Bexel’s RF and Fiber Experience Scores for NHL
From the All-Star Game to the Stanley Cup finals, Bexel, a unit of the Vitec Group’s Services Division, and a worldwide provider of broadcast services, has been building a successful partnership with the National Hockey League (NHL). Throughout the season, the league has increasingly involved Bexel in the planning of its broadcast productions, enabling the NHL to take full advantage of Bexel’s wide spectrum of offerings, including broadcast-infrastructure streamlining, frequency coordination, engineering expertise, and state-of-the-art broadcast equipment rentals.
“NHL initially asked us for help with an issue they were having with their RF and fiber infrastructure, and this led to working on a series of projects for them,” says John Mills, business development manager, Bexel. “Throughout the past year, each of these projects has demonstrated the extent of our capabilities, further building the NHL’s trust in our solutions. With every new project, we get more involved from a planning and logistical perspective, ultimately accomplishing the task at hand with great success.”
The major project that helped cement the relationship between Bexel and the NHL was the 2012 NHL All-Star Game, which took place at Ottawa’s Scotiabank Place earlier this year. Bexel’s team of engineering experts coordinated the production’s complex wireless operations and helped to establish a fiber system that added great efficiency to the large, star-studded event for broadcasters, including the NHL Network, NBC, CBC, and RDS.
“At this year’s NHL All-Star Game, Bexel was charged with improving workflows,” says Justin Paulk, broadcast fiber solutions manager, Bexel. “To do so, we worked with the NHL to support all of the rights holders with cable assignments for the 46 camera locations throughout the facility. From managing the internal broadcast infrastructure, including fiber optic cables and audio/video cables, to getting each of the rights holders’ requirements, Bexel worked closely with the NHL and their clients ensuring that the appropriate signals were distributed throughout the arena. The key to our success was the pre-planning and on site project management that went into it.”
To help establish faster, more lightweight connectivity between the NHL Network truck outside and the set indoors, Bexel created its Fiber Booth Kit solution for the event. “Instead of having to run many copper cables, the fiber rack allowed us to run just two cables,” adds Paulk. “The distance between the set and the truck was exceptionally long, so by utilizing our fiber rack system, it allowed for easy configuration and resulted in a more streamlined setup and strike.”
Prior to the game, Bexel engineers performed on-site copper and fiber cable testing and certification at Scotiabank Place. Walk-throughs were also held with each rights holder prior to game day to ensure all wireless technologies—including player and referee microphones, goal cams, in-ear monitors, and wireless radios—wouldn’t interfere with one another.
“This year being our second NHL All-Star Game, we had a lot more in place in terms of process and how we handle the media and their RF spectrum needs,” says Jim Dugan, RF engineer, Bexel. “From the way we interact with the media to the pre-event coordination efforts that we’ve established, our custom frequency coordination package is designed to provide the overall media an interference-free experience. It’s a very big event, especially considering the media coverage, as well as the number of fans participating in interactive event experiences.”
As a full-service solutions provider, Bexel’s expertise derives from its ability to provide all facets of a client’s needs, including equipment rental, integration and frequency coordination. Above all else, however, is the company’s extensive engineering support. In anticipation of the playoffs, the NHL tasked Bexel with setting up new fiber racks in each of the playoff arenas. This would allow for the officials’ review of goals as well as being able to provide video to the officials from the broadcast feed league-wide.
“Essentially the NHL needed a group to partner with to ensure all of the playoff teams would have the same new system installed in each arena,” concludes Paulk. Once the racks were shipped to each arena, Bexel supplied a team of engineers to go into each facility back-to-back, and install the new cabinets, reroute the cabling to the truck compound and catwalk, provide training at the local venue and then head to the next arena.
Looking to the playoffs and the Stanley Cup Finals, Bexel provided more video equipment, including camera accessories and interconnectivity equipment, for the NHL Network set and truck. In addition, Bexel’s audio team will come into play on a larger scale, as the league is working to implement a new, more secure encrypted referee mic system for the start of the 2012 season. Bexel is also in the midst of helping the league manage its facilities remotely from its offices in New York, as well as provide other solutions that allow for remote access to the mics, video feed, official reviews and truck feeds from across the country.
“After the success of working together this year, the NHL has truly experienced all that Bexel has to offer,” adds Mills. “This is just the start—we are working with our partners and bringing the very best technology to the NHL and future-proofing that technology as we install it. We like to think of our relationship growing to the point where we’re more than a service or equipment provider, but a partner, and we value being a part of the team.”