NHL games to have 5-second delay, EA cheering


The NHL will have a five-second delay and artificial crowd noise when it restarts its season in Toronto and Edmonton beginning Aug. 1.

The league distributed “Phase 4” information to teams and media this week, detailing life in the two city “bubbles” for the 24 teams returning to play. That includes how the games will look and sound without fans inside Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, where NBC will produce the Eastern Conference postseason, and and Rogers Place in Edmonton, where Sportsnet will produce Western Conference coverage.

Each arena will have 32 cameras, 12 more than usual and repositioned to capture more of the ice with new camera angles. Rather than having empty seats behind the benches, the NHL has constructed a rink-wide stage featuring LED screens, banners and stages. The empty seats on the lower bowl of each arena will be covered by tarp.

Since the acoustics in the arena will be different without fans, there will be a five-second delay on the broadcasts in an effort to catch any unsavory language on the ice — an NHL initiative on which the NHLPA signed off.

Other sounds on the broadcasts will be provided by “EA Sports supplemental crowd noise,” following the lead of Major League Baseball and soccer’s English Premier League in using video game sounds to fill the audio void.

Inside the arena, players will hear the voices of fans. The NHL’s teams recently sent out a request to season ticket holders to submit videos of them cheering, jeering and chanting. The “replicated chants” will be played inside the arena during games.

Also inside the arena will be “special theme nights,” including two games on Aug. 1 — featuring the Chicago Blackhawks against the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens against the Pittsburgh Penguins — where the NHL will “honor front-line pandemic workers and those who are fighting for social justice.”

Social justice will have a place in the NHL restart for the players as well. The league is allowing players to create customized helmet and clothing decals that can celebrate “community, charities, businesses, fans, frontline heroes, youth programs and social justice advocates.” The decals will have the hashtags “#ISkateFor” and “#WeSkateFor.”

The NHL also released information about their “bubbles” that players will live in for up to two and a half months, depending on how far their teams advance in the postseason. The hubs will have 14 restaurants, bars, pubs, food trucks and coffee shops in its bubble, eight movie theaters and activity spaces as well as player lounges.

From a health and safety perspective, everyone inside the bubble will be tested for COVID-19 on a daily basis. Individual will also use the CLEAR Health Pass on their mobile devices to track health and for real-time temperature checks across over 75 access points in the hub cities.

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