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At Winter Classic, Cablecam Makes Its Outdoor Hockey Debut for NBC

Dec 31, 2010 – 9:00 AM
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Christopher Botta

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PITTSBURGH -- If Sam Flood has his way, NBC's Cablecam will stay stride-for-stride with Sidney Crosby on a rink-length rush during the 2011 NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day. Or Alexander Ovechkin, if the opportunity presents itself.

"There's a faceoff deep in the Capitals' defensive zone," imagines Flood, a former college hockey player who's now the executive producer for NBC Sports. "The puck finds its way to Ovechkin, who carries it the length of the rink. Maybe he tries to score on a wrap-around. Maybe he sets up someone in front of the net. Either way, the Cablecam is going to bring the speed, power and the grace to the viewers at home."

For the first time in the young and limited history of broadcasting ice hockey games outdoors, the Cablecam will be in use when the Penguins and Washington Capitals battle at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on New Year's Day. Sports fans are well-acquainted with the aerial views provided by Cablecams in broadcasts of NFL games and NASCAR races. Flood resisted using the technology for the first three Winter Classics on NBC, preferring his aerial shots from an airplane (the plane will still be in the air for Saturday's game). However, with a Cablecam already in place at Heinz Field for the NFL Network's broadcast of the Steelers-Panthers game last week, Flood and director Jeff Simon were excited to give it a try.

"It should enhance the speed of the game and the scope of the event," Flood told FanHouse before his crew's first rehearsal at Heinz Field on Friday.

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Cablecam was originally developed on the ski slopes of Canada. Over the years it has evolved into a smaller, remote-operated system supported by Kevlar ropes. Two people pilot the camera, which measures two feet and weighs just under 100 pounds. The Cablecam system in place for the 2011 Winter Classic is the same used over the last year at the Canadian Football League's Grey Cup, the World Series, Super Bowl and World Cup. It is also used by Flood's crews on NBC's Sunday Night Football.

Flood, who has won 15 Emmy Awards, is a former captain of the hockey team at Williams College. For him, the NHL Winter Classic is a labor of love. "It's a celebration of one of the greatest sports," said Flood. "For me, the Winter Classic is one of the best days of the year."

On Saturday, his staff will be back at a football stadium -- a superior locale for broadcasting a hockey game than recent sites Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. "Heinz Field presents a simpler set-up," said Flood. "Wrigley and Fenway had their challenges, but the imagery of the old ballparks was a nice trade-off. At Heinz, we'll have every angle we need to cover the game. We'll be able to go left to right."

And now with Cablecam making its NHL outdoor debut, Flood and NBC will have the game covered from above.
FanHouse TV: Mike "Doc" Emrick Discusses the Winter Classic

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