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The broadcast booth is 10.9 kilometres away from the Stanley Cup logo at centre ice in Rogers Place.
Play-by-play man Jack Michaels and colour commentator Bob Stauffer will call Game 1 of the Chicago-Edmonton best-of-five ‘Play-In-Series Saturday afternoon from the 630 CHED studios on Edmonton’s south side.
If that sounds like a bit of a bummer to you, NBC’s Hall of Fame hockey broadcaster Mike Emrick will call Eastern Conference games from the Toronto hub from an even greater distance — 365 km.
The other day, an NBC Sports technician drove from New York to create a studio for Emrick so he could call the playoffs from his home in St Clair, Mi. Analyst Eddie Olczyk will operate from his home in Stamford, Ct., 782 km from Toronto in the other direction.
“It’s hard to complain when Doc Emrick, the best in the business, isn’t going to be in the building,” said Michaels.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that has created the hub cities, he refuses to feel sorry for himself. But he will admit that he, for one, is going to miss feeding off the crowd, especially in Edmonton where it reaches an entirely different level in the playoffs.
“I’m a high energy guy, particularly in the playoffs. Whenever I’m credited for being a halfway decent play-by-play guy, I think you can directly point to the circumstances. I got a lot of play earlier this year for my call of the goalie fight between Mike Smith and Cam Talbot in Calgary. It was the Battle of Alberta. There were a ton of Oilers fans in the rink. That crowd was dialed up that night. It might have been different if we were in Columbus or somewhere.
“I’ll figure it out. But it’s going to be a challenge. I feed off the fans creating the atmosphere in the building. I probably feel like the players do. It’s more fun to be around 18,000 people at a Stanley Cup playoff game.
“But there’s a pandemic. You have to adjust on the fly. It’s like 630 CHED, they turned a conference room into a pretty nice studio in a span of three weeks,” said Michaels.
Or, as he tweeted Friday morning: “People keep asking me, ‘Wouldn’t you rather be in the arena?’… Well, of course I would. But I’ll be calling a Stanley Cup playoff game tomorrow. So even if the booth is in Neptune, I still have a better job than you do. One. More. Sleep.”
Added Stauffer: “From a technical perspective, the engineers at CHED did a great job on the set-up. The sync-up between the on-ice effects and the video provided was excellent for the exhibition game. We’ll make it work.”
It’s crazy. There are 12 teams in the Edmonton hub and there will be two American scribes in the building, Adrian Dater, of Denver, and Sarah McLellan for the Minneapolis Star Tribune — a pretty good story on her own being a born-and-raised Edmontonian who moved with her family to Phoenix as a teenager, became a hockey writer and has been given this assignment.
The two have both been here for 14-days in quarantine and are about to emerge from confinement during a heat wave, only to enter Rogers Place where it’s so cold they’d be more comfortable in the parkas they generally wear here for visits in January than a pair of shorts and a golf shirt they probably packed for this assignment.
“There’s no air conditioning in this place,” reported Dater from his lodging. “Normally, I’ve never had use for that in 25 years of coming to this fair city. Without the fan that a resident downstairs dropped off at my door, I’d be dead.”
Normally, the start of a playoff year here would involve an inordinate amount of analytical coverage on the day of Game 1, but the Oilers knew they were going to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round 40 days ago.
I think as many people are interested in seeing what’s involved with Steve Mayer’s staging, which the NHL’s chief content officer and the game presentation hub city head has designed, featuring the goal horns of the ‘home’ team, crowd chants, goal songs and almost double the number of TV cameras, than whether Oilers head coach Dave Tippett decides to start Mikko Koskinen or Mike Smith in goal.
Mayer said they only put 10 per cent of his bells and whistles into play for the exhibition games.
Me? I’m more interested in the flashback to the early 1980s than anything.
I’ve advanced 267½ Edmonton Oilers Stanley Cup playoff games in my career (the half being the night the lights went out during the final in the Boston Garden). It’s been a long time since I covered a best-of-five Stanley Cup playoff series.
In the first best-of-five first-round Stanley Cup playoff series I covered, the Oilers were swept by Philadelphia in 1980 coming out of the World Hockey Association. After the game, Bobby Clarke and the Flyers lined up to predict the Edmonton dynasty that would follow.The next year was the Oilers sweep of the Montreal Canadians, inspired by Glen Sather’s decision to start Andy Moog in goal. A year later, I covered the Miracle on Manchester 3-2 series loss to the Los Angeles Kings.
Stuff happens in best-of-five Stanley Cup playoff series.
Wash your hands. Put on your masks. Stay a hockey stick apart. And buckle up.
It’s Aug. 1. Embrace what you are about to behold.
On Twitter: @ByTerryJones
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