History was made in the NHL on Tuesday night. It was not a landmark goal or a defining victory, but the first live hockey game of its kind to be animated in real-time and broadcast nationally.
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ESPN recreated Tuesday’s game between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden in the style of the Disney animated series “Big City Greens” in an effort to attract younger crowds and increase the league’s national audience.
Both goalkeepers were replaced on the broadcast by Gramma Alice and Bill, while Cricket Green and Tillie Green stepped in for one player on each team. MSG’s iconic ice surface was replaced with a sheet in the “Times Circle” of the Big City Greens and an animated chicken was placed on the side of the human referee.
We also saw Patrick Kane’s first goal at MSG when he made his way down the ice in animated form, one past Bill — I mean, Darcy Kuemper — on the power play to increase the Rangers’ lead in the first period.
big hit with a “boom” graphicthere were aftershocks of the whistle represented by a dust balland it also had educational sections Alex Ovechkinclimbing to break the all-time goal record and even an interpretation of the offside rule. The broadcast had it all, including analyst Kevin Weeks decked out in a motion-capture suit as he called the play and did the intermission segment.
That’s some incredible commitment to family-friendly programming tied to a popular cartoon. And the bit seemed to work, as families tuned in to the nationally televised game and praised ESPN for putting together such a unique and groundbreaking broadcast.
Now what will happen next? Will we see Disney expand its reach and have a Marvel-themed NHL broadcast? Will we see The Simpsons get in on the action and entertain a generation that grew up with the iconic show? The possibilities now seem endless, and not only with broadcasts, but the ability to successfully track players and the puck was also put on full display.
Rangers would go on to win 5–3 in front of their home fans, led by a two-goal night from Mika Zibanejad.
We’ll just have to wait and see, but the Big City Greens Classic can be considered a huge success.