After Hot Start, NBC Sports Group Looks To Maintain NHL Stanley Cup Finals Momentum

The focus is on the two arenas: Las Vegas’s T-Mobile, Washington’s Capital One

Starting fast with a record-setting Game 1 Golden Knights victory that saw the most lead changes ever in a Stanley Cup Final game, NBC Sports Group is primed for an exhilarating series featuring the best Cinderella story in recent sports memory. The Golden Knights’ journey from expansion team to Stanley Cup finalist in a single season will take center stage in NBC’s coverage, which will put a spotlight on two of the most raucous venues in hockey today: Las Vegas’s T-Mobile Arena and the Washington Capitals’ Capital One Arena.

NBC has deployed two studio presences at T-Mobile Arena, including this set inside the arena manned by (from left) anchor Liam McHugh and analysts Mike Milbury and Keith Jones.

“For the Final, we are looking at playing and showcasing the two venues,” notes Sam Flood, executive producer/president, production, NBC and NBCSN. “We are going to make sure we are letting you breathe in these buildings and giving you time to see this, see and feel what the fans inside the arena are feeling. We think it’s a really important part of the game of hockey [and] the whole presentation. And the more we can make it feel like you are there, that you are in the building, I think, it is better for the growth of the game of hockey.”

Studio Coverage Gets a Boost in Both Cities
Much of the focus in the two cities will be on the pregame festivities, which will feature the national anthem prior to every game (as has become customary in NBC’s Stanley Cup Final coverage) and onsite sets at both arenas.

“What you have in Vegas is one of the coolest yet quirkiest pregame shows you’ll ever see, with a knight skating on the ice and, at one point, a jet fighter plane [cut] in half. That doesn’t happen anywhere else but Vegas,” says Flood. “And people know they have to get to us early. We started a few years ago making sure we are there for every anthem during the Stanley Cup Final. Now we think it’s more than that.”

In Las Vegas, NBC has deployed both an indoor and an outdoor studio set for pre/post/intermission coverage. Inside T-Mobile Arena, studio segments are being broadcast from atop a platform constructed inside Suite 46. Meanwhile, the outdoor studio is located on Toshiba Plaza with T-Mobile Arena in the background.

In Washington, the indoor studio will be in the Capital One Suite, the outdoor studio on F Street.

“NBC Sports’ operations have grown since last year,” says Senior Director, Operations, James Stuart. “The most notable change is [the deployment of] two A units for our production. Our pre- and post-game shows will now have their own A unit as will the game.”

NEP’s ND6 is serving as the game truck in Vegas, with NCP11 handling studio coverage. In D.C., NEP’s ND5 will be the game truck, and NCP8 (A and B) will be home to studio coverage.

In addition, NBC Sports Group’s broadcast center in Stamford, CT, serves as the home base for all editing operations.

“We have a 600-Mb circuit from each venue to Stamford to file-transfer all media,” says Stuart. “This was a huge help for Media Day on Sunday in Las Vegas, due to short turnaround time to get the content out.”

On-Ice Coverage: 50-Plus Cameras on Hand
NBC’s 52-camera complement is headlined by the addition of a Sony HDC-4800 8X slo-mo camera, as well as five Sony HDC-4300 cameras and two Grass Valley SSM robos. NBC has also brought back the RF MoVI gimbal system that it deployed at this season’s NHL All-Star Game in Tampa, FL.

Flood also adds that he believes NBC’s talent both in the replay room and in front of the camera — led by six-consecutive-Sports Emmy-winner Doc Emerick — is better than ever.

“I think we are doing a better job putting together our replay packages, and I think we are smarter in that category than we ever have been before,” he explains. “The stuff we are most proud of is the way our talent captures the mood of the moments of the game. The way Doc makes anything sound bigger and better and enhances the moment instead of trying to get in the way of the moment. It’s something special that he does. It doesn’t happen in many other sports, so that’s what we are most proud of.”

From an operations standpoint, NBC’s biggest venue challenge in Vegas was due to a P!NK concert that took place at T-Mobile Arena on Saturday, May 26 — just two days prior to the puck drop on Game 1.

Flood notes, “We had no access to the arena and utilized the Thomas & Mack Center to park our two A units to start the interconnect process and get as much truck setup work completed as possible before driving over to T-Mobile Arena on Sunday morning at 6 a.m.to park and power.”

A Successful Playoff Run in the Ratings Game and in the Truck Compound
With Game 1 in the books, NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoffs coverage is riding a 21-year high. Coverage across all NBC platforms has earned a Total Audience Delivery of 1.263 million viewers (79 games), the best performance through the same point in the playoffs since 1997 on ESPN, ESPN2, and Fox (1.335 million viewers). Compared with 2017, the Total Audience Delivery is up 8% (to 1.175 million). In addition, the Knights’ 6-4 win on Monday marked the most-watched Game 1 in three years, with viewership up 7% over last year.

“We are fired up,” says Flood. “It’s great to see that people are consuming hockey at record levels this year. I think it’s a sign of how much this sport has grown and all the great things the NHL has done to make the product better each year, and the on-ice product has never been better. And to see this happen without real power from the Original Six teams in the playoffs and no Original Sixes last week and four of them not even making the playoffs. To have these ratings without those pillar teams is remarkable, and, again, a statement about how this league has developed and how the game of hockey is being embraced in new markets like Las Vegas.”

With each passing year, NBC Sports RSNs play a larger role in the Peacock’s productions. NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Philadelphia, and NBC Sports Bay Area all produced first-round coverage for NBC Sports Group.

“Other than NBCSN providing talent, [the first-round games were] a straight RSN production,” says Stuart. “With the Capitals now in the Stanley Cup, we are synching up with NBC Sports Washington to enhance their RSN pre- and post-game shows and tapping into their familiarity with working with the city/arena on our outdoor location.”

From an operational perspective, the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs campaign has been equally successful, according to Stuart, albeit not without a few challenges.

“Overall, this year’s playoffs have run smoothly from an operational perspective,” he explains. “By far the biggest challenge was Game 3 of the Winnipeg-Minnesota series in the First Round, the day of their major spring snowstorm. The Minneapolis airport was shut down for nine hours, its longest shutdown in over 18 years. Our crew was coming from Nashville after having produced Game 2 of Colorado-Nashville. Somehow, the hockey gods were on our side: everyone made it into St. Paul, and we got the game on-air. One of our on-air talent arrived during the open and got into his position during the commercial break before puck drop.”

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