2014-15 NHL Season Preview: MSG Network Juggles Busy Production, Programming Slate for Its Four NHL Teams
The New York Metro area is a hockey hotbed, and MSG Network reigns supreme. But keeping multiple balls (pucks?) in the air can be a challenge for crews behind the scenes of the Madison Square Garden Co.-owned collection of regional sports networks.
With MSG production and operations working the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, and New Jersey Devils and transmitting the Buffalo Sabres to northern New York State, there’s hardly any night from October to April that doesn’t offer at least one NHL contest.
There are interesting MSG Network storylines this fall, particularly the introduction of a new studio for Rangers coverage following a trip to the Stanley Cup Final, special events and programming celebrating the Islanders’ 43rd and final year at Nassau Coliseum, and the dawn of a post-Martin Brodeur Devils era across the Hudson in Newark, NJ.
But, technologically, how does each of the broadcasts develop a unique personality?
“A lot of it comes down to the particulars of each building,” explains Jeff Filippi, SVP/executive producer, MSG Network. “We have obviously transformed [Madison Square Garden], so that has a whole different feel to it now with the different game-camera positions. ‘The Rock’ [Prudential Center in Newark] had game-camera positions built to be perfect from the beginning of the building. And the [Nassau] Coliseum is this great old barn. It’s a loud building; there’s not a bad seat in the house. It has its quirky elements. So all of these arenas give you a different feel on television, and a lot of it is just the intrinsic nature of the building itself.”
Game Creek trucks cover all Rangers, Islanders, and Devils home games, and the average telecast features 10-12 cameras. A specialty super-slo-mo is shared by the teams based on the schedule and is used as a reverse-angle camera at the Garden and the Rock. It’s used at a normal angle at the Coliseum because that building has no camera position for reverse angle.
For Rangers telecasts, a three-year remodel of the Garden completed last year brought significant changes to the local TV product. According to Filippi, his crew is just about comfortable in the new digs.
“I think we’ve learned that we can do more,” he says. “We’ve really now had only one year, not even 40 regular-season telecasts, with the Garden completely transformed. The Chase Bridge is such a great element, and it’s become where we host our pregame shows. The Chase Square Lobby, which we used when the team made the [Stanley Cup] Finals, turned out to work better than we even hoped. I’d like for us to use that a lot more this year for both the Rangers and the Knicks. That entry way is so nice now, and it looks great on television.”
A new studio set is at the center of Rangers and Knicks coverage and will also host the network’s weekly hockey program Hockey Night Live on Saturday nights throughout the season.
For the Devils, during the middle of last season, MSG made some changes in location of the shoulder-programming studio located in the Goal Bar at Prudential Center. Filippi believes that the new position makes it feel more like a full-fledged studio set and less like the generic host position it had been in previous years.
In front of the camera, there are some notable changes. For the Rangers, Brian Leetch is back after a year spent working for the league. He will join Dave Maloney and Ron Duguay in the studio along with Anson Carter, who will have an increased role behind the studio desk. The Devils replace legendary game analyst Glenn “Chico” Resch with longtime studio analyst Ken Daneyko. John MacLean takes Daneyko’s place at the studio desk. The Islanders have a new studio host in Shannon Hogan, who previously covered the Red Wings for Fox Sports Detroit.
The MSG Network hockey slate opens Thursday when the Devils drop puck in Philadelphia against the Flyers at 7 p.m. ET on MSG Plus and the Sabres host the Columbus Blue Jackets at 7 p.m. on MSG Buffalo. The Rangers follow later in St. Louis, battling the Blues at 8 p.m. on MSG. The Islanders, meanwhile, open on Friday night in Carolina at 7 p.m. on MSG Plus.