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NHL Winter Classic

Winter Classic broadcast crew set for big game between Stars, Predators

Getting Cotton Bowl ready for prime time takes countless hours

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

The Nashville Predators and Dallas Stars will play the 2020 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium on Jan. 1 (2 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVAS). In the runup to the game, NHL.com and NHL Studios present "Making of The Winter Classic," a daily behind-the-scenes look at how the annual outdoor event comes together. Today, we focus on the NBC Sports production crew and everything that goes into bringing the game to life.

 

DALLAS -- The countdown to the start of a big game is as exciting for the team broadcasting it as it is for those playing in it.

"A lot of people who got into television, we wanted to be professional athletes at one point in our life. A lot of us didn't get there and a lot of people never will. This is the next closest thing," NBC Sports game director Charlie Dammeyer said. "It's putting the pads on and it's hearing that 10, 9, 8, 7… and you're ready to go. That clock is eventually going to hit zero and the puck's eventually going to drop, and you just have to be ready."

Dammeyer and NBC Sports game producer Matt Marvin have been part of the crew getting ready for the 2020 Winter Classic. Given the size of the venue, which will seat over 80,000 for the game, it's quite an undertaking. From the technical side, Cotton Bowl Stadium provides a particular challenge since it's not pre-cabled like most other buildings in which they work.

 

[RELATED: 2020 NHL Winter Classic coverage]

 

"We work with a company, Bexel [Global Broadcast Solutions] that comes in and lays a bunch of cable beforehand," Dammeyer said. "What makes this unique as well is that this is all fiber [optic cable]. So about 15,000 feet of fiber or so, three miles, and that's anywhere from 12-15 times what we'd normally do for a regular-season game. So that's a lot of infrastructure that has to be laid before any cameras are fired up, any microphones are fired up. [And] for this game, we have upwards of 40 cameras that we're working both inside and outside of the stadium, both wired and wireless cameras that will be running around all over."

NBC's production trucks and the NHL's communications area are about a minute walk from each other near the stadium, and NHL senior director of broadcasting Patrick Bither said he's made the trip countless times in the past week. 

"The last few days, in and out of the truck every hour or two, just asking them questions or they're asking me questions on little things that pop up," Bither said. "It's constant communication through whole four, five, six days of leadup. We're here long days, long hours, but it's great. And they're a great partner, so it makes it easy."

"NHL on NBC" analysts Mike "Doc" Emrick and Eddie Olczyk arrived in Dallas on Monday. They've had talks with the production staff for about a week, mainly about potential storylines, and Olczyk said he's watched the past few games of the Stars and Predators, "just to have some recent knowledge of what's going on."

Video: Making the 2020 Winter Classic at Cotton Bowl Stadium

Tuesday was a very busy day.

"We'll have a good meeting today, a big meeting tomorrow," Olczyk said on Tuesday. "Today is getting the lay of the land. We'll talk to the teams, coaches, managers, and then we'll come in tomorrow and just tighten up the screws. There are lots of moving parts."

The Winter Classic isn't like any other game, and Marvin said the philosophy on covering it was best stated by NBC and NBCSN executive producer and president of production Sam Flood.

"His rule was, this is an event, not a game," Marvin said. "We'll always cover the goals, the big saves, the hits. But opportunities are going to present themselves at this game that we're never going to be able to foresee. From the past [games], you'd just do replays of guys' heads smoking because of the cold, stuff like that. There'll be stuff here, where I want to see a shot of a kid eating a turkey leg that's bigger than he or she is. Fun stuff that doesn't happen at any other type of place, it'll happen here at this game on Wednesday."

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