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At the Rink: Los Angeles Kings' Wanton Davis Adjusts to His First NHL Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic

16/04/2021

At the Rink: Los Angeles Kings' Wanton Davis Adjusts to His First NHL Season During the COVID-19 Pandemic His goal is to celebrate the community when fans return on April 20 By Kristian Hernandez, Associate Editor

Friday, April 16, 2021 - 9:52 am

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The National Hockey League was the last of the four major U.S. sports leagues 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 looks at the operations of NHL organizations to see how they are coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to a sense of normalcy.

Los Angeles Kings Executive Producer, live events, Wanton Davis had dipped his toe in the sports water before, having spent time with NBC Sports, but, after being named to the L.A. Kings position at the beginning of the season, he began his first foray into in-venue production. For a first-timer working amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the job can be a bit daunting, but, as a professional working in his hometown, he dove in with enthusiasm and zeal.

Starting a new job during the pandemic has been a bit weird, he says. The most challenging part is not having that face-to-face interaction that you would normally have.

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First-Year Experience: Zoom Calls Replace In-Person Introductions Los Angeles Kings' Wanton Davis is nearing completion of his first regular season in the National Hockey League.

In what has become commonplace for new employees at any company since March 2020, In-person introductions have been replaced with virtual happy hours and meet-and-greets through a computer screen. At the start of the season, conversations with his new colleagues about the execution of a videoboard show came a bit naturally: with his expertise in production and entertainment, the topics were east to grasp and understand. But developing the camaraderie that is relied on daily was a little more difficult.

A lot of those water cooler' conversations don't really occur now, so you have to schedule time to speak to people, says Davis. On the flip side, starting during a pandemic in a space that I'm still figuring out has been fun and rewarding.

If the pandemic had any sort of silver lining, it's the gift of time and experimentation. In-venue production is still new to Davis, which allows him to bring a fresh set of eyes to a concept and a different mentality to a practice that has been standard since the invention of the LED display. Sometimes, his lack of experience has been his greatest asset.

I've been able to see things that work and others that don't necessarily work, he notes. It has been exciting to play around with various elements of the show.

Historic Building: In-Venue Show To Match the Legacy of Staples Center The crew is still using lights and music to greet the players on the ice.

Opened in 1998, Staples Center has been home to 11 championship-winning teams: six NBA titles for the Los Angeles Lakers, three WNBA titles for the Los Angeles Sparks, and two Stanley Cups for the Kings. In a building filled with history, Davis is working in one of Tinseltown's most famous sports venues. All season long, he has revamped the game-day experience to reflect the city's history and honor its legacy.

I've tried to focus on and implement an L.A.-centric show, he says. I believe that we're just starting to get our feet wet.

In a major market like Los Angeles, there are many activities and sights to see. With eight other professional organizations based in the area, including two in the same arena, it's an arduous exercise to create a setting that stands out. Drawing on a career that has also included positions in the music industry, Davis is curating a program that brings out the flair of the city.

Our audience is exposed to a lot of different forms of entertainment, he points out. I want to bring all of that together and reward them for being Kings fans. Every time you step foot into the Staples Center, you're not going to forget where you are because we're looking to make it into an L.A. party.

Life of the Party: Honoring the Community at Fans' Return on April 20 Wanton Davis oversees the in-venue production from high above the ice at the legendary Staples Center.

Staples Center will open its doors to a limited crowd for the Kings' final eight home games, starting on April 20 vs. the Anaheim Ducks. After nearly a full regular season, Davis will finally get a taste of what it's like to fire up an NHL fanbase. With a little under a week left until this special game, Davis and his crew are hard at work to finalize their production plan.

After the extended period away f
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