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Giant Blackjack Cards, Skaters In Fountains, Flying Pucks: ESPN Blankets The NHL All-Star Skills Competition In Vegas Tonight

ESPN CP Linda Schulz marvels at what's in store during All-Star Weekend on ESPN, ABC and ESPN+ and asks: "How cool is that?"

Showcasing the world’s best hockey players in Las Vegas, ESPN’s industry-leading collection of television and direct-to-consumer platforms will present National Hockey League (NHL) All-Star Weekend, including live coverage of the NHL All-Star Skills Competition presented by DraftKings Sportsbook on ESPN tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET, and the Honda NHL All-Star Game on ABC and ESPN+ on Saturday at 3 p.m, from T-Mobile Arena.

Front Row caught up with Linda Schulz, Coordinating Producer, who is overseeing the production this weekend, to hear all about what fans can expect and what this season has been like so far.

What are some production highlights viewers can expect during this year’s NHL All-Star Game and Skills Challenge?
You can’t miss the fact that, for the first time, the NHL is literally shutting down the Las Vegas strip to have professional hockey players play blackjack by hitting pucks into giant breakable cards and standing on platforms in the middle of the Bellagio fountain to hit pucks onto other islands in the fountain. How cool is that? Also, lots of musician involvement! Zedd is handling the player introductions live for the All-Star Game, and Machine Gun Kelly is doing a live concert in the second intermission.

What has been your favorite part of working on NHL production in its first season back on ESPN, ESPN+, and Hulu?
For me, it’s my first-ever opportunity to work on NHL, but I grew up in Boston – where hockey rules. I have bragging rights now with my home crowd! Plus, I’m working with veterans on the sport who could not be more passionate about the sport’s return to our network and streaming platform. And you know what’s really great? It’s not just us ESPNers that are thrilled to have it back on our air – that excitement we’re helping to create feels amazing.

What are some of the bigger challenges you’ve faced this season?
How we cover sports has changed a lot since we covered the NHL 17 years ago. What that means is we are really had to start from scratch when we created our coverage plan for this season. That’s hard, but it is also an incredible opportunity. In the more than 25 years I’ve been working with ESPN, it’s rare to get the chance to build from scratch. As I said, that’s hard, but it’s really, really cool.

How is hockey different from some of the other sports you’ve produced?
I’ve worked on everything from X Games to auto racing to all kinds of college sports. When it comes down to it, sports are about the drive, passion, competition, and stories of the athletes – and how to deliver those emotions to the fan. What’s different to me with NHL is that it’s a team sport that is driven by players who refuse to see themselves as individuals and insist on being a team through and through. In terms of television coverage, hockey is by far the fastest and hardest sport to document while sharing the stories of the teams. But if anyone can handle that challenge, it’s us.

Hockey Hall Of Famer and six-time Stanley Cup winner Mark Messier on his first season as an ESPN NHL analyst

Spencer Jackson produced the video seen in the ESPNPR Tweet above.

Card Photography – Joe Faraoni and Melissa Rawlins – ESPN Images

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