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Safety and Fan Experience are Paramount in the New NHL Experience

Safety is first for the league employees, various staff, and players, then the fan experience is the next big priority when the NHL starts playing the 2020 Stanley Cup Qualifiers on August 1st.

“This entire process has had us focus on and embark on most unique and challenging endeavors we’ve ever encountered,” said NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman. The choices of Toronto and Edmonton were not surprising because of our focus on health and safety. 150 NHL league office employees and 1,000 people in both cities working on making the hub, the bubble what it needs to be.”

Steve Mayer, NHL Chief Content Officer and Senior Executive VP of Events and Entertainment is playing a huge part in all of this. The first thing he talked about was dealing with the flooding that the Edmonton arena had.

“We had a bit of a scare for sure. Everything has been repaired and there are no problems at all. All the equipment that was damaged in the control room has been replaced.”

Mayer has been there for 10 days. In the NHL’s video presentation, you could hear electric saws in the background. It reminded me of the kind of build the WWE has for its flagship event, WrestleMania every year.

“Many times, camera considerations are where the fans aren’t, now we can put cameras (each game will have a dozen more cameras) in perfect places and the manner of the game that speed shows,” Mayer stated. “We think we can accomplish this relating to television better with the sounds, energy, and set design. I’m super excited about the broadcasts and giving our fans an amazing experience.”

The Black Lives Matter movement will be well represented.

“We will open up with a powerful evening, moments will be there with that in both buildings. Workers and social justice, Black Lives Matter will be a part of that. We will see how players react to that naturally as well. More to come on that,” Mayer added.

I suspect the game night experience will be awesome once the playoffs officially start.

“We do have eight LED screens and monitors that allow us to do things that are close (to virtual ads). The RSN’s will do that on the glass, and we will do that in the early rounds. We are looking to grow this and it’s possible something else could be added to the Conference Finals and the Stanley Cup Final.”

Locker room use is now being defined and it’s interesting. The Oilers will only get a slight home-ice advantage as an example.

“The schedule was built once we received the game schedule and times. The movement of the teams and players depicted who was in what room and the time. The Oilers will be in their locker room for Game 1, Chicago is the home team and will have the home locker room in Game 3 as an example,” said NHL Senior VP of Hockey Operations, Kris King. “Bench use will be similar to the World Cup on the back-to-back days.”

The refs are getting a crash course on the bubble and with their equipment.

“The Fox 40 pea-less whistle. It takes a lot less force to use. The electronic whistle hasn’t been used enough by us,” said Stephen Walkom, NHL Senior VP and Director of Officiating.

He then went into more detail about what the officials will go through.

“First and foremost, all the testing and quarantining and getting them here safely and getting then tested again, all were negative, and they are hitting the ice today. It’s a bit of a luxury that we have 20 officials in each hub. They’re excited to be hitting a mini-camp etc. in the next few days before exhibition games. Events have done a great job. Hockey ops have done a great job setting up the rink.”

Back to health. Families will be allowed during the Conference Finals and Stanley Cup Final. There is a process for that.

“What I can say. As part of the protocol, for anyone entering the bubble. Most importantly exposure the two weeks leading into the bubble,” We have various degrees of quarantining to observe depending on risk with travel and general exposure,” said Dr. Willem Meeuwisse, NHL Chief Medical Officer.

The NHL has people who can say someone needs additional quarantining based on the risks.

This is a city within a city. The NHL has done an amazing job to finish the 2019-20 season.

More production notes on TV: EA Sports will provide the supplemental crowd noise. There will be a 5-second delay. NBC produces the Toronto Feed. There will be 35 cameras in each arena. There will be a camera positioned over the crowd, on a truss, and it will dolly over the ice, unique look to track along with players to show off the speed. There will be camera angles we’ve never seen before.

More notes on health: They showed a picture of the Edmonton Testing center for league staff, event staff, hotel employees, etc. Per Dr. Willem Meeuwisse. The brand “Clear” checks the players’ temperatures etc. and shows on their phone they are symptom-free. There are team lounges in hotels and at Rogers place

Check out my new hockey book Sticks and Stones here:

https://www.amazon.com/Sticks-Stones-College-Hockey-Prepares/dp/1628657227/ref=sr_1_3?dchild=1&keywords=Russ+Cohen&qid=1586180720&sr=8-3.

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