With the NHL and NHLPA on the doorstep of approving the Return to Play format and bringing hockey back at the beginning of August, it's time to look at how the NHL can improve its broadcasts without fans in the arena.
For United States viewers, the NHL rightsholder is NBC, and the games figure to feature prominently on their network of stations. There have been criticisms of NBC and their coverage of the NHL since taking over as the main rights holder for the United States in 2005, and those criticisms still hold in 2020.
So how exactly can the NHL and NBC improve/adapt their broadcasts for the viewers at home now that they are about to produce games without fans in the arena? Well, here are a few ideas that could help the league provide a more quality product with some tips from other leagues that have already returned to action this summer.
Alternate Views Of The Ice
When watching the broadcast of an NHL game, you have that generic view from center ice which has the camera following the puck around. You typically only get one-third of the ice in the shot, which sometimes does not do the game justice to those of us sitting at home watching. If you are in the arena watching, especially for those reporters who are more in tune with seeing how plays can develop, you have the whole view to give you the full advantage of watching in the arena.
So this suggestion is pretty simple. Provide alternative camera views that can allow everyone to see the whole ice. Whether you put a camera up in the press box or one behind a goal, putting a camera somewhere that allows fans and media covering from home a view that gets the whole ice would be popular. You don't have to put it on one of the TV channels. It could be offered on NBC's website as an alternative view just like they do for the Premier League.
Just Sounds Of Hockey
Another great quality of watching in the arena is that you just get sounds of hockey without anyone talking over them. It's a beautiful sound. So let's bring that into the fold. Offer a non-broadcaster, non-fake crowd sound version of the game where it's just the sounds of hockey. Puck hitting the glass, skates, yelling, all of it. That would be pretty popular, too.
Bring Some More Analytics Into The Broadcast
With more eyes on the NHL, it's time to bring some more advanced stats into the broadcast. No, we don't need to go full-on deep dive into them, but it's time to start incorporating the more basic stats into the show so it can be further explained why Team A is outplaying Team B.
Mike Milbury sure won't like this, but shot attempts, high danger shot attempts, 5-on-5 save percentage, etc., should at least get recognized. The other major leagues in the United States have started incorporating this into the broadcast, so why not the NHL? It's time to step out of the dark ages.
Seven NHL teams are not participating in the return to play, which means you have a lot of players just sitting around watching hockey. Why not bring some of them along with coaches and executives into the fold as commentators from home? P.K. Subban would be a good one. Bruce Boudreau, too. Heck, you could maybe even get a player on their day off to check in for a period.
The point is, it is time to get creative and bring the most colorful people in the game into the broadcasts. Don't just keep leaving the commentary to Milbury and Ed Olczyk. It will get dull pretty quickly if you do. Also having people who have been in the game more recently providing commentary would give the viewers, especially the new ones giving the sport a try, more insightful analysis as to what's going on.