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2024 NHL Stadium Series: ESPN's Front Bench Paints Compelling Picture of Outdoor Hockey in the Garden State

19/02/2024

2024 NHL Stadium Series: ESPN's Front Bench Paints Compelling Picture of Outdoor Hockey in the Garden State Best Seat in the House concept, fan activities around the venue played a key factor By Kristian Hern ndez, Senior Editor

Monday, February 19, 2024 - 9:05 am

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A short drive on the New Jersey Turnpike away from New York City, MetLife Stadium turned into a prominent NHL venue this past weekend with the two-day NHL Stadium Series. Aside from capturing two regular-season matchups featuring four Metropolitan Division rivals on the ice, ESPN's production team was tasked with highlighting the activity and fanfare surrounding the rink constructed at the home of the NFL's New York Giants and New York Jets.

A camera with a fish-eye lens captured the vastness of MetLife Stadium.

We focused on how to create energy [in the broadcast] and show the energy that took place [at the venue] to our fans who watched at home, says Linda Schulz, coordinating producer, ESPN. We went with the approach of really embracing the fact that we were in New Jersey and at an NFL stadium.

A Larger Broadcast Canvas: NFL Venue Brings Football-Style Tailgating, Grandiose Entertainment Despite the pregame festivities at NHL arenas being quite impressive, it doesn't match to the vibes that go into a traditional NFL tailgate. With massive parking lots that surround MetLife Stadium and the passion that these four respective fanbases - the New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and Philadelphia Flyers - carry with them, the tailgating experience for the contest on Saturday afternoon and Sunday morning didn't disappoint. From the perspective of the NHL on ESPN, they aren't as used to capturing this party-like atmosphere at a sports venue with a bigger footprint. For example, two of the four teams - the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils - play at arenas in heavily populated areas - Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan and Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. For this weekend, they were prepared to traverse the crowds that gathered before puck drop via a TVU-powered camera.

SkateCam was on the ice with Kevin Weekes during a studio segment on Saturday afternoon.

Then, there was the weather that was appropriate for the locale. Northern New Jersey in February can present a bit of a challenge for a normally indoor sport being played in the elements. Temperatures dipped for the nightcap between the Flyers and Devils on Saturday evening, but earlier in the day, the city of East Rutherford, NJ anticipated two to three inches of snow on Friday night. The total hit in the middle at 2.6 inches, and while it didn't have a major effect on the production of both games, the weather could have thrown their plans off kilter if the snow fell later in the day.

Levy, Messier, and Subban interviewed the Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid before their game against the Dallas Stars.

Last year in Raleigh, NC gave us a chance to learn the aspect about playing this game outdoors, says Schulz. In addition, when you look at sporting venues, they're all not created equal. [Carter-Finley Stadium] was small to others but huge to us, and while the weather was a lot more comfortable, being in the massive structure that is MetLife Stadium was pretty cool.

The larger nature of the building allowed the introduction of more technological firepower at the front bench's disposal. Along with Schulz, the trio of director Doug Holmes, producer Jeff Dufine, and technical director Craig Short intertwined the use of a four-point aerial Skycam and a camera with a fish-eye lens mounted at the top of the venue to show the full breadth of the stadium and its sold-out crowds. This was paired with the typical bells and whistles seen at other tentpole NHL events and standard regular-season games, including an on-ice SkateCam and a package of virtual graphics. This technology was also used to highlight the multiple points of in-venue entertainment happening around the playing surface. This included the presentation of The Jonas Brothers' pregame and second intermission concerts on Saturday and AJR's performance on Sunday, the NHL Street activation that had kids playing pick-up street hockey on rinks decorated by local artists, and more.

A four-point Skycam flew over the ice and the fans on both Saturday and Sunday.

Setting the Scene: Best Seat in the House, NJ-Centric Talent Headline New Creative Ideas Although new technologies gave way to enhanced viewing angles for the viewing audience, Schulz and her production colleagues worked on creative pieces and concepts for the two-day affair. For the live games, the team wanted to create an opportunity to bring certain individuals closer to the action in the stadium. Tapping the interview skills of reporters Emily Kaplan and Kevin Weekes, the duo interviewed a handful of NFL players like the Giants' running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Tommy DeVito, local legends like drummer Max Weinberg of the E Street Band, and NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. After the conclusion of the interviews, a POV camera showed the select guests in a two box in hopes of a reaction to a goal or major play.

Best Seat in the House placed guests right up against the glass.

As for content that brought the broadcasts back from commercial breaks, the team tapped into celebrities that are associated with New Jersey. A staple at Madison Square Garden for New York Rangers games and a character on the 21-time Emmy Award-winning show, The Sopranos, the appropriate choice was actor Steve Schirripa to voice videos about the state. For the games' opening teaser, the network leveraged the personality of DeVito as well as cameos of Messier and Bettman.

Additionally, to show how important these two games were to
LINK: https://www.sportsvideo.org/2024/02/19/2024-nhl-stadium-series-espns-f...
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