AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh Preps for Rematch of USA-Canada Women’s Hockey Olympics Gold-Medal Game
RSN is banking on excitement continuing for Canada-USA rematch
After the Canada-USA women’s hockey gold-medal game drew massive viewership at last month’s Beijing Winter Olympics, the two rivals are back at it this weekend in Pittsburgh in an exhibition game presented by the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association (PWHPA). And AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh, which is producing the live broadcast of the game at PPG Paints Arena, is pulling out all the stops for this historic rematch.
“Our entire team is unbelievably excited to broadcast this game,” says Doug Johnson, VP/executive producer, AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh. “The quick turnaround was a challenge at first, but, once the dust settled, it made you realize that events like this are why we got into the business. What the PWHPA is trying to do for women’s hockey is incredible, and we’re happy to help them get that message out there.”
According to NBC, last month’s Canada-USA women’s hockey gold-medal game on NBC averaged a TAD (Total Audience Delivery) of 3.54 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched hockey telecast in the U.S. in 2½ years (behind the clinching Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final). AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh is broadcasting the game, providing feeds to NHL Network in the U.S. and Sportsnet and TVA in Canada, and is banking on that interest continuing.
The RSN is handling the entire production, which will feature all the cameras and equipment typically used for a Penguins production plus a few added game-coverage cameras and POVs to accentuate the coverage. Mobile TV Group 42HDX, the normal Penguins broadcast truck, is onsite for the production.
“It actually worked out quite well with us having a Pens home game the night before and the day after, so the truck and equipment will already be set up,” says Johnson. “Our operations team led by [AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh Operations Manager] Gina Weiss did an amazing job securing the facilities and full crew on very short notice.”
The production team will control 13 game-coverage cameras, including four super-slo-mos and two robos. The production team will also be taking in nine feeds: two dasher cams, scoreboard robo, and POVs from back hallways, both benches, and penalty boxes.
The AT&T Sportsnet Pittsburgh Creative Services team was also tasked with quickly turning around new graphics and other broadcast elements, as well as a compelling show open for the broadcast.
Despite the short timeline, the RSN was able to assemble a topflight lineup of talent for the game, with commentators totaling three gold and three silver medals. AJ Mleczko will serve as the analyst between the benches. Analyst Cheryl Pounder will be in the booth, accompanied by Penguins play-by-play caller Steve Mears. Pens reporter Michelle Crechiolo will handle sideline duties. In addition, Brianne McLaughlin will join Colby Armstrong and Robby Incmikoski on the intermission desk.
“We finalized the plan to do the game and, within five days, had our lineup in place,” says Johnson. “I think it’s absolutely crucial to have female voices dominate a broadcast like this. A lot of these women not only were groundbreaking athletes but have become accomplished voices for hockey across the country, which includes national and regional broadcasts.”
He adds that, in a game like this, his team will be looking to push the envelope on access to better inform the viewers. The plan is to have Mleczko interview a player on the ice each period and also interview a coach from either team live while the game is being played. Johnson also plans to record both coaches’ speeches before the game and also to have access to locker rooms in the intermissions.
“It seems like, since COVID, we have gotten far more used to putting together shows with little notice,” he explains. “We were fortunate that this matchup was perfectly placed between two Penguins games, which made the facilities side a bit easier on our operations team and crew. The hardest part was assembling the talent lineup on such short notice, hoping it worked out for everyone’s schedule, but we’re very happy with how it turned out and excited for the game.”