NHL All-Star Game Will Have Room To Breathe

By Dan Daley

Canadians, at least, can expect a lot of sound at the 57th NHL All-Star Game on Jan. 25, hosted by the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre (and which will also celebrate the Canadiens’ 100th anniversary). Howard Baggley, who is mixing for the CBC broadcast, says there tends to be some philosophical differences in the way the neighboring countries approach hockey sound (there’s also a philosophical difference in the way they spell
neighboring, but we will leave that aside).

“The Americans tend to prefer a tighter sound with lots of lavalieres on the boards,” he says, referring to the glass-topped fence that surrounds the rink. “I like to get more of the room sound in there.”

That starts with two Sennheiser MKH70 long-gun shotgun microphones hung above the blue line. They’re augmented with Sony ECM 50 condenser microphones behind each goal as well as an unspecified lavaliere in the goal cam’s protective housing. But since there will be a U.S. feed, the fence will have 10 Crown PCC 160 cardioid boundary mics placed around it, one in each corner, one behind each goal, and four on the blue lines. “Problem with them is that, like in baseball, the fans have figured them out,” Baggley notes. “When they see the puck coming over there, they know the camera will be on them and the mic is open, and they bang the hell out of the boards.”

Baggley will be mixing through an SSL C100 digital broadcast console. The NHL host truck will deliver a PA-style split feed at mic level to both the CBC and the U.S. broadcaster. In addition to using the C100’s onboard dynamic processing, he adds a TC Electronic TC6000 for its brick-wall limiting feature. On the console, three voltage-controlled amplifiers cover each net and its corners, and one covers the overhead microphones. Another source will be a Sennheiser MKH418S stereo shotgun near the play-by-play camera, which will be panned in the rear surround field. “I tend to make my soundscape image fit the main play-by-play camera,” he explains. “But the ISO cams tend to be low and tight, which are the angles that are usually replayed so I tend to [build] my L-C-R out of the blue lines and overheads and leave the goals and corners both evenly left and right.”

Baggley notes that there are still three rinks in Canada set up to enable capture of a lot of the room sound in the mix: the Bell Centre, the Senators’ Scotiabank Centre in Kanata, ON, and the Maple Leafs’ Air Canada Centre in Toronto. “That’s always been part of the CBC sound for hockey. We want to hear the room, not just the skates. So a Canadian viewer and an American viewer can have two very different sound experiences.”