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Innovative Step: Stanley Cup Finals to Feature American Sign Language on NHL Broadcasts

The Stanley Cup Final series of the National Hockey League will be the first series of any professional sports championship to be presented in American Sign Language. It is tagged “NHL in ASL,” an initiative that came after the NHL rolled out Collab with P-X-P, a firm focused on increasing accessibility and inclusion for the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community across professional sports.

The Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers will tip their series off on Saturday, and this time, the ASL broadcast of each game will stream on ESPN+ and Sportsnet+. It’s not going to be in traditional play-by-play style, but it will be conversational and relaxed, really adding another level of storytelling to the broadcast.

Jason Altmann, P-X-P’s chief operating officer who is third-generation Deaf, and Noah Blankenship will handle the ASL broadcast duties. Altmann expressed his excitement about the initiative, stating, “The opportunity to do a Deaf-centric broadcast of a premier sporting event in ASL is a positive, seismic change for the Deaf community.”

It has also streamed NHL Winter Classic, Heritage Classic, All-Star Weekend, and Stadium Series games with ASL out-of-market thanks to a deal with P-X-P. The chief content officer for the NHL, Steve Mayer, a senior executive vice president, drew attention to the interest in expanding upon this work with ASL in the year to come.

The broadcast will also incorporate graphic visualizations, including a real-time bar showing crowd noise levels around events like goals and penalties. Custom visual emotes will be used to represent goals, penalties, the intensity of a hit, and whether a post or crossbar is hit.

John Lasker, senior vice president for ESPN+, said the initiative was extremely critical and described it in these words: “To me, this is where streaming and technology, innovation and risk-taking all sort of comes together.” He said they began exploring such alternative broadcasts soon after ESPN won back the rights to broadcast NHL games.

It’s considered to be a giant leap forward for inclusivity in sports broadcasting. As Brice Christianson, founder and CEO of P-X-P, said, “This would usually be a one-and-done thing. But the NHL has committed to the whole Stanley Cup Final and elevating the Deaf and hard-of-hearing experience through our partnership.”

More for you:

  • NHL offering historic Stanley Cup Finals sign-language broadcast.
  • Stanley Cup Final to have American Sign Language broadcast.
  • ESPN and Sportsnet announce ‘groundbreaking’ and ‘historic’ innovations for Stanley Cup Finals broadcast.
  • NHL announces American Sign Language broadcast for Stanley Cup Final.

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