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At the Rink: Washington Capitals Approach Regular Season With Virtual Gameday Digital Experience, Traditional In-Venue Flair


At the Rink: Washington Capitals Approach Regular Season With Virtual Gameday Digital Experience, Traditional In-Venue Flair Fans are returning on April 27 vs. the New York Islanders By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - 11:47 am

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The National Hockey League was the last of the four major American sports to host a non-bubble regular season. As fans gradually make their return to the seats, how is that affecting in-venue productions and digital content? Similar to At the Ballpark, On the Gridiron, and On the Hardwood, At the Rink will look at the operations of NHL organizations to see how their coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and adapting back to a sense of normalcy.

The talisman of the Washington Capitals, Alexander Ovechkin, is continuing to rewrite the history books with each passing game. Throughout his NHL career in the nation's capital, the franchise's in-venue production team has been their every step of the way to convey the importance of these accomplishments to fans in attendance. This year, while they're away from the stands, the crew is tapping into new forms of entertainment outside of Capital One Arena and traditions inside of the building to capture the play of The Great Eight and the entire team.

I'm extremely proud of our game presentation team and what they've been able to accomplish, says Cassidy Lien, VP, game presentation, Washington Capitals. It's sometimes hard to stay motivated, but they've been able to maintain that motivation and determination throughout the entire regular season.


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Preseason Planning: Team Devises a Strategy Before the Start of the Regular Season A look inside the Capitals control room.

As Vice President of Game Presentation for Monumental Sports, the entity that oversees the Capitals and the NBA's Washington Wizards, Lien had his hands full at the beginning of 2021. Due to the persistence of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization made the decision to play the new season behind closed doors at Capital One Arena. Prior to the team's first contest on Friday, January 22 vs. the Buffalo Sabres, Lien and his team brainstormed a production plan for a season unlike any other.

I don't think any of us knew exactly what we were doing, what was going to happen, or how it was going to work, he says. No one's been through this before, so we got together with the league and shared all of our resources and ideas. As we were planning and getting everyone together, we all said, Well, why don't we just produce the show in the arena as if fans were there?'

Throughout franchise history, the Capitals have been known to have one of the loudest and most passionate fanbases in the National Hockey League. Despite the emptiness that was to accompany the team's home opener, the production crew still wanted to harness the fans' love for the team and energy that they bring every night. After contemplation and thought, the club concluded that they would continue their normal show to supply an intriguing canvas for the television broadcast on NBC Sports Washington.

We're dressing up our LED boards and some of the tarps [near the ice] to make the arena look less empty on television and get the logos of our sponsors seen [by fans at home], continues Lien. We're also showing our opening video sequence and on-ice 3D projection.

Boots on the Ground: Control Room Staff Handles Productions in an Empty Venue With a thorough plan in place, the individuals running the show inside of the venue are diving headfirst with a clear goal in mind. Manager, Game Presentation Alexa Tanzi has taken charge of some of the most important production elements this season, but from her point of view, it's been a unique challenge to overcome the abnormal silence that fills the building prior to puck drop.

It's one of the strangest feelings I've ever encountered in my life, she says. It's almost a culture shock when you walk in and see something completely different.

On the production side, they're combating the silence with different in-venue elements including fabricated crowd noise, but when it comes to the typical fan interactions, those have been unfortunately altered.

It's been a shift in my planning procedures, she adds. In my normal rundown of scripting out a game, I would usually play something towards the crowd and integrate something as small as a t-shirt toss or as large as our pre-show open sequence to connect the fans. Now, I'm doing that for people who are watching on television or on their laptops at home.

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