VICTORIA — If you’ve followed professional sports for any length time, you’ve probably heard the old adage that things are different in the playoffs: the players are faster; the shots are quicker; the hits are harder; the fans are louder.
As it turns out, the fans and players aren’t the only ones amped up for the post-season. So are the talented people that make up the WHL on Shaw broadcast team, who are in Victoria to cover the second game of the series between the hometown Royals and the visiting Kelowna Rockets.
“We're also in ‘playoff mode’, too,” explains director Jim Thompson. “We’ve been working all year and we’re finely tuned and ready to go, just like the players are.”
If you’ve never experienced the inside of a mobile production truck, you might expect the hub of the broadcast team to be a hive of activity. Inside the WHL on Shaw truck, it’s anything but. Thompson and his crew are calm, cool and collected as they go about their business queuing up the next highlight, interview or camera angle. It all comes with experience, not just in the industry but with each other.
“When you've worked a lot with somebody, you develop a certain shorthand in language,” says Thompson. “You get a certain sense of humour. You're all kind of focused on the same goal. You don't need a lot of verbal instruction. We never really have a panic situation. We're not a panicky kind of crew.”
Good thing, too, because this is not your normal broadcast operation.
On a bigger stage, the truck would be simply there to connect the action in the arena with the audience at home. Commercials and intermissions would be handled off-site via a television station’s master control. Not so for this crew.
“We do game production, we roll breaks out of our truck through our switcher and we're also doing our intermission show out of our truck. We almost never get a break. For us, it's more about learning not to drink too much water before the game starts because you don't get a break for two-and-a-half hours.”
Not that being forced to sit and watch a WHL playoff match is necessarily a bad thing. Thompson has nothing but praise for the league and the two teams featured in his broadcast in particular, lamenting that the Victoria Royals and Kelowna Rockets meeting in the second round is a shame.
“They really should face each other in the next round. These are the two best teams in the west. You couldn't ask for more. Victoria's built a great program over the last few years. They've been slowly ramping up to this kind of season. They didn't expect to finish first in the west. Kelowna did and they stumbled a bit. This is a great series. If you like hockey, this is really the one you want to be watching this round, for sure.”
Luckily for Thompson and the crew, one of these teams will move on to the conference finals, where either the Seattle Thunderbirds or Everett Silvertips will be waiting. While the WHL on Shaw focus will likely go back east following the Victoria-Kelowna series, Thompson is happy no matter what teams lines up before his cameras.
“I think you see a much more exciting brand of hockey in junior hockey. Kids are hungry; they're eager to prove themselves. In a couple years, you're going to see a few of these guys wearing NHL jerseys, and that's cool to think that … we saw that guy play and now he's playing for Philadelphia or whoever. It's cool to see that progression.”