Making Highlights Happen



Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Last night I wrote about some of the things we do at the NHL Network, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. Glad to see!

As promised, I’m going to write about how we make highlight packs for hockey games. We’re going to look at two games from Monday night, specifically the Rangers-Leafs game, and the Flames-Avalanche game.

After completing all the tasks that I mentioned in the previous blog post, I was assigned the Rangers-Leafs game. Once I found that out, I went into the night’s “lineup.”

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Basically, each show has a list of things we’re going to show, and how long those items are. They allocated 2:00 of airtime for the Rangers-Leafs game, meaning the highlight pack has to be two minutes long. These numbers are subject to change throughout the night, and can change at any moment. We had two deliverables that needed to make it to air:

Rangers-Leafs SOT pack (sound on tape), which is just a pack of highlights featuring all play-by-play calls and no script. This was to be completed with about 10 minutes to go in the Hurricanes-Bruins game from that night. Usually just goals unless something truly remarkable happens.

Rangers-Leafs VO pack (voice over), which is the full two-minute highlight pack, including a full script for the on-air talent to read.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

So where to begin? Well first, you need an "establisher". Off the top, the host will say something about both teams involved, and briefly preview the game. For this game, it was a quick blurb about how the Rangers and Leafs are separated by just four points in the standings, and that Ryan O’Byrne was making his Leafs debut. I showed a scenic shot f the ACC, a bench shot of Derick Brassard, and bench shot of Ryan O’Byrne. Right off the bat, there’s about 10 seconds killed.

Other than the intro, you begin the highlight pack with nothing. This gives you a couple of different ways to look at the 1st period. You can either grab the first thing you see that looks interesting and throw it into the pack, or you can jot some notes down, wait until near the end of the frame, and add whatever plays you felt were noteworthy. The problem with adding plays as you go and deleting them isn’t really that it’s hard to do, but rather it’s that you create a bit more work for your editor. Sometimes it’s unavoidable.

I should pause for a second and say I don’t edit these myself. I script the packs and write what should be in them, while an editor sits with me and cuts the packs together on video-editing software. There are also people clipping any notable plays and throwing them up on the temporary archives. For example, “Reimer save on Boyle,” “Lundqvist save on Bozak,” “***Reimer save on Clowe***.” If whoever is clipping sees something they think is great, usually they’ll indicate that with a few asterisks. Failing all this, if we want to go into the game feed and extract a play that wasn’t clipped, we can do that, too.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Rangers at Leafs

1st Period

– Leo Komarov had been mixing it up to start the game. He was battling with Rick Nash off a faceoff, and he hammered Nash into the boards shortly after the puck dropped. I wrote that down in case it was a quiet period.

– Dan Girardi beat James Reimer with a shot, but it hits the post. That was close. If there are no goals in the 1st, I have to use that.

– James van Riemsdyk scores to make it 1-0 Leafs on the same shift Girardi hits the post. If we really have to, we can delete the Girardi post, but I want to keep it because it was key to the JVR goal as well. I need to script it all in a way that the host can say it quickly, and the analyst has enough time to take the audience through the play. Do we need one replay or two? Let’s use two. The spin pass from Liles was nice, and JVR didn’t score on the initial shot. You’ll need two different camera angles for that, so we might as well show both.

– Other than a few other decent scoring chances, these three plays should do it for the 1st. The first thing that we’ll delete if we have to, is the Komarov hit.

2nd Period

– Ryan O’Byrne scores. What are the odds of that? Script this one nice and quick so the analyst can do their thing. It’s a pretty self-explanatory play. Great pass by Nazem Kadri and O’Byrne scores his first goal as a Leaf in his first game as a Leaf. Easy.

– Dion Phaneuf sets up JVR for a chance in the crease that went wide. I’ll make a note of it, but I doubt we’ll use it. Maybe if the Rangers win it 3-2.

– Rick Nash scores to make it 2-1. Derek Stepan starts the rush, and Nash drives hard to the net. Nice goal. Unless the Leafs somehow kill the Rangers 7-1, this is going in. It’s important to note that the goal was reviewed to see if Nash kicked it in. It was ruled a good goal. It wasn’t really a controversial call at all, so because of time constraints, I chose not include the review. If they really want to show the review, the producer or someone will call and tell me to include it. Other than that, it’s not vital to the pack.

– The Leafs score to make it 3-1 late in the period.  My only question is who the hell scored it? Twitter is going nuts that JVR tipped it, a few sites initially listed JVR as the goal-scorer, but some sites have Kessel listed as the goal-scorer. Needless to say, that’s pretty important to the script. After watching several replays, it’s Kessel’s goal. All sites eventually wrote that it was Kessel, too. Let’s show the behind-the-net replay for this one. The crease close-up shot makes it seem like JVR tipped it, and he didn’t.

3rd Period

– Now we have to start thinking about how we want the SOT pack to look for they want for late in the Hurricanes-Bruins game.

– Early in the period, Henrik Lundqvist misplays the puck, Nazem Kadri has a wide-open net, and Anton Stralman robs him of a goal. We got a phone call immediately after telling us they want this in the pack.

– Rick Nash scores to make it 3-2. Holy crap is it a nice goal, too. Whether the Rangers win or lose, we have to use this.

– This is starting to get pretty long. We need to delete that Komarov hit from the 1st, for sure.

– Reimer makes a huge paddle save on Ryan Clowe. This could easily be a game-saver, so I’ll write it down. Let’s focus on finishing up that SOT pack.

– Just as we were about to send off the SOT pack, Derek Stepan snipes one and the Rangers tie it 3-3. We need to throw that in quickly.

– As we’re putting that goal in the SOT pack, Phil Kessel scores his second of the game to put the Leafs back up 4-3. Alright, we need to quickly throw this in, and regardless of what happens next, we have to render the file immediately, and send it to go on air. We’re running out of time. If the Leafs score again or the Rangers tie it, they’ll just have to say it over the scoreboard or something.

– Back to the VO pack.

– Jay McClement hits the goal post.  Pretty much no chance we’re using that.

– Derek Stepan breaks his stick on a great chance with about 45 seconds to play. That will probably be our last shot.

– Rick Nash misses the net with 6 seconds to play. It’s not as good of a chance as Stepan’s, but we’ll use it because we can go straight from that into the Leafs’ win celebration shots.

– Our pack is done. How long is it? 2:22? Ok, that’s 22 seconds heavy as it is, so there’s no way we can add that James Reimer paddle save. The Rangers tied the game anyway. Do we delete the Dan Girardi post from the 1st? It was so crucial to the first goal, though.

– I showed the newsroom supervisor (that’s what I’m calling him because I’m new and forget his actual title). He says it’s probably fine to run a little heavy. We phoned the Producer and he confirmed that we were OK to show a 2:22 pack. It wasn’t long because we cut it too poorly, it was long because a crap-load of stuff happened.

– We were just about to render the VO file when I got a call. It was the Producer telling me not to render it yet. He goes “If you do that, it’ll go to black.” I looked behind me and the SOT pack we did was airing live on TV. Because we were about to render under the same file name, yeah, that would have totally screwed things up and we would be on the air with no sound and a big black screen. Eep. You don’t want that.

– Game’s done. Pack’s done. New York Ranger 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 4.

– Just because the Rangers-Leafs game is done doesn’t mean work is done. One of the other Story Editors (that’s my title) was working on two games at once, so I took the Calgary-Colorado game off his hands. The only problem with that is it was already an hour after puck drop. I would have to play catch-up. This game didn’t require a SOT pack, and the time allotted for the VO pack was 1:30. Hopefully it’s a low-scoring game.

Flames at Avalanche

– The score is 1-0 in the 2nd period. Alright, so not a whole lot has happened, it looks like. When was the goal?

– No scoring in the 1st. Let’s see if anything else happened.

– Joey MacDonald made a great arm save on Jamie McGinn. Let’s throw that in.

– Nothing much else of note in the 1st. There was a fight between Cory Sarich and Jan Hejda. Boy did Sarich fill Hejda, too. Let’s go to and oh look, this is only Hejda’s third career NHL fight. I’ll write that into the script.

2nd Period

– Still not caught up to real time yet, and now it’s a 2-1 game. Alright, who did what?

– Brad Malone tips in Tyson Barrie’s shot for his first career NHL goal. Good reax shot. 1-0.

– Patrick Bordeleau destroys Chris Butler and it leads to a charging call.

– Roman Cervenka ties the game at 1-1. It was just after the powerplay had ended though, so if we really have to, we can delete the Bordeleau hit.

– Mike Cammalleri makes it 2-1 off a beautiful feed from Roman Horak. Sexy replays.

– Final minute of the period, J.S. Giguere dives to rob Cammalleri. Pretty damn good, and potentially huge if Colorado comes back.

– It’s the end of the 2nd period, and we’re already a little over 1:30. We need to axe some stuff. Let’s ditch the Bordeleau hit, and let’s ditch the fight. Neither is that important to the pack right now.

3rd Period

– Referee Brad Meier got hit in the jewels by a Jan Hedja clearing attempt. Did that have an impact on the game? Of course not. Will people be talking about it tomorrow? Yes. It’s going in.

– Joey MacDonald completely robs P.A. Parenteau with a leg save. That’s save of the night material, right there. We’re still tight for time, so let’s delete MacDonald’s save on McGinn from the 1st period, and we’ll just pick the game up in the 2nd.  Also, it looks funny having just one highlight from that period.

– Alex Tanguay scores to make it 3-1.

– Show Calgary win reax, and the game is over. Our highlight pack is about 1:35. If you go way over, you should ask if it’s ok. Five seconds? That’s fine.

– Game over.

– Lastly, after both those games were done, I had to put together a quick 20-second highlight melt to tease the final segment of the show. Nash’s 3-2 goal went in, some Brad Marchard goal reax, something from the Oilers-Ducks game (I can’t remember what), the big Joey MacDonald save, and appropriately ending it off on Ryan Kesler’s goal celebration.

All in a night’s work! It’s a very fun job. The best part about it is that even on a bad night, part of my job is watching hockey. How can I complain?

Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions, let me know.>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  • Super interesting stuff and not something i thought i would read on this site… with all that action your nights must fly by! I must have seen a million highlight packs over the years but I’ll watch a little more closely now that I know what goes into them.

    How hard is it for the on air talent to time their script reading to match the highlights? It doesn’t happen often but every once in a while you see someone totally lost and struggling to catch up or even find the highlights to match what they’re saying. Are they watching the highlights as they read?

    • Laughed at your first comment. They’re 8 hour shifts, and some of them I would swear up and down were 3-4 hours.

      You’d have to ask the on-camera talent. I haven’t done much teleprompter or script stuff ever. How they do it without stumbling ONCE is impressive.

  • ChaoticBoredom

    Was just watching the late night feeds on CBC tonight. Are you just responsible for the Sportsnet feeds, or for the general NHL feeds?

    I was watching the shortened CBC games and wondered if you (or your coworkers) were responsible for trimming the games to match the hour long slots.