FSN North’s ‘Hockey Day Minnesota’ heats up cold outdoors

By Andrew Lippe

FSN North last Saturday presented the Second Annual “Hockey Day Minnesota.” This year’s broadcast eclipsed over 14 hours of hockey coverage and captured the high school, college and professional levels of hockey. The day featured five epic contests headlined by two outdoor games played not in an arena but on a frozen pond in Baudette Minnesota. Amid swirling winds, below zero temperatures and weather just as harsh as the weather during the NFC Championship game in Green Bay, the FSN North crew overcame the elements and delivered Hockey Day to legions of fans.

“This was a massive undertaking that took months of planning,” says Jeff Byle, executive producer for FSN North. FSN North had a staff of approximately 125 people ranging from producers, on-air talent, and operational staff on hand for the event. Baudette, MN borders Canada and about half of the staff traveled more than 348 miles to Baudette Bay for the outdoor contests. The event was brought to life thanks to Joseph Maar, coordinating Producer for FSN North, and FSN North Producer Trevor Fleck who organized the coverage before and between games all the games.

In the first game the Lake of the Woods high school hosted Eveleth/Gilbert. The second game featured a match-up between Roseau and Blaine high schools which ran later on tape delay. The rink where the two games were played was built on Baudette Bay, a frozen pond in Northern Minnesota. Amazingly the installation of the bleachers, the glass, as well as the creation of the rink itself was built by Lake of the Woods school. The bad weather became more of a hurdle as cameras in unlikely positions battled temperatures that reached 12 degrees below zero.

FSN North used Mobile Television Group Puma North trucks for the
telecasts. For the outdoor games coaxial cable was set up the day prior
to the festivities. FSN North used six Sony cameras and a gib camera to
capture game and crowd shots. All broadcast footage was shot in
standard definition.

“We had a high endzone camera on the bridge, that faced the pond,” says John Stroh, FSN North game producer. “The talent booth wasn’t heated and the host position was not shielded from the cold. It was dangerous to be out there.”

To overcome the cold the trailers remained heated and heating blankets were put on the cameras. During the outdoor broadcast crew was rotated in and out of the trailers.

Despite the elements fans flocked to Baudette and over 1,500 people braved the bitter cold. “The atmosphere was incredible and there wasn’t a seat to be had in bleachers,” says Byle.

Hockey day also featured action at the Xcel Energy Center where Hill Murray high school took on the St. Thomas Academy. Later that evening Minnesota’s NHL club the Minnesota Wild took on the New York Islanders. There was also a college contest with the Minnesota Golden Gophers on the road at Denver. Hockey Day concluded with the Roseau and Blaine taped game.

During the day FSN North used a total of 26 cameras for the telecasts as Grass Valley LDK cameras were used in the Xcel Energy Centerhomson. Other gear included a Grass Valley Kalypso production switcher for the Wild game, four Chyron Duets and 16 channels of EVS. “This showed the nation how Minnesota feels about hockey,” says John Stroh, producer for FSN North.