Close your eyes and imagine the following.
The gentle heat of a bright wintry sun warming your face. The distant sound of tender waves gently folding up on the shore of Lake Tahoe. A soft breeze floating the smell of the water and the crisp freshness of a tepid February through the trees.
Oh, and the sweet game of hockey being played on the 18th green at the picturesque Edgewood Tahoe Resort in Stateline, Nevada, this weekend.
Now open your eyes and take a moment to reflect on how it incredible it will be to see two NHL games contested from such a vivacious location. I’m getting serious Mystery, Alaska vibes.
Not only will the current pride of Denver, your Colorado Avalanche, take on the Vegas Golden Knights for the third of four consecutive tilts there on Saturday, but the Philadelphia Flyers will battle the Boston Bruins at the locale on Sunday as well.
How lucky are we?
After everything we—human beings living in a fractured society suffering a seemingly endless pandemic—have experienced in the last year and change, we get to witness something special and wholly unique to the game of hockey.
A respite from the ordinary, the mundane even.
Long before the parade of the Stadium Series games diluted the superb experience of outdoor puck, the Winter Classic was the ultimate non-postseason spectacle. I’ll never forget how magical that first game seemed, both when it was announced and then again during the actual match.
While I didn’t get to see much of the contest, which is a story best told over beers and not in print, I’ll never forget the glimpses of professional hockey being played in the midst of heavy snow. The game was wholly at the whim of the elements, just like how I experienced things when I was a kid playing on a roofless sheet of ice.
It was whimsical, though maybe not the best NHL contest anyone had ever seen despite ending 2-1 after a shootout.
These Tahoe contests have the ability to be similarly breathtaking and groundbreaking, taking the game up a notch in hearts and minds of fans and outsiders alike, but it will be how they’re presented, not played, that will make or break the weekend.
Remember just 328 words ago when I had you envision such a fantastic scene? Well that’s what NBC proper has the burden of portraying to everyone not there—which is mostly everyone. There’s an opportunity to take a beautiful location with incredible visuals, plop a rink in the middle, and bring viewers something they’ve never seen before.
There are no fans, therefore there are no concerns about obstructing already questionable viewpoints from makeshift seats with big cameras, large cranes, lighting towers, and whatever else it takes to bring the sport outside. Instead, there’s the chance to be bold.
Break out the 4K cameras, bring in the drones and wire rigging, and for the love of the hockey gods leave incessant fake crowd din at home. Mic up the game, the lake, the trees, and let the scene and sounds compliment and enhance the fastest game on ice.
Show us something we’ve never seen. Make it beautiful, the way sports can be when not presented as easily digestible canned goods.
There’s a shot at serene intensity this weekend, and anything less than majestic will be more of the same old thing.