NBC's Lake Tahoe broadcast experience of outdoor NHL games will be as 'unique as it gets'

Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY
·3 min read

Charlie Dammeyer likes to open his final pre-production meetings for the NHL Winter Classic by asking the room something like, “Hey, has anybody done a hockey game at Citi Field before?”

This year's huddle will likely be a little different.

“It’s very rare that you get the chance to do something first,” said Dammeyer, who will direct the Avalanche-Golden Knights game on Saturday and Bruins-Flyers game on Sunday from the 18th hole of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada. “But you’ve got to do it well.”

NBC has the advantage of broadcasting the American Century Celebrity Championship at Edgewood every summer, but hockey presents a different challenge.

Dammeyer has directed Stanley Cup Final games and nine outdoor contests for NBC in the past. This assignment, though, is “about as unique as it gets.”

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“It’s a technical challenge, that’s one,” he said. “However, it’s a great opportunity for us. There’s no fans and that stinks. We miss the fans 100 percent. But it’s a challenge for us that this is the way people consume this now. If you’re a fan tuning in, the only way to consume this game is to watch it on television.”

The rink at Lake Tahoe is located on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort.
The rink at Lake Tahoe is located on the 18th fairway of the Edgewood Tahoe Resort.

During a normal regular-season game, there are limitations of what Dammeyer can show inside the arena while the action is stopped. At Lake Tahoe, those possibilities are more enticing.

“I do think there will be a lot of ‘wow’ moments,” NHL chief content officer Steve Mayer told USA TODAY Sports. “Just the environment, it’s up to us to make (the shots) multiple, so that it’s not just a one-trick pony. It’s not like you tune in and you go, ‘OK, I saw it, I’m leaving.’ That you continually wow people with the way the game is covered and how sharp it looks.”

It will be the first time an NBC hockey broadcast will use live drones (two). One can top 60 mph and deliver shots from a foot off the lake and then zip through the trees. The other is larger and more cinematic, with stabilizing lenses that can sail over the trees and provide unique angles.

On the ground, Dammeyer will have 35 cameras – about half manned – at his disposal.

Making his outdoor hockey broadcasting debut, Mike Tirico will serve as the play-by-play announcer for both games alongside analyst Eddie Olczyk, who will be rinkside. Brian Boucher is the “inside-the-glass” analyst.

Most of the approximately 75-person production team will make the trip, with the others working from NBC headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, or from home. Additional broadcast trucks were brought in to allow for social distancing on the ground.

NBC will air the natural sound from the game with no artificial crowd noise. Microphones will be placed around the rink as they would during an indoor game.

Dammeyer said he is rooting for plenty of stoppages this weekend to give him chances to show nature, instead of resorting to three replays. More aesthetic options may present themselves: a remote campfire, a soaring bird, snow-covered treetops and mountains.

“Something that’s very unique about the place that we are,” Dammeyer said. “And, ‘Oh, by the way, we’ll come back and play some hockey.’”

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lake Tahoe NHL broadcast on NBC will be as 'unique as it gets'