NBC plans to have all the angles covered when it televises the Stadium Series game between the Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday at Lincoln Financial Field.
That means increasing its production crew considerably.
“We will have about 40 cameras in this outside game, and that is a little more than double what we use inside,” game producer Matt Marvin said in a recent phone interview.
Six of those cameras alone will be slow-motion cameras. There will be a camera on one of the referees, and several roaming cameras to catch crowd shots. There will also be the skycam, which NBC uses for Sunday Night Football.
The crew is well-versed in producing a hockey game in a stadium. This will be the 27th outdoor game for NBC since the first one between the Penguins and host Buffalo Sabres on Jan. 1, 2008.
The biggest challenge from the announcers’ standpoint is simply identifying the players, and that is where the weather forecast could cause NBC to adjust on the fly.
If there aren’t weather problems, the announcers will be near the penalty box because it is a much easier location to identify the players.
“When you are identifying numbers, you can’t go by the backs of players because they don’t always turn that way for you,” Mike Emrick, NBC play-by-play announcer and six-time Emmy Award winner, said in a phone interview.
Emrick says identifying numbers on the jerseys’ sleeves is easier, which is why he likes to be as close to the action as possible.
“The No. 1 thing you want to do is identify players, and that is harder from that distance [in the press box],” Emrick said. “In most cases, the uniform sleeve is 4 inches by 4 inches, and from 150 feet, it becomes difficult, especially at night.”
What could force the crew to change its plans is rain. The weather.com forecast calls for 50 percent chance of evening showers with a high temperature of 45 and a low of 41.
This will be Emrick’s 17th outdoor game. He said he has worked only two games far from the action: at Yankee Stadium and Coors Field in Colorado.
“Those two games I had to work off the monitor because we were far away,” Emrick said.
Emrick, a former Flyers announcer, has broadcast outdoor games in varying weather conditions — when it was snowing, when it was 65 degrees — but rain is a different story.
“Snow is fine, but rain is tough on the equipment,” Emrick said.
If there is steady rain, Emrick and analyst Eddie Olczyk will call the game from an enclosed area.
Because more than just die-hard NHL fans are expected to watch, NBC has to alter its strategy a bit. Emrick says when televising the Stanley Cup Finals, the seventh game of any playoff series, the Olympics, and these outdoor games, he and the broadcast team take a slightly different approach.
There is the fine line of not talking down to the hockey die-hards, but they also explain things more thoroughly to those casual fans tuning in.
“One of the things I really appreciate in 46 years of doing this is hockey fans that have been there long-term want other people to like the sport,” Emrick said. “The fans are not snobs and will tolerate hearing things they already know.”
That doesn’t mean Emrick and the crew forget about the hockey points that the die-hards will know about, such as the Flyers and Penguins fighting for their playoff lives. Emrick and company will mention that these two teams, which met in last year’s playoffs, with Pittsburgh winning in six games, don’t particularly like each other.
“It adds something,” Emrick said about this matchup. “It would be a different vibe if the Flyers were playing somebody else, and the hostilities between these teams go back to the Broad Street Bullies days.”
Emrick, says he has never been to Lincoln Financial Field. He said one of the great aspects of these outdoor games is going to places he has never been.
That included Notre Dame, which hosted this year’s Winter Classic on New Year’s Day between the Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins.