Stanley Cup Final: New Faces on the Ice, at the Front Bench Make 2023 a Series of Firsts
Lead Producer Kevin Brown, Lead Director Paul Hemming, TD Paul Harvath make their Stanley Cup Final debuts in those roles
You never forget your first.
Never in the prestigious history of Warner Bros. Discovery Sports (formerly Turner Sports) has a major U.S. professional-sports champion been crowned on its air. That all changes when TNT becomes the exclusive home of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final, in the second year of the broadcaster’s seven-year rights deal with the NHL.
In fact, with Game 1 set for Saturday at 8 p.m. ET (pregame coverage starting at 7 p.m.), this entire Stanley Cup Final has new-ness in the air. Not only will either the Vegas Golden Knights (the second-youngest franchise in the NHL) or the Florida Panthers hoist the Cup for the first time in the franchise’s history, but the entire front bench — Lead Producer Kevin Brown, Lead Director Paul Hemming, and Technical Director Paul Harvath — is working their first Stanley Cup Final.
Brown, a veteran of NBC Sports, worked on the studio side during the NHL’s run with NBC and moved to what became WBD Sports in 2021. He has spent essentially his whole career working on the NHL in some capacity – including helping produce the NHL’s “Bubble” in Toronto in 2020 – since graduating from Quinnipiac University in 2007.
“This is a nice culmination of a couple of longtime partnerships,” he says. “My first day in the studio at OLN [which carried the NHL in 2005 before rebranding to Versus and then NBCSN], both [TNT game analyst] Keith Jones [also working on his first Stanley Cup Final] and Edzo [analyst Eddie Olczyk, entering his 16th Stanley Cup Final as lead analyst] were there. They were there for day one in my career, and now we’re here for the biggest moment. One of our EVS operators was in the studio that night at OLN, too, and now here we are working the Stanley Cup together. It’s great to get the chance to grow and have such awesome teammates around you.”
Hemming, meanwhile, directed NHL games (including Stanley Cup Playoffs) for TSN and Sportsnet in Canada before moving to the RSN side in the U.S. and directing games for the San Jose Sharks on NBC Sports California and the Carolina Hurricanes at Fox Sports Carolinas/Bally Sports South.
“For a Canadian, hockey is life, right?” says Hemming. “You put on skates just about as soon as you can walk. Growing up, I was a sports fan, I liked all sports, but hockey was nearest and dearest to my heart. Everything I did growing up was about hockey: playing ball hockey with your friends, it was always Game Seven. Pond hockey: it was Game Seven. I collected jerseys and hockey cards, went to games with my Dad. I directed my first NHL game in 1999, and, 24 years later, I feel like a kid again, with the opportunity to sit in the front bench for Stanley Cup. It’s a dream assignment for me, and I am extremely grateful to have the opportunity.”
Harvath is no stranger to TDing on the big stage, having sat at the switcher on such events as the College Football Playoff National Championship and the Rose Bowl for ESPN and the World Series and MLB All-Star Game for Fox Sports.
The trio will work alongside other industry vets: A1 Tim Dunn; Graphics Lead Nico Gomez; Lead Replay Operator Jesse Radford; Lead Video Bob Gray; a corps of camera operators in Mike Pigeon, Matt Bachman, Carl Alaimo, Ryan Scott; and Lead Tech Manager Eric Grossman.
Although the personal milestones are impossible to ignore, none of the event’s crew members are losing sight of the event’s importance to the Warner Bros. Discovery Sports brand and the longstanding legacy of the former Turner Sports. Yes, the network has a storied history of carrying dramatic NBA and MLB Playoff games, UEFA Champions League matches, and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament (carrying the Final Four and National Championship Game multiple times), but this is a special first for the company and an NHL production and operations team assembled when Turner Sports struck its deal with the NHL in 2021.
“When our group was put together two seasons ago,” reflects Hemming, “our marching orders from [EVP/Chief Content Officer] Craig Barry was to create the best NHL broadcast that anyone has ever seen. And they were not shy; they loaded us with an arsenal of production resources. I think, with the feedback that we’ve received over the past two seasons, it has been mission accomplished. We couldn’t be more excited. Everybody on our crew is a diehard, passionate hockey fan. We all eat, sleep, and breathe it, and I do believe that you see that passion come through on our shows. Let’s just say I’ll probably have a tough time sleeping before Game 1.”
How has WBD Sports lived up to its mission of creating “the best NHL broadcast that anyone has ever seen”? Largely through the use of knowledgeable and passionate on-air talent on the game broadcast and in the studio, as well as through aggressive deployment of super-slow-motion cameras.
The TNT broadcast will have access to more than 40 camera angles in each Stanley Cup Final game, 33 of which are the broadcaster’s own (resources are shared with the NHL and Canadian broadcast partner Sportsnet). Of those cameras, 12 are Sony 4300 super-slo-mos that will, in many cases, be shooting at 180 fps. Seven of those are at traditional hard-camera positions; five others are outfitted on robos above the glass, as the inside-the-net cameras, and in the network’s signature AnkleCams (robos embedded behind glass in the lower corner of the rink’s end boards).
Brown notes that the audio team will be placing microphones on both head coaches for every game and will get the opportunity to mike a player from each team for each game.
Additionally, the NHL on TNT studio crew will be onsite on desks inside both arenas for every game of the Final series.
Live coverage of the 2023 Stanley Cup Final will be available on TNT, TBS, and truTV and can be streamed via the TNT, TBS, and truTV apps on mobile, tablet, and connected-TV devices and at TNTDrama.com, TBS.com, and truTV.com. Fans can access the games with a username/password provided by their TV service provider.
Stay tuned for SVG’s continued, on-site coverage of the Stanley Cup Final next week.