Many Islanders fans got what they wanted from NBC when it assigned its lead hockey play-by-play man, Mike "Doc" Emrick, to the Eastern Conference finals starting with Game 4 on Sunday.
But adding Emrick also provided a logistical challenge compared with the first three games when John Forslund called games with analysts Ed Olczyk and Brian Boucher, all of whom were on site in the Edmonton "bubble."
Emrick has been calling games off monitors from his home in Michigan. As a 74-year-old cancer survivor, he has chosen not to travel during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Emrick also will call the Stanley Cup Final remotely.)
Olczyk said he is pleased with how NBC has handled the process.
"I think we’ve navigated it extremely well, with all the hard work of our men and women behind the scenes, to try to get it as seamless as possible," he said on Wednesday. "At times I look over and I don’t see Doc [next to me]. It’s just sometimes a habit."
Many announcers this summer have dealt with the challenge of calling games off monitors, which can be difficult. For example, baseball play-by-play people have trouble gauging the distance of fly balls off the bat, because they must wait for the camera shot to switch and show where the ball actually is headed.
There have been times Emrick seemed initially unsure what had occurred on the ice.
"Hey, look, Doc is the voice of hockey, and this is the hand that’s been dealt to all of us and we’re doing the best that we can under the circumstances," Olczyk said. "I think it’s gone extremely well.
"Yeah, there have been a couple of potholes. I get potholes when I’m in the building myself. You miss stuff and step on somebody. It’s just human nature.
"I did a bunch of games with Doc when I was at home and also when I was in-studio. So it’s not really out of the ordinary, just now with me and ‘Bouch’ inside the bubble and Doc calling the games from afar, we have our plans and we let Doc do his thing and we jump in when we can and do the best that we can with the hand that’s been dealt."
Fans generally have praised the look of the NHL bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton – as well as the sound piped in to them – for giving the postseason games a relatively normal feel on television.
"When you look at the backdrop the league has put up for television, with the tarps across the seats, it’s not an eyesore; it just seems like it blends in," Olczyk said. "They’ve done an amazing job. It looks incredible in person; it looks even better on television.
"It is different, but I think at times with the proper help with the audio inside the buildings of crowd noise or somebody reacting to a big hit or a goal or music, you really feel like you’re engaged. When I’m doing the games I know there aren’t fans there, but you’re so engaged in watching the game now where it’s not like your mind is wandering.
"I’m sure for the players and coaches when they look around, it’s probably really strange, but they’ve done an amazing job . . . Like I said, it’s the hand we’ve been dealt. I’ll say this, having been in here for three weeks I would say the noise in the building is way more active than I thought it would be. That’s just me from a broadcaster’s point of view.
"Maybe it’s the great audio we have at NBC. I just think the ambience is better than I thought it would be, and there’s only so much you can do."