NBC Sports’ NHL Stadium Series Coverage Travels Coast to Coast
Since its inception in 2008, NBC Sports Group’s Winter Classic games have had one thing in common: winter. This year’s Winter Classic, played on New Year’s Day at the University of Michigan, was no different: Two Original Six teams plus freezing temperatures and picturesque snow led to record ratings for the Peacock.
NBC Sports’ chosen locales continually play their part in transforming outdoor hockey into a visually stunning spectacle. Instead of cold weather and snowfall, however, its next location promises palm trees and a beach-volleyball court.
Welcome to Los Angeles.
Last year, the NHL announced plans to expand this year’s slate of outdoor games to six played in five iconic venues. In addition to the Winter Classic, NBC Sports Group will broadcast four outdoor games in Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago, as part of its NHL Stadium Series (the sixth game, at BC Place in Vancouver, will be broadcast by CBC).
Not known for wintry weather, Dodger Stadium, the venue for Saturday’s contest between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, seemed out of place for a game that has called Buffalo and Pittsburgh home. However, NHL Live analyst Jeremy Roenick, who spent a season with the Kings, warned against selling the region short.
“One thing that people don’t really appreciate about the L.A. area is, they have ridiculously loyal fans,” he explains. “When they’re teamed together with Anaheim fans, they do not appreciate each other, they don’t like each other, and it’s that battle of the 100-mile radius of Southern California. I really think that it’s going to be a really cool venue having all these fans in one building in such a unique game.”
Coverage of Ducks-Kings begins at 6:30 p.m. local time (9:30 p.m. ET) on NBC Sports Network, with the temperature expected to dip into the 50s. Dave Strader (play-by-play), Brian Engblom (analyst), and Roenick will have the call from Vin Scully’s broadcast booth in Dodger Stadium.
“I’m excited for the creativity and how they’re going to make it seem different, have the California flair to it,” says Executive Producer Sam Flood. “I think they’ve got it well plotted, and the coverage plan will showcase that, with aerial views and everything that makes that ballpark and that area of the country so special.”
Rather than add new production enhancements to the telecast, Flood plans to rely on the venue to tell the story. “The production enhancement is being at a baseball stadium in the elements with an open sky and an airplane overhead to show you the cool angles,” he says. “One of my favorite things to do in an outdoor game is show a replay from an airplane. Can’t do that indoors.”
On Sunday, the NHL Stadium Series continues in New York City, with the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils facing off at another iconic venue: Yankee Stadium. NBC’s coverage of Devils-Rangers begins at 12:30 p.m. ET. Play-by-play commentator Mike “Doc” Emrick and analysts Eddie Olczyk and Pierre McGuire will have the call from behind home plate. Roenick, who plans to fly to New York following Saturday night’s game in Los Angeles, will be on-site to provide pre- and post-game analysis, as well as commentary during intermissions.
“What’s neat about Yankee Stadium is, the modern ballpark gives you all the connectivity to make it a lot easier to produce television,” Flood says. “This place was built once television was created. So it makes it a better place to work with; as great as Fenway Park is, it’s still a little more challenging to find camera plots and move things around. This is fully connected, and we’ve got some great plans for it. It should be quite a spectacle.”
Following more than 35 hours of NHL coverage over Saturday and Sunday, NBC will continue its NHL Stadium Series coverage on Wednesday with the New York Rangers and Islanders at Yankee Stadium.
And with the Northeast bracing for yet another snowstorm as the New York metropolitan area prepares to host the Super Bowl, conditions are in line with what outdoor hockey fans have come to expect.
“I think it’s a perfect setup for the week,” says Flood. “What a way to start Super Bowl Week, with the NHL playing on the stage in New York City. It’s a lot of fun.