2024 NHL Stadium Series: League’s Game-Presentation Team Works With Venue, Clubs on Complex Production

On-ice entertainment, outdoor venue add unique wrinkles to run of show

With nine combined goals on Saturday and an overtime victory to cap a massive three-goal comeback on Sunday, the 2024 NHL Stadium Series had no shortage of energy and excitement. If thrilling hockey on the ice wasn’t enough, the National Hockey League’s game-presentation team made sure to keep the fanbases of all four teams entertained during two chilly nights at MetLife Stadium.

“These events have grown significantly since I’ve been with the league,” says John Bochiaro, VP, game presentation, NHL. “This weekend was so big that we made sure to have the adequate onsite staffing to produce everything properly.”

John Bochiaro oversees the NHL control room during the first period of Rangers-Islanders at MetLife Stadiuam. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Unfamiliar Surroundings: League Adapts to Producing Hockey Show in a Football Stadium

With last weekend’s games outdoors, the biggest challenge for Bochiaro and his onsite team — which included Senior Director, Game Presentation, Renée Riva and Coordinator, Game Presentation, Sydney Rundle — was familiar but came with a control room and workflows that they aren’t accustomed to. Fortunately, a handful of staffers had worked at the now closed IZOD Center when the New Jersey Devils played there and offered the knowledge and experience of MetLife Stadium’s dedicated production team. As a former member of the Devils’ game-presentation team, Bochiaro reunited with some of his erstwhile colleagues.

“My first year with the New Jersey Devils was the team’s year at IZOD Center,” he notes. “This is pretty much my first time being back in the area because MetLife Stadium was still being constructed in 2007.”

Working with former contacts and co-workers provided a huge boost to the team’s chemistry, but the team assigned to the NHL Stadium Series still needed time to test out the in-venue technologies and rehearse the show. A hefty amount of preparation and planning was necessary to make everyone feel comfortable and to create a comprehensive strategy for tackling the two-day event.

“We were on calls for the past few months to understand how the room is set up,” adds Bochiaro. “This event was a little bit different for us because we had four giant LED videoboards to work with, which meant trying to figure out the best way to incorporate an A show and a B show. The A show was our primary game presentation, and our B show gave an inside look at data and stats from our NHL Edge player and puck tracking.”

A view of the production switcher during Flyers-Devils on Feb. 17. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Home Away From Home: NHL Stadium Series Differs From NHL Winter Classic

The NHL Stadium Series and the annual fixture around New Year’s Day, the NHL Winter Classic, have accustomed the NHL to producing outdoor spectacles. Despite the similarities of the events, the Winter Classic is geared toward two fanbases: the respective fans of the two competitors. Similar to a championship-style production like those for major events —the College Football Playoff National Championship, Super Bowl, Men’s and Women’s Final Four — each fanbase experiences a nod to its home venue, such as a goal song and in-arena elements shown on the videoboard. For the NHL Stadium Series game played on Saturday, a regular-season home game for the Devils vs. the Philadelphia Flyers, the show leaned heavily into things seen at the Flyers’ Prudential Center: for example, a live rendition of their goal song, “Howl” by The Gaslight Anthem.

“We understood that there would be a lot of representation from Flyers fans,” says Bochiaro. “We decided to incorporate [the Flyers’] Gritty for some of our in-game activations.”

The lovable mascot teamed up with the rival NJ Devil mascot for some hijinks. The fun included Gritty’s streaking around the rink after NJ Devil stole his jersey and the pair throwing cakes at some New York Rangers fans to fire up the rival fanbases over a common distaste for the Blueshirts. In Sunday’s game, pitting two New York teams, the Islanders vs. Rangers matchup took a more neutral stance showing both teams’ content.

To handle all four teams’ material displayed inside the venue, the NHL leaned on the services of each club’s game-presentation staff, including New Jersey Devils Senior Director, Live Experience and Production, Joe Kuchie; Philadelphia Flyers Senior Director, Game Presentation, Tina DiVilio; New York Rangers Director, Event Presentation, Dan Cirminiello; and New York Islanders SVP, Isles Media and Entertainment Group, Ryan Halkett and Director, Entertainment and Production, Fritz Stillings.

“With all our league events,” says Bochiaro, “we want to incorporate [the teams’] traditions. We collect their videos, understand what their customs are, and take the suggestions that they offer and fold them into our show.”

The NHL team in the control room during Flyers-Devils on Feb. 17. (Photo by Ben Jackson/NHLI via Getty Images)

Bringing In the Best: Outside Production Partners, Talent Provide Necessary Support

To pull off two gargantuan shows, which attracted approximately 150,000 fans this weekend, the league relied not only on production staff from all four teams but also on third-party partners. Van Wagner plays a role in many neutral-site events. Van Wagner Producer Brandon Anthony was the show caller at MetLife Stadium.

To make this event different from others, the NHL brought in a handful of essential staff to round out the show, including in-arena hosts and familiar DJs from various NHL venues. The NHL team also brought in its own PA announcer, who worked alongside the in-house PA announcer.

On the entertainment side and tasked with constructing the environment surrounding the rink, Solomon Group was pivotal to intermission performances by Jonas Brothers and The Gaslight Anthem on Saturday and AJR on Sunday as well as to overall NHL Stadium Series Park theming. The company was responsible for scenery and intermission performances during this month’s NHL All-Star in Toronto.

“We do our best to make [this event] representative of the area,” says Bochiaro. “The NHL Stadium Series and other outdoor NHL games are about showing fans more than what they would see at a normal hockey game.”

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