For the fifth straight year, NBC Executive Producer Sam Flood will have his favorite production toy at his disposal in order to showcase the entire scope of the NHL's most-watched regular-season game, the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.
"It's not in a building; it's outdoors, so we have an airplane," Flood said. "I was so proud in Buffalo that we played the first replay of a goal from an airplane. We knew we were the first people to do that because no one ever covered a game from an airplane before, so we thought that was a pretty neat trick. We've done that every year because we think to be able to see how big it is and how grand the playing field is below.
"We need to capture how cool it is to have that rink down there."
Flood, who has produced every Winter Classic since the event's inception in Buffalo back in 2008, will utilize many other tools in order to show off the grandeur of the Winter Classic.
NBC normally has 14 cameras for its indoor broadcasts; Flood said the network will have 30 for the Winter Classic.
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"So this is a big jump up," he said. "The beauty of it is you can isolate players that you want, but also capture the atmosphere and get a wider view of it. This is a macro view of hockey versus a micro view of hockey. Bigger is better. I'll constantly tell the director, 'Go to the airplane and we'll show a shift from the airplane,' because you can't do that regularly. Anything you can't normally do, I want to do."
Such as use a cable cam, which NBC uses for its NFL coverage. The cable cam debuted in Pittsburgh last year, and Flood said its use will be refined for this year's game.
"I think the biggest change will be how we take advantage of the cable cam and use that in a better way to showcase the speed of hockey," Flood said. "But we never want to lose the fact that it's outdoors. It's big -- bigger than life -- and it's an event. That's the headline and that's what our focus is. It's more than a hockey game."
Another important element of the broadcast will be giving the audience a history lesson in the Flyers-Rangers rivalry. Hard-core hockey fans, especially in Philadelphia and New York, understand in great detail why this rivalry is so fierce, but it's NBC's job to let the casual observers in on the fun as well.
"I think it'll be the normal Rangers-Flyers angst -- plenty of energy and plenty of grit going back and forth," Flood said. "We'll capture that and we'll make sure the audience understands how deep this rivalry goes and how there is hatred in the air. It's not a bad thing. Hate in hockey can be a good thing."
However, what's most important to Flood, a hockey kid at heart, is to once again showcase the Winter Classic in a way that tells the story of the sport being played in its original environment.
"The goal is to make people fall in love with the game of hockey the way it first began, which is outdoors, under the open sky," Flood said. "That's how I played as a kid from the Boston area. My rink in high school was an outdoor rink, so now I get to share that with a much bigger audience and show hockey, a great game, getting played outdoors with a huge crowd that is very passionate. And we'll make sure people understand how passionate these two sides are."
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