NBC heats up NHL

This Saturday NBC will drop the puck on its coverage of the National Hockey League. And technology will bring fans closer to the action than ever as the network will use goalie cams, miked players, high definition, and reporters ‘inside the glass’ to suck viewers in.

Many of the changes are the brainchild of coordinating producer Sam Flood who handled NBC’s NASCAR coverage for the past five years. While there he learned that giving viewers new camera angles and bringing them closer to the action led to higher ratings.

“NASCAR attracted fans to auto racing by putting viewers behind the wheel and in the pits,” Flood told NHL.com. “We want to do the same thing with hockey.”

The goalie cam is a small lipstick camera that weighs five ounces and is embedded in the chin of the goalie’s mask. “The Goalie Cam is going to be a very different look at the game of hockey,” says Flood. “It’s stunning to see what a goalie has to put up with to try and stop that black disk. It’s a great toy and a really good job by the NHL productions team getting this thing up and running.”

NBC is also moving reporters between the team’s benches as opposed to traditional runway location. Again, that approach is an echo of NASCAR coverage where reporters are now as much a part of pit row as a spare tire.

“We will have one announcer between the benches and they’re part of the conversation with the group,” says Flood. “Pierre McGuire will be able to see things from rink level that an old coach will see: the changes, the subtleties, the conversations from the bench and give you a different perspective. It’s something that I learned producing NASCAR over the last five plus years, is that there’s something different when you’re inside the action.”

NBC’s coverage will also signal the return of HD hockey to network television. Flood says the medium transforms the sport and that the 16:9 widescreen frame is ideal for the sport. “When it normally looks like the puck is going to go outside the screen and you can’t see it and you’re not exactly sure where it is, in HD you can see where the puck’s going, you can see all the players on the ice at the same time,” he says. “It’s really a completely different look.”