Behind the scenes of the Buffalo Sabres broadcasting

Jacob Fyock, Contributing

Attending a live sporting event can be one of the best experiences in someone’s life. In Western New York, watching the Buffalo Sabres is one of those experiences. However, if someone doesn’t want to spend $100 to $200 on a ticket, getting to watch them on television is also a fun thing to do. Television has revolutionized the way we watch sports at home, but wouldn’t it be cool to see how it is being shown for the viewers watching at home?

The Sabres Hockey Network has been able to provide the viewers of Western New York the best content of every Sabres game it broadcasts. Leading the way is Joe Pinter, the TV producer for the broadcast team. Pinter’s main objectives are to provide the best content for the viewers that are watching at home. Also, he has to make sure that the paid sponsorships are shown throughout the game.

Along with Pinter is Eric Grossman, the TV director for the broadcast team. His job is to check the look and sound of the game. Grossman has to check all cameras to make sure that they work properly and check the audio levels of each broadcaster who will be talking throughout the game.

Pinter has been producing for the Sabres since 2002. Since that time, Pinter always has a script that is made from scratch. It is given a lot of thought and process so when he and his crew go live, they know what they’re doing.

“I have done it quite a few years now, so I got a little routine down. I put in about two hours of research the night before or the morning of the game,” Pinter said. “Once I sit down and put the format together, it takes an extra two to two and half hours more.”

The script also mentions that in certain parts of the game, there has to be a commercial break. For a Sabres game, each period will have a couple of television timeouts. While the game is going on, a red light will go off in the penalty box. This will let the referee know that after the next blown whistle, besides an icing, there will be a television timeout.

Also, during times where there is an icing or a quick break, the production team will display paid sponsorships because it is what they have to do.

A script is a nice format to have when going into a live event. It will attempt to dictate the show so it doesn’t get out of hand. However, planning a live event can go to an unexpected turn.

“We have a blueprint that we follow for the pre-game. Once the game starts, you have an outline, but you don’t know where it is going,” said Dan Bellis, Multicam (EVS) operator for the broadcast team.

Live events can be difficult to broadcast, given the precise time requirements. For example, a broadcast for a normal Sabres game (without overtime), will start at 6:30 p.m. and will last till 10 p.m.

“I have been off many of times, sometimes I have been off minutes. However, just because the show doesn’t go as scripted doesn’t mean it was bad. That’s a part of live television, that is a good part of live television sometimes,” Pinter said.

“When you’re on a nationally syndicated show, everything has to be to the second. You got to be out at this time,” said Brian Duff, studio host for the Sabres Hockey Network.

Working on the fly, being organized and creating amazing content are key components for a great show. Another key component is chemistry between the producer and the sports broadcasters. Duff believes that it is the best way to have a smooth broadcast.

During pre-game, post-game and intermission, the broadcasters and Pinter have to be on the same page so the show can run smoothly. During intermission, Duff and Brad May have a certain amount of time to talk about what happened throughout the game.

“Television has such a big production team and that is what you really have to get used to. You have to feel like you’re playing for the guy next to you, because when someone makes a mistake, the whole thing suffers,” Duff said. “When you work for a team, you certainly recognize who is your employer and how you should handle certain situations.”

Every game, Pinter wants to make sure that he gives the best and most entertaining broadcast that he can give for each game. The broadcast team is one big, happy family and their chemistry is strong. The Sabres might be done for the season, but this team and the broadcast team can’t wait to get back in the fall.

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