NHL crews sharpen focus

ROB BRODIE -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

The NHL, you'd think, has enough on its plate trying to deal with broadcast needs during its showcase event.

But while all eyes -- and cameras -- are focused on the Stanley Cup final in Ottawa this weekend, a crew inside one of the many production trucks outside Scotiabank Place will be on future watch.

Plans are moving forward that, when complete, should greatly enhance much of the information TV broadcasters are able to deliver starting next season.

According to NHL broadcasting senior VP John Shannon, the project, if successful, will allow the league to "build a lot more real-time scoring stats, such as ice time, hits and shots on goal." All of this, in turn, can lead to the building of graphics that are more informative and just plain useful to those tuning in. Shannon said it's a must for the NHL if it's to keep pace with other professional sports leagues.

"We, as a league, need to be on the cutting edge," he said. "Other sports have done it, and we have to be big and dynamic as well."

Clearly, the way all of us view hockey is undergoing major change. CBC's Hockey Night in Canada has boosted its online component during the playoffs with exclusive pre-game and post-game material, and fans have responded favourably.

High-definition telecasts are increasing. Broadcasters are getting away from the two-man booth, often moving commentators to ice level -- between the benches or even right on them.

But the experimentation has slowed down during the Cup final. "This is not the time to change too much," Shannon said. "This is the time to be at the top of your game with what you have."

JUST TWO MUCH? As reported previously in this space, NBC's Brett Hull will join Ron MacLean and Don Cherry on Coach's Corner tomorrow night on CBC. Then, Cherry will reintroduce himself to U.S. viewers during the second intermission of Monday's Game 4 telecast on NBC. What's the plan for tomorrow night? Well, there isn't any. "The two of them have a lot of similar opinions on the game," said Joel Darling, Hockey Night's executive producer. "We'll just have them on together and have fun with it." ... Tomorrow's Headliner feature on the pre-game show focuses on Shawville, Que., and its relationship with favoured son Bryan Murray, the Senators coach.

AROUND THE DIAL: Former TSN hockey voice Paul Romanuk is the host for NHL International's Stanley Cup final game coverage in England.


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