At the Rink: Vegas Golden Knights Offer Fortress at Home, Debut Studio for 2020-21 NHL Season
New studio handles away broadcasts for AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain
The National Hockey League was the last of the four major U.S. sports leagues to host a non-bubble regular season. As fans gradually make their return to the seats, how is that affecting in-venue productions and digital content? Similar to At the Ballpark, On the Gridiron, and On the Hardwood, At the Rink looks at the operations of NHL organizations to see how they are coping with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and adapting to a sense of normalcy.
Home to one of the best pregame routines in the NHL, T-Mobile Arena welcomed fans of the Vegas Golden Knights back to “The Fortress” on Monday, March 1. For fans unable to grab tickets, there’s a second-screen experience and digital content produced from a brand-new studio at the team’s practice facility.
“Our digital team has continued to produce great content to keep our fans engaged,” says Andrew Abrams, executive producer, production, Vegas Golden Knights. “It has been really cool to see how our show has grown and expanded.”
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Second-Screen Entertainment: Fortress at Home for Home Games, Fan Interaction
During last summer’s NHL bubble in Edmonton, AB, the franchise was tasked with developing a production that would allow fans to interact with each other. Prior to the team’s run to the 2020 Conference Finals, the production team debuted Fortress at Home, a second-screen experience taking place on its social-media platforms, during an exhibition matchup against the Arizona Coyotes on July 30. At the beginning of this season, with fans not permitted inside T-Mobile Arena, the organization decided to continue the initiative with the home opener against the Anaheim Ducks on Jan. 14.
“We have a host that interacts with fans, and we basically present every part of the show except the linear broadcast,” says Abrams. “It’s meant to be a companion to the live game, so we have our intro video and starting lineups, and, during TV timeouts and intermissions, we activate our other set of content.”
Without fans in the stands, fulfilling sponsorship obligations is a tough task. Now with 15% capacity, the Golden Knights are still producing this second-screen show to get maximum exposure for their partners and for fans that want extra flair while at home.
“[The live stream] has all of our in-game inventory that is shown on our ribbon boards,” Abrams adds. “We’ve been continuing Fortress at Home even with fans in the building.”
A Place of Their Own: New Studio Handles Digital Content, Away Broadcasts for RSN
In their fourth season, the Vegas Golden Knights have opened the doors for a brand-new hub for content, where, in conjunction with AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, linear coverage of games and digital shows is produced. On the digital front, the studio has been deployed for a handful of live streams during the bubble and this regular season, including coverage of summer Training Camp and a preview of the 2020-21 campaign on The Cool Down presented by NV Energy.
Prior to its construction and even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Golden Knights were in a peculiar situation for away broadcasts. Both home and away games are presented on AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, but, for away games, on-air talent were flown to Colorado to appear live on the team’s pre/postgame and intermission shows. With the inability to travel and extra space in City National Arena, the organization’s practice facility and headquarters, the production team moved forward with construction of a brand-new studio, opening it in February 2020.
“During home games, [our broadcasters] are in T-Mobile Arena, but, because they can’t travel, they’re now calling away games from City National Arena,” says Abrams. “It has been super fun and exciting that our fans have been able to see it.”
Back in The Fortress: Organization Moves Forward With Customary In-Venue Show
Similar to the elements being shown on Fortress at Home, fans in the venue are treated to the theatrics that come with a professional hockey game in Las Vegas. Before the return of fans, Abrams and company were encouraged by President, Hockey Operations, George McPhee to implement a full show. The plan included customary gestures like the lowering of the large helmet that the players skate through, performances by the Drumbots, and more.
“We worked with the league on synthetic crowd noise because we wanted the players to feel like it was a home game, no matter what,” says Abrams. “We have all of our cast of characters; we’re playing music during timeouts. Prior to the fans’ coming back to T-Mobile Arena, it felt like you wouldn’t have known that there weren’t any fans here.”
The Ones Who Get It Done: Notable Names of Golden Knights’ Production Team
Playing games right off the Las Vegas Strip calls for pageantry and enthusiasm. Since the Golden Knights’ founding in 2017, the team has lived up to expectations for playing puck in the Entertainment Capital of the World. A stellar crew — including Coordinator, Entertainment Production, Tyler Ferraro; Manager, Production, Jeff Chaves; Senior Producer Patrick Ruhlig; Producer Katie Schmeichel; Manager, Live Video Production, Jenna Veard; Junior Motion Graphics Artist Jalen Jones; and Show Caller Tyler Cofer — aims to boost the energy in the rink as the team on the ice pushes toward a second Stanley Cup Final appearance in four years.
“From in-arena to video production to technical, we have an overall great team,” says Abrams. “A lot of my colleagues have been here since Day 1 and have helped build this thing. I’m really happy that I’m able to work with an impressive group of people.”
Before heading west for a two-game stint in Los Angeles, the Vegas Golden Knights will welcome the San Jose Sharks to T-Mobile Arena today at 10 p.m. ET.