West News Wire: The Stanley Cup Finals and the All-Star Game have been broadcast on ABC by ESPN ever since it regained the NHL rights two years ago. An outdoor game is the only thing that has been missing.
This changes on Saturday night, air hockey Stadiumwhen Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina, hosts the Stadium Series game between the Washington Capitals and Carolina Hurricanes.
The Saturday game lineup on ABC usually airs in the afternoon, but with the NBA on its All-Star break, hockey is given the prime-time spot.
Mark Gross, senior vice president, production and remote events, who is in charge of overseeing ESPN’s coverage, claimed they had read notes on how TNT and NBC handled their outdoor games. Each stadium game has its own distinct flavor and identity, though.
We’re excited because it’s a big event and it will have a big event feel with the studio team on site,” Gross said. “We will also have sky cam coverage over the ice since there’s nothing to block it.”
Besides the sky cam, ESPN will use a drone to provide additional aerial shots. Wireless mics will also be on select players and coaches in coordination with the NHL.
The start of the Saturday games on ABC on Jan. 28, and the All-Star Game the following week, marked the beginning of more games on ESPN as things begin to build with the playoffs on the horizon in mid-April.
“Now it picks up from here,” play-by-play announcer Sean McDonough said. “Then obviously, we go right into the playoffs, which are unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. It is a grind once we get into that, so I’m happy to come into it with some rest because once we get going, it’s a whirlwind, to say the least.”
McDonough is in his second season with analyst Ray Ferraro and reporter Emily Kaplan. They were named ESPN’s top team after the Walt Disney Company got back the rights in 2021 with a seven-year deal.
One of the adjustments McDonough had to make going to hockey is that Ferraro is between the benches instead of next to him in the booth for most games. Ferraro, like most analysts, prefers being at ice level because it is easier to see and break down the game.
Kaplan, also an online reporter for ESPN.com, said she asked about the possibility of doing rink-side reporting after ESPN regained the rights, figuring she might get a couple of games. She ended up getting added to the top team.
Kaplan said the one thing she learned from Ferraro was taking feedback from a limited circle of people.