medalist. We have met professional hockey coaches, professional scouts. Even though we’ve got this dynamic of two guys from small-town Eau Claire, Wisconsin, our reach has been phenomenal.”
McDonough and Chirstophersen make it their mission to cater to men, women and children of all ages. “The Breakout Sessions” is a PG show, and each episode features a main guest and a “special guest.” Special guests are local youth and high school hockey players who are invited onto the show to discuss their experiences with the sport.
“As a result, we have had one dad that has come forward to us and said that his 11-year-old son has listened to all of our episodes,” Chirstophersen explained. “So, we’re getting a dynamic of different age groups.”
Other guest speakers include Eau Claire Native and former National Hockey League player Jake Dowell, assistant captain to the first U.S. Olympic women’s hockey team to win a gold medal, Karyn Bye, and Jon French.
French is a former collegiate hockey player who was featured on the show’s Veterans Day episode.
After graduating from college, French joined the military. While serving in Afghanistan, he took a rocket-propelled grenade to the chest. French told McDonough and Christopherson the story of how a woman he played junior hockey with ended up being the orthopedic surgeon who treated him. For French, his love of the sport had come full circle.
Ultimately, McDonough and Christophersen said, their main goal for “The Breakout Sessions” is to promote hockey, and to remind people that you don’t have to be a professional athlete to stay involved with the sport.
“There are so many different avenues for a kid to explore if they want to continue their career,” Christophersen said. “We also want to teach players that not everybody can make it to the big leagues, but that doesn’t mean that there’s not something else they can’t do in the sport.”
“What we try to do is reach out to coaches and those who didn’t make it, and talk about what it takes,” McDonough added. “Not everybody takes the exact same path to get to where they want to go.”
For the show’s younger listeners, McDonough and Christophersen also try to put an emphasis on education, character building and community involvement — life beyond hockey.
Today, “The Breakout Sessions” has listeners in 36 states and 12 countries. McDonough and Chirstophersen said they don’t have any long-term plans for the future. They just want to continue hosting the show as long as it remains fun.
“At first we thought it was just going to be two guys behind a microphone talking to people about hockey, but it’s grown,” Mcdonough said. “It was way bigger than that. We were pretty naive going into this, and it’s developing.”
Episodes of “The Breakout Sessions” can be found on Spotify, Amazon, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and under the “Playoff Schedule” tab on the show’s website, thebreakoutsessions.com.