‘NHL in ASL’ provides unique viewing experience for deaf, hard of hearing fans | NHL.com

NEW YORK — Noah Blankenship sat inside a studio in the NHL offices in Manhattan before Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Tuesday pumped and ready to go.

“Control, are you ready?” Blankenship said in American Sign Language.

An emphatic “yes” came from members of a production crew that was more than primed and ready to get the latest broadcast of “NHL on ASL” on the air for deaf and hard of hearing fans.

The first of its kind broadcast, available on ESPN+ in the United States and Sportsnet+ in Canada, features deaf broadcasters providing real-time play-by-play coverage and color commentary of each game of the Final. The crew will be together again for Game 6 on Friday.

It’s the latest collaboration between the NHL and P-X-P, which has provided ASL interpretation for signature evens like the Winter Classic, Heritage Classic, NHL All-Star Weekend and Stadium Series, and Commissioner Gary Bettman’s State of the League address.

But this is an entirely different undertaking that’s been an on-the-fly learning experience for the broadcast’s deaf talent, which had almost no sportscasting experience previously, and for the NHL productions crew that had little experience working with studio analysts who don’t speak.

“We’ve essentially had to reinvent the wheel of it on production in terms of workflow,” said Rachel Segal, NHL vice president, social impact and strategic integration, and an “NHL in ASL” producer. “Usually the producer is in the talent’s ear relaying facts and figures through the night, ins and outs of commercials, timing updates.”

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