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MSG going behind scenes with prospects

by Staff Writer / New York Rangers
Road to Rangers Starts at Traverse City

Tournament Deserving of Spotlight
2011 Rangers Traverse City Roster
'20 Prospects' Series (Includes 12 Team Members)

By Dan David,

In 2006, former Rangers captain and current MSG broadcaster Dave Maloney ventured up to Traverse City, Mich., to join his younger brother Don, then a team executive, at a prospects tournament at the Detroit Red Wings' training-camp facility in Traverse City, Mich.

"I remember it was exciting to get a bit of a leg up in terms of seeing who might have a chance to play for the Rangers and seven other teams in the league," said Maloney. "It's always fun to get a handle on players who might be playing up in the NHL in the future."

Little did Maloney know that he would be returning to the Traverse City Prospects Tournament five years later to take part in four historic MSG telecasts from Sept. 10 to Sept. 14.

John Giannone, left, and Joe Micheletti will call all the action from Traverse City on MSG. Both broadcasters are excited about the opportunity to include fan comments in the broadcast via Twitter.
For the first time this year, MSG will bring its broadcast team to Traverse City, enabling Rangers fans to watch the next generation of Blueshirts live in Rangers uniforms. The tournament was an immediate launching pad for the NHL careers of Marc Staal and Brandon Dubinsky in 2007, Michael Del Zotto in 2009, and Derek Stepan a year ago.

Being able to watch these four games at Traverse City will enable Rangers fans to determine for themselves which of the team's youngest prospects have the best shot at making the NHL roster. Virtually all fans will have an opportunity to watch these games regardless of their location, because the NHL Network is picking up the MSG broadcast for its subscribers who live outside MSG's traditional broadcast territory.

John Giannone will handle the play-by-play duties with Joe Micheletti serving as color commentator. Maloney will be the rinkside reporter. That puts the former Rangers captain in a unique position to capture the remarkable scene at the intimate Traverse City Centre ICE Arena complex, where some of the biggest names in hockey will be on hand to glimpse players looking to follow in their footsteps.

MSG won't just make history by covering Rangers games at Traverse City. The network is fully prepared to make these four broadcasts unlike anything Rangers fans have seen in the past, and the Rangers organization is working closely with all involved to ensure unfettered access to the players, coaches and Blueshirts executives who will be on hand. Indeed, some of the biggest supporters and advocates for the network’s efforts at Traverse City can be found within the Rangers management team.

Former Rangers player Ken Gernander, head coach of the team's AHL affiliate, the Connecticut Whale, is the prospects team's head coach for a fifth straight year. MSG will go into the locker room to capture Gernander's pregame remarks to the players and his interaction with them between periods.

For the first time in Traverse City Prospects Tournament history, MSG will provide live broadcasts of all four Blueshirts games. Here is a look at the schedule:

• Sept. 10 -- vs. St. Louis at 7 p.m.
• Sept. 11 -- vs. Dallas at 6 p.m.
• Sept. 13 -- vs. Carolina, 3:30 p.m.
• Sept. 14 -- Placement Game, TBD
The network will also have Maloney and a camera stationed at the Rangers bench for much of the game, and players will be able to talk to the broadcasters during the action. Some Rangers prospects will wear wireless microphones during the games, enabling fans to hear what is being said on the ice and on the bench.

No part of the Traverse City experience will be off-limits to the MSG cameras. There are even plans to give the audience a sample of the team bus ride, as the players head from their hotel to the rink.

Another exciting aspect of the Traverse City broadcasts is the opportunity for Rangers fans to interact with players, broadcasters, and between-periods guests via Twitter. Fans submitting comments or questions for the broadcast crew can use the #NYRprospects hashtag to be certain their remarks will be considered for use on the air. Many of these comments will be posted during the broadcast and discussed by Giannone, Micheletti and Maloney.

Giannone is an avid Twitter user who hopes to tweet from Traverse City and interact with fans in real time during the broadcast.

"I'll do it during breaks in the action or if there's a time in the broadcast where Dave Maloney is having a conversation at ice level," said Giannone. "I will jump on and tweet something really quick. ... Whether it's tweets, or message boards, or chat rooms, you can definitely tell the Rangers fans' passion on the Internet. They live and die with virtually every play."

His broadcast partner is equally excited about the opportunity to incorporate social media in a meaningful way.

"Twitter has become so popular, and sports like hockey are fan-driven sports," said Micheletti. "With the development of the social networks, this fits in to what we're doing, and as long as we've got a chance to do it, I think this is smart. That's the way everything has been heading."

Maloney agreed that the upcoming broadcasts will demonstrate just how much fans can participate in what they are watching, and that time has come with the Traverse City players themselves part of the first generation that has truly embraced social media.

"I think that's the world we're in -- the interactiveness of everything makes it kind of imperative that you stay involved," said the former Rangers captain. "I think when you look at the youth of now, this is the reality of how things are."

One Twitter-submitted question will be posed to each between-periods guest. Viewers will be notified about the guest and invited to submit their questions during the period preceding the interview.

Interview guests will likely include prospects and their family members, executives and members of the Rangers scouting staff, who have been watching these young players for years.

"I would say the broadcast will encompass more storytelling and more interviewing than actual play-by-play," said Giannone. "We will have plenty of people up in the booth, and Dave will be ice-side."

Some of these guests will appear between periods, while others will join Giannone and Micheletti in the broadcast booth or sit down with Maloney in the stands during the game action.

Defenseman Dylan McIlrath, the Rangers' first-round pick in 2010, is a returning member of last year's Traverse City team. This time around, Rangers fans will be able to watch McIlrath and the other prospects in all four of the team's games on MSG.
Viewers can also expect to hear from former Rangers goaltender and broadcaster John Davidson, now President of the St. Louis Blues, whose prospects will face the Rangers in the Sept. 10 opener for both teams. Hockey Hall of Famers  Joe Nieuwendyk, General Manager of the Dallas Stars, and Al MacInnis, St. Louis' Vice-President of Hockey Operations, will also be at the event and are among the many prominent NHL executives available for interviews.

"J.D. told me he is going to be there," Micheletti said of Davidson, who spent 20 years in the Rangers broadcast booth. "He's been a friend for 25 years or so, and even though we talk on the phone fairly often, it will be great to catch up with him in person . We're going to try to get him on the air with us in the broadcast booth, because I think this type of environment bodes well for something like that. ...  It will be fun with the way we're going to televise this, because we're going to get a lot of these people on the air with us."

Micheletti, who has worked in the Rangers booth for the past five seasons, has never been to the Traverse City tournament but has heard about it for years and is excited about the experience. The opportunity to see players he will one day interview as NHL regulars is something he appreciates. Defensemen Tim Erixon and Dylan McIlrath, and forwards Ryan Bourque, Carl Hagelin and Christian Thomas are just a few of the prospects expected to be full-time Blueshirts in the years to come.

"I look forward to meeting these kids when they're young," said Micheletti. "It's really important for us as broadcasters to be able to know the player personally from a younger age, but we tend to not meet them until they make the team."

Maloney agrees, and he can personally relate to the emotions these players will experience in Traverse City, because he was once in the position of being a Rangers hopeful.

"While the kids are more aware of the bigger picture today, they are still kids and this is the next step for them. From a Rangers standpoint, there are a couple of kids on this roster who might be bona fide contenders for the NHL this year," said Maloney. "Guys like (Traverse City alumni) Ryan Callahan, Brandon Dubinsky, and Marc Staal are probably now really comfortable being NHL players, but for anybody in the first couple of years of their careers, being in the NHL is like a magical mystery tour."

Given the plans for its upcoming broadcasts, MSG is going to unlock some of that mystery in Traverse City.
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