The National Hockey League has unveiled a series of in-game innovations for its expanded Stanley Cup playoffs, which are being held in the Canadian markets of Toronto and Edmonton in the wake of the global Covid-19 pandemic.
At the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto and Rogers Place in Edmonton, domestic broadcast partners NBC and Sportsnet will use 32 cameras per game, 12 more than normal. They will be repositioned to show new angles and visuals.
The NHL is also utilizing video, audio, and lighting to ensure that all games look different from each other depending on the teams playing.
This will include goal songs, goal horns, in-arena music compilations, and motivational videos from each of the 24 teams participating. There will also be specially-produced videos from fans, which will replicate some of the chants that take place in teams’ home arenas.
In addition, there will be LED screens, monitors, and stages around the ice to create a television-friendly look. Empty seats on the lower bowl of each arena will be covered by a tarp.
The league has partnered with video game licensee EA Sports to create supplemental crowd noise in the arenas, while there will be a five-second delay on broadcasts to try to prevent audible bad language.
“Rather than taking advantage of virtual fans or cardboard cutouts or putting teddy bears in the stands, we’ve decided that we’re going to do something that really caters to the fans at home, the fans that are enjoying the television experience,” said NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer. “We want to educate them. We want to entertain them. We want to visually excite them.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly revealed the league’s long-planned puck and player tracking initiative will not be used in the first two rounds in the playoffs but it could be utilized in the final two rounds.
It was also revealed that regional sports networks will be able to have virtual signage on the glass in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Earlier this month, it was announced that the NHL is partnering with cloud video editing platform Blackbird for support on remote content production during its return to play plan.
Exhibition games will take place from July 28, with the Stanley Cup playoffs kicking off on August 1.
Details about health and safety protocols, and living conditions for players and support staff in the secured zones, were also revealed.
This includes players staying in luxury hotels within walking distance of the arenas and an elaborate fencing system designed everyone inside the bubble secure and away from the general public. Amenities include movie theaters, player lounges, patio decks and recreational space.
The league’s return to play arrives the NHL and NHL Players Association earlier this month completed a comprehensive deal that includes both this conclusion of the 2019-20 season, as well as a four-year extension of their collective bargaining agreement.