- The National Hockey League will resume play with 22 teams on August 1.
- All games will be played in the ‘hub cities’ of Toronto and Edmonton.
- The NHL has put considerable effort in creating an exciting atmosphere for players and viewers despite not having fans in the arena.
The National Hockey League is preparing to restart play and contest the 2020 playoffs in the hub cities of Edmonton and Toronto. The league has put considerable effort into not only creating a safe and comfortable environment for teams but in the best way to present the games to a television only audience.
With only two positive COVID-19 tests out of 800 players since training camp opened on July 13 the NHL is generally pleased with how their efforts have gone so far. Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly gave much of the credit for those numbers to the players for treating the situation with an appropriate degree of seriousness:
“I can tell you that so far this week we have not had a confirmed positive. I think it’s a credit to the seriousness with which are players are taking the precautions that are necessary.”
NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman praised the hub cities of Toronto and Edmonton for their efforts combating the coronavirus pandemic:
“One of the most unique and challenging endeavours any of us have ever been involved with. It’s not a coincidence that the hub cities are Toronto and Edmonton because of our focus on health and safety, and where COVID-19 is and isn’t.”
TV FOCUSED GAME PRESENTATION PREVIEWED
A challenge that all sports have faced as the restart competition without fans is the presentation of the game. Not only do fans add a lot of ‘ambiance’ to sporting events their absence is doubly apparent due to the television visual of rows upon rows of empty seats. The NHL has made an effort to deal with this challenge while tailoring the presentation of the game for a TV exclusive audience. NHL executive VP and chief content officer Steve Mayer has led much of this effort and he gave his thoughts on the task at hand:
“From what we do on Aug. 1 all the way on until we hand out the Cup, we’re going to evolve, we’re going to change. But we hope that we do something that is memorable, sticks out, something that our fans will really enjoy.”
Meyer continued to explain the NHL’s overall philosophy of how the game will be presented:
“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. We want to educate them. We want to entertain them. We want to visually excite them.”
NHL.com outlined some of the ways that the league will package the game for television only consumption:
The League is using video, audio and lighting that will allow every game to look different from the previous game. There will be LED screens, monitors and stages around the ice to create the unique television-friendly look.
Mayer said the NHL has gotten goal songs, goal horns, in-arena music compilations and motivational videos from each of the 24 teams participating. The League also received specially produced videos from fans that will replicate some of the chants that go on in teams’ home arenas.
In addition, Mayer said broadcast partners NBC in Toronto and Sportsnet in Edmonton will use 32 cameras per game, 12 more than normal, that will be repositioned in each building to bring the television audience visuals they haven’t seen before.
The League has partnered with EA Sports to use its library of in-game sounds to mimic some crowd noise.
The NHL released an extensive video about the various aspects of the restart. The information about the game presentation starts right around the 24:00 mark:
Credit to the NHL for realizing the importance of game presentation to a TV only audience. Many sports seem to be ‘making it up as they go along’ but the NHL has made this a priority.