NBC Sports, NHL win out versus elements

By Andrew Lippe

The NHL Winter Classic lived up to the hype and expectations and provided NHL fans with a spectacle they will not soon forget. If the high ratings were any indication, outdoor hockey is clearly a draw. “The weather created a dramatic scene and the game could not have been scripted any better,” says Sam Flood, NHL producer for NBC.

The NHL Winter Classic, broadcast New Year’s Day on NBC, earned a 2.6 overnight rating and a 5 share, the best overnight NHL regular season rating in more than a decade. Flood says the broadcast ran fluently thanks in large part to the work of the 80-person crew.

While the fans and players experienced long periods of snowfall NBC never faltered in capturing the action. They encountered no difficulties capturing the audio on the ice thanks to freelancer Wendel Stevens and his crew. “The snow created a challenge but we had the best sound team in hockey there,” says Flood. “I knew that with Wendel heading our audio team I would get a home run.”

The NBC crew, to counter the weather conditions, wiped down all camera lenses during commercial breaks and period intermissions.

One of the added features of the game was a shot from a Michelson fixed wing airplane. The game opened with a rendition of “God Bless America” and a large fireworks display. This event was shot from the airplane camera and captured a wide shot of Ralph Wilson Stadium.

“That shot alone made the camera worthwhile,” says Flood. And while the weather caused many shots from the airplane to be obscured by low-hanging clouds NBC was able to catch game action from the cameras, including the replay of the game’s first goal.

Maybe the biggest hiccup in the broadcast was some on-air talent notes that were ruined by the falling snow. “All the notes were in Plexiglass but they still got wet and the ink bled,” adds Flood.

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