NHL / sports

Sports TV Behind the Scenes: Chicago Blackhawks @ Tampa Bay Lightning
A few days ago I worked the Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning hockey match-up at Amalie Arena located in the Channelside District next to the Port of Tampa. I arrived around 11am and made my way through the different security checkpoints before reaching the production truck which was parked next to the loading dock behind the arena. I located our crew chief inside to grab my credentials before meeting up with the A1 and other A2s to discuss our game plan for the night's event. I was assigned as the home team booth A2 and the other two were placed as the visiting booth A2 and ice-level A2. Most professional league games have two announcer's booths to provide a different broadcast that is seen in that city/region. After the other booth A2 and I grabbed our kits we headed up to press row to begin constructing our booths. We started with the visiting team booth which consists of three announcer consoles (Play-by-Play, Color and Spare) with headsets, two stick mics and IFBs (for pre/post game standups) and three comm boxes for the statistician, stage-manager and A2. There is also plenty of camera and lighting equipment in each booth but I'll just stick to the audio elements for this post. I will add, the above pic shows it just after setup. It was definitely tidied up before talent made their way up there. Once done with that booth we began working on the home team side. It consisted of all of the same equipment plus the addition of a few shotgun mics that were used in the final mix for crowd noise. In each booth, all of these elements are cable over to a booth patch panel. The signals then make their way down to the huge patch panel outside by the production truck from which cables then take the signal to the truck panel. Signals are digitally routed through to the proper position workstation to be manipulated as needed before reaching air. Usually there is a separate production truck for the home and visitor feed but for this production we ran both through the same truck. That's why our crew was responsible for both booths. Thankfully, they were right next door to each other. This makes it easy to run from booth to booth if either A2 needs to assist the other with something during air. After completing each booth setup, we tested everything with the production truck and the NBC studios. Once all the parties involved were content with tests, I made my way downstairs to help out the ice-level A2 finish setting up. He had already finished the post-period/game interview setup near the locker rooms but there were still a few things to get done around the arena. So let's head out to the ice! First, we had to head out to the player benches to hook up a few mics for player/coach bench sound. Located directly in front of the team locker room, this is how the Lightning make their way to the ice, except those two service carts are removed of course. After hooking everything up we hit our A1 back in the production truck with the two-way radio to test. Successful testing so we kept moving, but not before I got a bench-view shot of the ice. Making our way back down the tunnel, we hooked a right where just down from the locker rooms was the equipment management station. Usually you'll see someone sharpening skate blades or doing something to get the gear ready for players to get it done on the ice. Next on our list was to drop a secondary comm line for the ice A2 just outside the Lexus Lounge, sometimes the producers like to place the roaming reporter there for short fan pieces or whatever. Tested and done, we entered the arena again to outfit the handheld cameras behind the glass with some shotgun mics. It was a bit of a walk back to the Zamboni entrance on the opposite side of the arena where we carefully walked down the ice towards the TOC booth. It actually gets extremely loud in this arena during the action so we had to hook up a monitor speaker for the TOC so he could hear the horns and accurately keep game time and coordinate commercial breaks with officials. At this point, the whole audio crew had everything set up and tested with the production truck and studio so we were clear to break for a late lunch/early dinner. We waited a bit for a couple Utility and Camera Op friends to finish before walking to a local restaurant to eat and watch a bit of the UCF@USF football game. We actually got to see that UCF QB go down, it was a pretty nasty injury. After blowing out my ACL a little over a year ago it was painful to watch. The puck dropped at 7:30 so we all made our way back to our positions for a final test and a few rehearsals at 5:30. Soon enough it was nearly show time! Prior to the National Anthem, there was a presentation about the NHL's 'Hockey Fights Cancer' Initiative. A moment of silence was had after the crowd was asked to all turn on their phone lights, you can get an idea of it in the upper left monitor in the picture above. Shortly after, our announcers were seated and primed to provide an exciting analysis of the match-up at hand. I was expecting a high scoring game against Chicago since they recently released their VERY experienced coach for a 30-something, sorry rawdawg. It didn't take long for the Lightning to strike! Only 0:29 into the match Johnson put one on the board. Less than seven minutes later Lightning struck again with another goal from Johnson after a great assist from Kucherov to make it 2-0 Tampa. The high-scoring first period ended at 4-1 with Tampa on top, Chicago just couldn't handle the zone play from the Bolts. However, they came back re-energized and with a game plan. The Blackhawks went on to score the only goal of the second period and for the remainder of the game. Tampa Bay went home with the win and a final score of 4-2. GO BOLTS! Thanks for stopping by!