NHL Previews Its Broadcast Setup for Return to Play

(Image credit: NHL)

NEW YORK—The NHL’s return is just a week away, and the picture is becoming clearer of what hockey will look like in this unusual period, specifically for TV audiences.

In a conference call on July 23, the NHL provided details of what the two hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto would be like for players, personnel and for the broadcast production of games. Rather than try to recreate a normal hockey broadcast experience with faux fans—like what Fox is planning for its MLB broadcasts—the NHL is instead opting for an entire new presentation for TV audiences.

“Rather than taking advantage of virtual fans or cardboard cutouts or putting teddy bears in the stands, we’ve decided that we’re going to do something that really caters to the fans at home, the fans that are enjoying the television experience,” said Steve Mayer, NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer. “We want to educate them. We want to entertain them. We want to visually excite them.”

First and foremost, this will include an increase in the number of cameras being used by broadcasters (NBC in Toronto and SportsNet in Edmonton). There will now be 32 cameras following game action, an increase of 12 from normal productions, per Mayer.

In addition, the league plans to use video, audio and lighting that will create different looks for each game. There will be LED screens, monitors and stages around the ice for what is described as a “unique television-friendly look.”

The 24 participating teams have also contributed to the effort by providing goal songs, goal horns, in-arena music compilations and motivational videos. The NHL also plans to feature specially produced videos from fans that will replicate chants that are often heard in teams’ home arenas.

EA Sports, who creates the annual NHL video game, is also partnering with the league for use of its library of in-game sounds to mimic crowd noise.

These new features will debut when the puck drops on the first official games of the NHL Qualifying Round on Aug. 1.