NESN Prepares To Take Hockey Outside, Again

Two years removed from its NHL Winter Classic in 2010, the city of Boston is bringing one of its favorite games back to its treasured venue, and regional sports network NESN is going along for the ride.

The NHL Winter Classic has become “Frozen Fenway,” Boston’s two-week-long celebration of hockey.

Gone are the days of the one-day outdoor hockey game. “Frozen Fenway” has grown into a two-week-long event full of college and high school games and community skates open to the public. It’s becoming Boston’s celebration of hockey, and NESN will be there to carry the party on Saturday.

“I love it,” says Russ Kenn, coordinating producer for remote production at NESN. “I’m a hockey fan first. I usually am doing Red Sox games, so, anytime I get to do a hockey game, it’s a labor of love.”

The broadcast, which kicks off NESN’s Hockey East programming season, begins at 4 p.m. with Vermont vs. UMass, followed at 7:30 p.m. by New Hampshire vs. Maine. The network, which will also provide live coverage of a Stanley Cup Finals rematch between the Boston Bruins and the Vancouver Canucks from TD Garden at 1 p.m., is affectionately referring to Saturday as “Hockey Day in New England.”

“This is more than a hockey game; it’s an event,” says Michael Narracci, senior coordinating director at NESN. “That’s the fun thing about it, integrating all the elements of what’s going on around the games, too. It makes it a lot of fun to do.”

Working out of NEP SS17, NESN will deploy nine cameras for the doubleheader, including a Fletcher camera mounted on the glass — which is standard for NESN’s Bruins coverage — and a jib positioned on the field alongside the rink.

“That’s one of the ways we are utilizing the extra space,” says Kenn. “It helps us give it more of an expansive look and really color in the big event that it is.”

While broadcasting a hockey game from a century-old baseball park presents unique challenges, NESN’s intimate familiarity with Fenway Park (NESN is the regional home of the Red Sox) helps simplify the process.

“We use the infrastructure that’s already there for Sox games, so we didn’t have to create any new camera positions really because of the cooperation and configuration that we get from the Sox,” says Kenn, who produces NESN’s Red Sox coverage. “We pretty much use the same wiring that we would use for Sox games, and maybe we have to move a camera a few feet here or there.”

Perhaps the biggest difference for NESN from 2010 is that NBC isn’t in the building this year to establish a template. Although NESN learned much two years ago, the network is on its own this time around.

“We sort of piggybacked on some things they did, including using a studio that they created up on the right-field roof,” says Kenn. “We used that same site for our studio in 2010. This year, we’re going to be doing it from the luxury suites, so we’ll actually be a little bit closer to the action.”

Another notable change from previous productions is that NESN keeps its announcers indoors, putting them up in the Red Sox broadcast booth. That change came in 2010, when, planning for the broadcasts, NESN determined it was too cold for the announcers to be outside on a platform.

“The day before [in 2010], we were out there, and it was freezing,” recalls Kenn. “It was about 5:00 at night, and the teams were skating, and we were showing the announcers where they were going to be, and our teeth are chattering.”

The Winter Classic took place in the early afternoon, with Frozen Fenway beginning near dusk and carrying on into the evening, when Boston temperatures dip.

“So, at the last minute, we decided to change and have the announcers go up to the Red Sox announce booth, which ended up being fine because the rink goes from first base to third base,” Kenn adds. “This year, the announcers have been on good behavior, so I think we will let them come inside and work from the booth again.”

Jim White, producer of NESN’s Hockey East package, will produce Saturday’s coverage from Fenway Park. Mobile unit NCP 12, which is contracted to NESN for Red Sox and Bruins games, will be at TD Garden for Bruins-Canucks.

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