Last night the New York Rangers earned a much needed regulation win vs. the Washington Capitals in primetime on ESPN, and I am sure there was a lot said about how the team had been playing, how they looked during the evening, how the deadline acquisitions have been fitting in. I say I am sure, because I wasn’t watching the main broadcast, instead I watched two periods of the “NHL Big City Greens Classic” with my nephew, and the third period solo once he had to go to bed. It was an experience, a combination of some silly stuff, some wackiness, some predictable humor, some great hockey, and overall great entertainment which the league certainly needs to lean into going forward.
Big City Greens visits the Big Apple! Don't miss the Big City Greens Classic tomorrow at 7p ET on @DisneyPlus, @ESPN & @ESPNPlus! pic.twitter.com/EuoWUKewFo— NHL (@NHL) March 13, 2023
The broadcast started off with viewers being introduced into an animated version of Kevin Weekes and Drew Carter which I would describe as part cartoon acid trip, part Celebrity Deathmatch, and part Muppet.
Man this edible ain’t shit… five minutes later pic.twitter.com/Eb9IoDpzqN— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 14, 2023
ok… we need this concept… but with the muppets pic.twitter.com/SDChZbkthd— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 14, 2023
The overall broadcast was clearly something that is aimed toward children, but as I was watching the game with the second screen of Twitter, it is clear that many adults opted for this feed too. It may have been because they had a young one present, it could have been because they aren’t a fan of national feeds in general, or it could have been because they were interested in the spectacle of absurdity.
It could also be that many of us adults are still big kids at heart who enjoy wacky shit. Doesn’t matter to me the slightest, but the overwhelming sentiment of those who tuned in was positive, and helped at times keep things in check when the Rangers almost gave the game away.
During the game one of the running gags was focusing on the fictional characters of Big City Greens and how they factored into the game at hand. Before the game and during the third period there was a clip in which Gary Bettman had a conversation with Cricket Green, a 10 year old character who broke his TV and was imploring the commissioner to help him and his family watch hockey.
What a game it will be.— NHL (@NHL) March 14, 2023
Don't miss the Big City Greens Classic TONIGHT at 7p ET on @DisneyPlus, @espn & @ESPNPlus! pic.twitter.com/IL7kvadpS2
Given everything we know about the league and Bettman himself, I will say it was funny for a bit to suspend disbelief watching this segment in earnest, and afterwards ponder what it was like to have him go through the process of recording this promotional material.
oh to have been a fly on the wall as Bettman was doing takes of this pic.twitter.com/F3LdPq4DXi— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 15, 2023
Another character from Big City Greens that got a lot of play was Gramma. Gramma was in net for the Rangers on this broadcast, and during the night we learned quite a bit about the 79-year-old netminder.
Benoit Allaire can, and will, work with anyone. pic.twitter.com/PSkdKKAMT7— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 14, 2023
Nice block by Gramma pic.twitter.com/ln0XGv4lYe— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 15, 2023
March 15, 2023
They have certainly mimicked Igor’s glare when looking at a puck pic.twitter.com/dGBmhIDGRa— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 15, 2023
I think another strength of the broadcast was using the fact that they were targeting a younger audience as an opportunity to be informative. Throughout the game there were a few segments where Weekes had some breakdowns of concepts like offsides and icing.
A good way to teach new/young fans on the fly is with these rule breakdowns on the animated broadcasts. pic.twitter.com/ZX1McO2YXC— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 14, 2023
There was also a point during the intermission in which he showed off some goalie positioning and how and why Gramma (Shesterkin) played a shot the way they did.
Having @KevinWeekes wearing a MoCap suit and doing analysis is a gift bestowed upon all of humanity. #BigCityGreens pic.twitter.com/DHlmoeGxYK— Patrick M.™ (@generationxwing) March 15, 2023
This type of stuff is great, and is a perfect way to give bite size bits of information to kids, teach them something important, and not overwhelm they with minutia in the process.
It also helped that a lot of the action from the game was showcased as being over the top, with a goal by Jacob Trouba being given a BOOM, and other goals getting illustrated and animated with some pizazz.
Jacob Trouba went boom pic.twitter.com/enbECSD7XB— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 15, 2023
Power play goals, but make it ✨animated✨ pic.twitter.com/xAHNrR2S4p— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) March 14, 2023
Overall, you know about the other stuff that happened in the game, and how the Rangers almost blew a lead in the third period when they let their foot off the gas.
the Rangers trying to hold a lead in the third period pic.twitter.com/kydOie5Qic— Tom Urtz Jr. (@TomUrtzJr) March 15, 2023
And while things started getting dicey when it became a one-goal game, I can honestly admit that it didn’t matter all that much while watching this feed. Given the recent run the team has been on in terms of failing to win in regulation, and letting lesser teams get to overtime, it was a freeing feeling just watching a game and not having to think too much about it in the moment. I’ll go back and watch the main feed, probably with sound off, like I do for all Ranger games to absorb what I need to, but I will do so with a different mindset and perspective with the outcome already known.
The NHL is notorious for doing a lot of dumb things, leaning heavy on tradition and not embracing new things, so whenever they do try new things and have success, I like to give them their due. This broadcast was a way to entertain viewers, but from a technical perspective it was testing puck and player technology which they hope to utilize going forward. For more on that technical stuff, you can check this story from ESPN out.
But in general, the Rangers are in the home stretch leading up to the playoffs, and things had started to tighten up a bit. It was fun to watch the game and spend a couple of hours having a few laughs and not having to think too much, and was a reminder of what it is like to be a fan and just enjoy the game for the game.