Hockey TV & the Footage Fairy

Howdy hockey people.

A while back, I wrote about how I make hockey highlight packs for Hockey Night in Canada, specifically for the web ( The feedback was largely positive, so I want to write about it again.

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On top on CBC, I’ve also recently taken a freelance position at the NHL Network. While there are a lot of similarities between the two jobs, there are some key differences, too.

If you’re interested in how hockey highlights get done, here’s how we do it.

As I mentioned before, the highlights I showed you in the previous blog for CBC were for the web. The NHL Network’s are for live television. This changes the pace of things considerably. For web content, you still want to get your work online as soon as you can, but there usually isn’t a hard due time. For live television though? If your work isn’t done on time, the screen goes black. Dead air. Eep. You don’t want that.

Duties change from night to night, but usually when I begin a shift (keep in mind I got this job just four weeks ago), there are tiny b-roll and mini-packs to do. You know those little 10-20 second stingers you see over the hosts and analysts talking? For example, they’ll be talking about Jeff Carter, and magically, a bunch of Jeff Carter goals will appear! How did that happen?

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Well, I guess I used to think all those highlights came from the footage fairy, who gently and magically tucks all the footage a Producer needs right under their pillow as they sleep.

Weirdly, that’s not the case. Someone has to compile that stuff, build those packs, let people know how long they are, and what footage is in them. And here I was thinking Kevin Weekes just magically made highlights appear on live television with his mind.

After doing several of those, Bob McKenzie’s Monday night “Insider” segment came in. In this segment, Bob talks about a topic in the world of hockey for a few minutes. While Bob McKenzie is as handsome as he is knowledgeable, it isn’t exactly exciting television to just leave him talking into the camera for three minutes with only one angle. To fix this, we listen to what Bob has to say, and put footage over it.

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Again, I haven’t been with the NHL Network for very long, but this was one of the more challenging, albeit really fun, items I’ve had to work on. Bob was talking about several topics regarding Alexander Ovechkin. Well, that should be easy enough, right? Ovechkin has had a million highlights recently, so how hard could it be? Not so fast…

One of Bob’s Ovechkin observations was about Adam Oates’ success in switching Ovie to the right wing. He mentioned how this allows Ovechkin to take the puck on his forehand, rush up ice with more space and speed, turn the puck over less, and be less predictable.

That’s some pretty specific stuff. You can’t just throw any old shot of Ovechkin firing home a one-timer from the left side on the powerplay. That doesn’t match what Bob is saying at all, and it would waste his analysis. I had to dig a little for the proper footage.

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I managed to find a couple examples of Ovechkin rushing up the right side for a goal, but I still needed to fill more time. Rather than continue taking way too much time finding goals, I decided to go into our system and search things like “Ovechkin chance” and “Ovechkin wing” instead. What I found was a perfect example of Ovechkin receiving the puck on his forehand, rushing up on the right side, cutting into the middle, before getting hauled down by a defender, and drawing a penalty. It’s not a goal, but it’s a perfect example of what Bob was referring to, and it shows that it’s working.

The rest of the Insider segment featured some more specific footage, but it was much easier to find. Mike Ribeiro setting up Ovechkin on the powerplay, Ovechkin in the KHL, Nicklas Backstrom getting better, and Mike Green getting, as Bob put it, “En Fuego.”

Once that was finished, the real fun started. It was only 6:45pm. Games start in 15 minutes! But that’s a blog for another day.

I was assigned the both Rangers-Leafs game and Flames-Avalanche game, and I’ll write about how that was made soon.

Thanks for reading!


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  • So all the archives available to you at the NHL network are presumably tagged fairly meticulously? Like I guess what I’m getting at is, you want to add these specific highlights of Ovie in these scenarios, so you’ll search for “Ovechkin chance” or whatever, but how is it you’re searching for these?

    I’m assuming you have digital archives stored on some sort of storage device? Is there a tape backup? This stuff fascinates me.

    • Most TV stations have an interesting problem, which is they have a lot stored digitally, and a lot stored on old, giant beta tapes.

      Many things are digitally archived, while other older items need to be imported via beta tape. The tapes are shotlisted, though, so all you have to do is go in the system, find the tape, go to the time, and import it into the digital system.

      It sounds a lot harder than it actually is. And it may sound archaic, but every place I’ve ever worked – Leafs TV, CBC, NHL Network (which shares TSN’s studios) still use beta tapes to some extent. There’s also an online archive, but I’m pretty sure it’s online available within the studios. Again, I’m new.

      • Still curious as to who “tags” the various game moments such that you can search those out. Is it based on voice to text from the play-by-play, or colour commentator? For example, lets say you wanted to search out footage of when Chara was knocked down by a hard check. It’s somewhat a rare occurence, but unless you remember a specific instance, how can you search that out??

        • You’d be shocked, man. On game night, almost EVERY single little thing is clipped. After a few days, it goes into the online archives. Sometimes, someone fight have made a quick little melt of Chara getting knocked down by people, and the shot we wanted will be in there, so we’ll just snag it from that.