ESPN’s start-to-finish coverage of World Cup of Hockey 2016 begins September 17 when the puck drops at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. Every game will be televised across ESPN’s networks. Senior Vice President, Production & Remote Events Mark Gross, discusses the production philosophy with Front Row.
How does this two-week production differ from season-long productions?
It’s important for us to hit the ground running. We don’t have time to say that was good for the first week or first show. We have to bring our “A Game” from day one through the Final.
What are you most excited about?
The entire tournament as a spectacle, not just who won. Seeing all the countries, the jerseys, the fans, the pageantry and the passion. I’m excited hockey is back on our air.
How are we showcasing the best NHL players in the world?
We have a number of things planned. We are working closely with the NHL and Rogers Sportsnet (host broadcaster). We are supplementing their coverage, producing a variety of features, and offering inside access to elevate this event from more than just a day session and a night session. We want to bring the entire experience from Toronto into fans’ homes.
Compare this production to Euros and Olympics, which we recently televised?
It’s similar in that it will tell the stories viewers want to hear. We will educate viewers on the players, teams, the history of the World Cup and the tournament as a whole.
What is a little bit different is that it comes at a very busy time in the sports calendar. We want to make sure the WCOH stands out so we produced some vignettes with Hall-of-Famers Chris Chelios and Brett Hull to help educate fans.
How did the ESPN commentator team come together?
We built a hockey team basically from scratch. Steve Levy, Barry Melrose, Linda Cohn and John Buccigross are passionate fans and work here. We added multiple commentators – Hull, Chelios, Kevin Weekes, Darren Pang, Leah Hextall – over the past few months. We have familiar and new faces for fans, blended together to create a fantastic viewing experience.
Hearing the National Hockey Night theme again after 12 years is very cool. Why is it back?
It’s simple. It is still identifiable and fans love the music from when we had the NHL.