Making Highlights at Hockey Night

Working for CBC Sports and Hockey Night in Canada has been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. In October of the 2011-12 NHL season, this dream became a reality.

My ticket into “the ceebs” was making highlight packs. I did that all throughout last season, and once the players and owners stopped bickering, I continued to do it this season.

I’ve had some people watch my highlight packs and ask questions like, “Why didn’t you put this in there?” “Why didn’t you mention this?” “Why did you put that in, but not this?” Those are all fair questions, because whether you agree with the editing decisions I make or not, there is a method to my madness.

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Here is a little look at how I make highlight packs. For those of you reading this on the Leafs, Flames, or Oilers Nation websites, I know your team didn’t play last night, but they’re obviously regulars on Hockey Night in Canada, so you may like this, too.

This video is the four-game pack we posted to featuring all four Canadian teams that were in action from Saturday, March 2nd, 2013. Since it’s an all-in-one pack, so pause after each game so you can follow along with what I’m writing.

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Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Montreal Canadiens

This Penguins vs. Canadiens game is really exciting to watch as a hockey fan! As someone who’s editing highlight packs, it’s still exciting, but it makes the job a little more challenging. We try to, and most sports outlets try to, keep our packs to around 90 seconds or maybe even less during the regular season if we can. That’s obviously not always possible, and this game was a great example of that.

If a goal isn’t that pretty, and if it doesn’t truly help tell the story of a game, it’s OK to leave that goal out. Last year’s insane 9-8 Winnipeg Jets vs. Philadelphia Flyers game is a solid example. You won’t even see a lacrosse highlight pack that shows you 17 goals. The problem I faced with this Pens-Habs game, was the flow of the goals.

Montreal and Pittsburgh exchanged first period goals. Then to start the second, Montreal made it 2-1. The Penguins then went on to score three in a row, featuring two by Matt Cooke. Now right here I’m thinking, “OK. Odds are this game will head to the third 4-2. If Pittsburgh scores again or Tomas Vokoun makes a big save (which he did on Max Pacioretty), we can end the pack with that. If Montreal comes back to tie it, we’ll still have about enough room to show both goals to tie it, plus whoever gets the game-winner.” Well I guessed wrong.

Montreal scored once to make it 4-3, then Subban tied it with one second remaining in the second. On top of the six-goal second period, Pittsburgh and Montreal scored two goals each very close together in the third, before Pittsburgh scored the OT-winner.

What I ended up doing was showing both first period goals, and cutting out the 2-1 goal. This allows me to show the story of Pittsburgh’s second period dominance, and Matt Cooke scoring back-to-back, followed by the Habs’ comeback. You could easily have cut more than just one goal out of that period, but I felt the storyline warranted that five of the six goals should be shown. Pacioretty’s 2-1 goal was the most expendable, in that sense. 

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I waited a bit for the third period action to unfold. When it became clear this game was reaching gongshow levels (6-6? Really?!?), I made the decision to show all third period goals, but quickly, and without replays. Not everybody is a fan of that seemingly rushed style, but my thinking was it helped demonstrate how quickly things were happening, and how back-and-forth this game was. Finally, ending on Brandon Sutter’s OT-winner was the easy part.

One thing I could have done, and perhaps should have done, is cut out all of the first three goals. Cut out 1-0, 1-1, and 2-1, and pick it up with Kunitz’ 2-2 goal. The story of the game is it was a high-paced, offensive affair, and I would have been justified in doing that. On the other hand, starting the game with the slower-paced first period allowed me to show how the game started a little slow, but then quickly ramped up.

At 2:28, this pack is probably too long. I could have made it at least 20 seconds shorter. Do I regret it? No. Sometimes you gotta go long, especially if it’s an exciting game.

LA Kings vs. Vancouver Canucks 

This type of game is much easier to cut. There were seven goals in a 5-2 Canucks win. One of them was a Chris Higgins empty-netter to give Vancouver a three-goal lead. I didn’t even think about including that goal. You can show empty-netters, but this one didn’t need to go in. It didn’t come at the end of a mad Kings rush to tie a one-goal game, it didn’t cap off a four-point night or hat trick for Higgins, and it wasn’t a milestone. In terms of highlights, that’s an expendable goal. I also liked the idea of ending on some Cory Schnieder saves because he goofed up on the second Kings goal, and shut the door after that.

This is exactly the kind of game where you could ask, “Why isn’t this save in there?” “Why didn’t you include this hit?” In this game, I felt the goals told the story. When they stopped telling the story, the saves told it. Show the postgame celebration, and you’re done. The pack is about 1:20 long. Way different from the Pens-Habs game. 

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Washington Capitals vs. Winnipeg Jets

This was the simplest pack of the night by far. I showed all three goals, then some Braden Holtby saves, and that’s it. The pack wasn’t even a minute long. I could have made the pack a lot longer though.

Evander Kane got what looked like an injury in the first period, but he ended up playing 24-minutes of ice time, which is pretty high for a forward. If the Jets won, especially if Kane scored or made a nice play, I would have included it. They lost 3-0, so there wasn’t any point in showing it.

The other thing I did to cut down on time was I showed a quick Braden Holtby highlight pack they used during the broadcast of the game. I like showing saves that change the pace of a game, or rather, stop the pace, but not in this game. For example, if Holtby made some crazy save while it was 1-0, it would make sense to show the 1-0 goal, the big save, the 2-0 and 3-0 goals, then end it. In this case, I thought showing the quick Hotlby pack at the end was enough. I didn’t want to totally neglect him because he got a 35-save shutout, but he also didn’t have any super-amazing circus saves either. 

One item of note I omitted from this pack was the Volpatti/Peluso fight. We don’t always show fights in packs, and honestly, I would have been justified in showing that fight. Volpatti is a new Capital. That’s justification enough. That being said, I didn’t feel like it really changed the outcome of the game, and I feel less bad about leaving it out, because we uploaded the fight in a separate video on the CBCSports website, which you can see right here.

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 Ottawa Senators vs. Philadelphia Flyers

This was another easy pack to do. In a regular 2-1 game, I would show all three goals, and if necessary, try to throw in some other things. Maybe a few saves, or a few hits. Well, in this game, the story was the hits.

Harry Zolnierczyk (which I can now spell without looking) absolutely drilled Michael Lundin, and it was followed by a Zac Rinaldo “fight” with Kaspars Daugavins. The hot conversation topic coming out of this game is “Will Zolnierczyk be suspended?” You can’t not show that hit. Even if it was a clean hit, you would have to show it because of how huge it was. One edit that I thought was really good was the fight. Daugavins waits a few seconds to actually drop his gloves, but the video editor cut out a few of those seconds, and he did it in a way where I think you can barely tell.

NOTE: I don’t actually edit these games together in video-editing software. I do that for the KHL highlights I do, but not at CBC Sports. We have time constraints, and there are too many games going on at once for one person to do both jobs. I do the scripting, narrating, and highlight gathering, while somebody else cuts the pack together.

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Getting back to the game, I showed all three goals. You could cut Marc Methot’s goal I suppose, but that would be lazy. There’s only three goals. Show ‘em all.

On top of Zolnierczyk’s hit and the three goals, Alfredsson got ejected for cross-checking Zac Rinaldo. That’s another thing you have to show. The captain of the Senators got booted. How can you not show that? Show a little Flyers celebration at the end, and that’s all she wrote.

I could show you other examples of packs I’ve done and talk about how they got made, but we just went through four games in one post. Let’s save it. 

I hope you found this informative. If you have any questions, just ask.

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  • Great insight, Dangle. I’ve often wondered why on TSN or whatever certain goals don’t make it onto the highlight pack. i€ knew time was a consideration, but you’re making it more clear that you’re telling a story, rather than militantly recapping the entire game.

    The one thing I’ll say is, I would rather watch more highlights at the expense of the repetitive, bland post game comments from the players in the dressing room. There’s nothing there of any note worth showing. If there is (Tortorella), show it, but like you say, if it adds nothing, scrap it.

    Either way, great work. You’re living the dream

    • Thanks, buddy.

      Well the player interviews thing has to do with a few things. Filling time, for one. Also a lot of people want to see their favourite players talk. Granted, it can be pretty brutal at times, but when it’s good, it’s worth it (see: Tortorella).

  • MarcusBillius

    The fact that I can get much better and more informative, useful highlights on team websites is why I no longer watch highlights/highlight shows.

    Given the *constant* amount of looping programming on TSN/Sportsnet and with content delivery shifting to the internet, they can obviously afford to do better.

    The internet is higher quality, more accessible (I can watch any highlight, any time I want), and this results in my TV quite literally being turned on only for the games themselves or live coverage of a major event.

    Just my two cents, hope it gives you something to consider for the future or if you’re pitching ideas at a meeting.

    • Further to your point. The one air “personalities” that the CBC specifically throws out for “analysis” is beyond insulting. Suck is too kind for those idiots. If they are being paid anything north of the cost of a double double the canadian taxpayer is getting hosed……. badly!!

      To the OP… Awesome piece!

    • Well the lucky thing for me is I used to make those highlights, too. I made the Game in Six packs for for two seasons, and I think I did a good job. That’s probably why my packs tend to be too long. My first highlight packs were all six minutes long! Anyway, point being, is yes, teams make their own highlights now and they’re really good. I have experience with both, so I try to combine the two.

  • Steve,
    Can you please please please let Healy know that no one likes him and he should just shut up? Also can you “mute” his microphone so I don’t have to hear him on HNIC. If you are really a true leaf fan then you would do this for us leaf fans.

    • Hahaha I think most hockey fans all over the world can’t stand Healy… sometimes I wonder if he watches hockey when he’s not getting paid ’cause his analysis is usually brutal and very specific to that particular game or based on opinions that I read months ago. For example, his comments last night about Henrik coming to the defense of his teammates and referencing when Marchand was punching Daniel in the final (where was the ref on that, anyway? Oh yeah, he was standing right there!!!!). I don’t really think that Hank has increased his physicality compared to two years ago, in emotional games the Sedins usually show a little push back but they never take retaliatory penalties… so nothing new, no real analysis. I wish Healy would retire or start watching hockey on his days off… just get smart Healy!!! Watch some games!! Of course, if Steve Dangle is willing to throw away his career in sports coverage, hockey fans all over the world would be forever in his debt if he killed Healy’s mic or gave him bad directions to the arena… anything to keep him off camera and out of my living room. Make it happen Dangle!!!!!!!! The world needs you!!!!

  • Rob...

    “For those of you reading this on the Leafs, Flames, or Oilers Nation websites, I know your team didn’t play last night, but they’re obviously regulars on Hockey Night in Canada, so you may like this, too.”

    Congrats, I’m happy for your personal success, but please don’t ever mention the Oilers and Flames in the same sentence as the Leafs in regard to being regulars on hockey night in Canada. That should insult anyone who watches the preferential treatment given to the Leafs by the Socialist teat sucking CBC.

    • Well seeing as Edmonton almost always plays in the 10pm EST time slot when they’re on the air, and Toronto’s is 7pm EST, and nobody is playing outside of their own conference this season, you may be fighting the wrong battle there, bud.

  • Legend of Weevil

    this is sweet, I’ve always wondered how they decided. the one thing that i hate though is when they start halfway through the second with it like 2-2 or something.

  • eh…there is definitely preferential treatment given to the Leafs as far as CBC goes, but it’s an inevitability of being the largest market HNIC caters to. It sucks if you’e a fan of the other Eastern based Canadian teams, but we’re finally getting closer to REAL options to get around this.

    • I can’t speak for CBC, but yeah, it’s logical, in most cases. You have an early slot, and a late slot. You’re gonna want the biggest market in the early one, and the biggest market in the late one. That’s just television, not the CBC. I just hate seeing CBC get dumped on for decisions that are A) Logical and B) The exact same decisions every other broadcaster would make if they had the opportunity.