Rangers Renovated: How MSG Network – and Its Viewers – Benefit From the Garden’s Latest Remodeling

It has been a banner year for hockey on MSG Network.

The announcers' view from MSG Network's new perch at the renovated Madison Square Garden.

The announcers’ view from MSG Network’s new perch at the renovated Madison Square Garden

The network’s New York Rangers telecasts averaged a 1.65 household rating this season, making 2013 the highest-rated Rangers season on MSG Network since the 1994-95 NHL campaign.

And it has all taken place during a world of changes at the “World’s Most Famous Arena.”

Madison Square Garden has completed two phases of a three-year, $1 billion renovation project that will wrap up before this fall. Some of the biggest changes from last summer have had a profound affect on MSG Network’s broadcasts of New York Rangers home games.

Most notably, the network’s announce booth and primary game-camera positions were moved down and forward, giving viewers a new, more intimate view of the Garden.

“It’s really transformed the way the games have looked this year,” says Jeff Filippi, SVP/executive producer at MSG Networks. “It feels like a new arena, the lighting is spectacular, and everything about the presentation is much more dynamic. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”

First, let’s compare broadcasts from last season and this season:

2012: Rangers’ first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series vs. Ottawa

2013: Regular-season broadcast on April 1 vs. Winnepeg

Prior to Phase II of the renovation plan, the broadcast booth and the primary camera positions were as high up and as far back from center ice as possible. Last summer, the Garden’s entire Upper Bowl was gutted and replaced with new seating with improved sight lines. The old Upper Bowl was both flatter and farther back. The new Upper Bowl is on a steeper slope and is 7 to 10 ft. — or approximately three rows — closer to the ice.

Renovations at Madison Square Garden have given MSG Network a new perch for its main game cameras and announcers.

Renovations at Madison Square Garden have given MSG Network a new position for its main game cameras and announcers.

During the rebuild of the Upper Bowl, the broadcast fiber infrastructure was designed to bring the broadcasters and game cameras down from their high perches in the rafters. At the main camera position, there can be anywhere from five to seven cameras on a Rangers game night — MSG Network’s, the visiting broadcaster’s, and the in-venue production’s cameras among them.

“The game camera, in hockey, is on about 75% of the time,” says Filippi. “So we’re seeing the Garden as we’ve never seen it before, and it’s given our viewers a better view of the action. You’re high enough so you can see it but close enough where you can feel it.”

Filippi acknowledges that his broadcast team took a page from the Rangers’ on-ice rival (and fellow MSG Network broadcast partner) the New Jersey Devils. When the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ, opened in 2007, one of its unique features was bringing the game camera and announce team down from the upper reaches of the arena to the lower bowl, putting the TV production among the fans just in front of “The Rock’s” sprawling bar area. The new location led to a much more intimate broadcast.

On a Rangers game night, there can be anywhere from five to seven cameras at the main camera position.

On a Rangers game night, there can be anywhere from five to seven cameras at the main camera position.

“At The Rock, the game camera there is state of the art,” says Filippi. “If you were to devise an arena — which is what they did — and say this is exactly where I would want to put a game camera, that’s it. We’re so close to that [at the Garden] now. Theirs is maybe a little bit lower, but it’s not much. [It’s] a huge leap in perspective that we got from coming down here.”

In addition to being generally closer to the action, MSG Network’s new perch also offers viewers a clearer line of sight to the near corners of the ice and gives announcers Sam Rosen and Joe Micheletti a better vantage point. A new lighting system inside the arena has also added a new level of sharpness to Rangers telecasts.

On the reverse side of the rink, there is another new camera position in an identical location, and the network’s new super-high-speed camera is located there. This option was previously unavailable to MSG Network because the camera would have been so high up that the center-hung scoreboard would have obstructed its shot.

As for what’s to come, the third and final round of renovations will begin the day after both the Rangers and Knicks seasons have ended.

Among some of the key video features will be the installation of an entirely new center-hung scoreboard — or GardenVision. The famous 7th Avenue entrance will nearly double in size when it completely redone with fiber hookups and a broadcast location for MSG Network to host shoulder programming during marquee events, such as playoff games.

MSG Network will serve as the exclusive local television home of the New York Rangers first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series, which begins next week. MSG Network’s sister station, MSG+, will also serve in the same capacity for the New York Islanders in their first-round matchup. Stanley Cup Playoff pairings and schedules will be finalized by the National Hockey League on Sunday evening.

Password must contain the following:

A lowercase letter

A capital (uppercase) letter

A number

Minimum 8 characters