Posts Tagged ‘Nelonen Pro’


As the NHL season is finally under wayt, we wanted to visit the dark days of the lockout by chatting to someone who makes his living from the NHL and hockey. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Antti Makinen, a Finnish NHL sports caster for NelonenPro. Makinen has become well known in the Finnish hockey media, mainly due to his active Twitter use and his enthusiastic commentary during games. One of the memorable moments came during the New Jersey Devils – Philadelphia Fylers series, well words wouldn’t do it justice, so you can watch the clip here.

 

When the lockout first started did Makinen feel like he didn’t have much to worry. “When (the lockout was announced, it didn’t bother me. I was sure it would only last a week or so. After the first couple of weeks, it started to disturb my thoughts.”

 

At the start of the lockout there was a lot of optimism about the length and many pundits and analysts thought it would be something the league could get sorted out before the season started, or at worst, it wouldn’t affect most of the season.

 

However, as the lockout continued, Makinen says it started to affect things. “My employer (Nelonen Pro) had to do a lot of rescheduling. NHL is a big thing to our channel and they had their hands full to reschedule. For me personally it was a bit of a 50/50 situation. I had all the time in the world to play with my two year-old son, but on the flipside, the worry was on the finances.”

 

For a play-by-play professional, the job is similar to a professional athlete. There’s a constant need to keep up with your skills and hone your craft. Makinen didn’t fall on empty for the lockout as he found some sports casting work for Finnish SM-Liiga games. During the SM-Liiga gig, many of Makinen’s Twitter followers regularly tweeted him asking which game he would be calling. “Calling the SM-Liiga games helped me a lot,” Makinen says. “It was a job that helped pay the bills and it also helped mentally as I had something else to think about than the lockout.”

 

Riding the highs and lows

 

So for someone whose livelihood depends on the NHL having games what are some of the emotions that you go through? Mid October was probably the toughest for many fans as it was the first time of that infamous ‘cautious optimism’. “I had a couple of rock bottom moments during the lockout,” Makinen admits. “The toughest one was in a middle of October when my own sources told me that the deal is close. Then of course Bettman came out and said that they (NHL and the NHLPA) were speaking different languages.”

 

But for someone who is active on Twitter and also a fan of the game, Makinen didn’t resort to outbursts that many fans (like myself) resorted to in desperation. “I tried to maintain optimism publicly, but it was really hard,” Makinen says. “I have to that my wife for all her understanding. She really supported me through the lockout.”

 

However, the end of the lockout meant a big relief to those whose livelihoods depend on the NHL. As Makinen points out he doesn’t have to worry about the summer months as the NHL Play-Offs are likely to go on long into the summer months. “(The season) will be a busy one, but I think it’s a good thing,” Makinen says. “It’s a bit weird to start the season in January as normally this is the hardest part of the season for me. However, our batteries are fully loaded and we are ready to go.”

The world of sports casters

 

For me personally, the sports caster world and work has always been interesting. It has puzzled me to think how someone can keep up with the changes in a game as fast as hockey. If you ask my parents, they would say that as a child, I was always pretending that I was calling a hockey game, ski jumping event or a rally.

 

It felt only natural to ask Makinen about his career and how he got into sports casting. “I used to play hockey and I won two Finnish championships in the junior levels,” Makinen says. “I was also a member of the Finnish U17 and U18 team. My career came to an end when I was 18 and I broke my back. After my playing days were done, a manager of a local radio station called me and asked if I wanted to try to work with them on their hockey radio. I had no plans after everything had turned upside down, so I tried and as they say, the rest is history.”

 

However, Makinen didn’t get to always work on hockey, even though his knowledge of the game. “Hockey has always been my thing, but I had to prove myself in TV before I got to do hockey,” Makinen explains. “I have done colour commentary for football from all over the world, I’ve done Superbikes and a lot of other motorsports. I’ve also called some basketball and floorball games.”

 

Stats:

 

As hockey players, what we wanted to find out was how many games per week Makinen does. According to the man himself, he does five to eight games per week. “I just counted that between 2010 and 2012 I did a total of 407 games,” Makinen says. “I bet no one can match those numbers back here.”

 

Impressive statistics, given that Finland is seven hours ahead of the Eastern Conference, which means countless of sleepless nights for a man who calls Tampere his home and does many of his games from Helsinki (approximately 70-80 mile trip).

 

Statistics form an important part for any commentator and Makinen is no exception. His preparation includes looking at stats and stories about past meetings of teams. “When the game is on, it’s just a free-fall to me. It’s my thing to go inside the game and live in the moment.”

 

As mentioned at the start of the article, Makinen has come up with a few living legends in terms of things said on the air, during a game “They’re just things I’ve said. I’ve never planned what to say and just say what comes to my mind,” Makinen explains. “I think it’s impossible to plan what to say in different games and situations. If you have to worry about what to say and where you say it, it will destroy the broadcast.”

 

Indeed, a good sports caster can add so much to a game and the experience that the fan receives and where not directly employed by the NHL, sports casters add so much value to the overall product that the NHL sells internationally. Fans who live and breathe their teams’ trials and tribulations already live in every stride of their team, but a sport caster such as Makinen can add enthusiasm and a new level to the game.

 

Makinen, who lists 2011-2012 first round Penguins vs Flyers series as one of his favourites along with Blackhawks’ cup win as his friend goalie Antti Niemi won the cup, parts us with some of his wisdom to people looking for a career in sport casting and play-by-play commentary. “It’s a long way, so be patient. Give it your best every time you are working and there are no shortcuts. Most importantly, don’t try to be someone else, be yourself and find your own way of doing things.”

 

Thank you to Antti Makinen for taking part in the interview and good luck with the NHL season and hopefully the fans will enjoy every game televised this year. 

 

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Following the post I made about IIHF pulling the plug on the live YouTube broadcasts, I’ve had a couple of interesting tweets about it, one of which was sent by Steve Morrell (https://twitter.com/#!/rafanapa). Steve’s tweet got me thinking about why watching games live as they happen is so important.

 

Right off the bat I must admit that the best way to enjoy a sports event is to watch it where it happens. Obviously with the hockey world champs it is impossible for me to watch it in Helsinki (read the previous posts and you’ll see why). As the games are not broadcast on UK TV, or on any other channel that I receive, the Internet has become such an important medium for me to follow sports from back home. But why is watching it live so important? For me it is all about the passion, the heat of the moment and knowing that I am watching the action as it happens, each stride, hit, pass and shot at a time. I have tried watching recorded or deferred NHL games and I just cannot get into those broadcasts as I know that the game has taken place already.

 

For example, throughout the year, I have not watched a single deferred NHL broadcast from Premier Sports, even if I don’t know the score of the game. It might be a personal thing, but I just can’t get into the feeling of the game, knowing that it has been played already. It’s the same with any sport I follow, be it F1, cross country skiing, ski jumping etc. If the event has been and gone and there is a repeat broadcast I will not watch it. In the past when the NHL was with ESPN America, I watched a couple of the “As Live” broadcasts and it was like I was watching a TV soap. The  TV was on but I wasn’t really watching it.

 

Hockey, to me, is about passion, feelings, love, knowledge and sharing the event with likeminded fans. To me following hockey live is about shouting at the top of my lungs either in Finnish or English, literally living and breathing every moment as if I was at the arena watching the game with my own two eyes. For the live broadcasts of games I tend to live with the commentators of the game and get immersed into how they view the game and how they live the game, like Antti Makinen from the Finnish NelonenPro when he called the game between New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7RwBk6ZgrU

 

Another thing that has become to play a huge part in the way we watch sports is social media. We are increasingly commenting on the games we are watching through Twitter and engaging with like-minded people. We comment on the games on blogs, Facebook groups, we follow our favourite teams and associated fan groups to get more updates and information from the events.

 

The only concern I have for sports fans and social media is that we will turn into a horde of people who go to a game and sit there staring at our phones, updating our various social networks, rather than focus on the events them selves.

 

I guess the best experience of watching a live game on TV I can remember was from last years’ World Championship finals. Me and three other Finns trekked from our homes in the South-East to London to watch the final at the Pipeline Bar. It was the atmosphere at the bar and the anticipation of watching the event live in a bar, which felt like you were watching it on home soil.

 

The other fond memories that I have of watching live games is with my friend Christian while we both lived in Southampton. It was like a regular Saturday thing to have a bunch of guys at his place to have a few beers to watch the games live from NASN (now ESPN America). We never got together to watch the “As Live Broadcasts”. There simply wasn’t the same kind of feel, or anticipation for the games to start and to wait for the events to unfold, knowing that the games had been played.

 

There is a lot more that goes into watching a live broadcast of a game, but it would be difficult to explain, and to every person the experience is different. I guess I’m trying to explain what watching live games, whether on scene or on TV means to me and why repeats, 30 minute delays or re-runs don’t appeal to me.

 

 


As posted previously on this blog, Finland and Sweden have an NHL deal in place carrying through till 2015-2016. In Sweden the games will be shown by Viasat and in Finland by Nelonen Pro.

In Finland, Nelonen Pro will air 150 games per season and will show the play offs and the Stanley cup finals. Viasat in turn is looking to air 15games per week.

Additionally Viasat will be airing all 1,300 regular season games live or ‘as-live’ through it’s extra channels and satellite broadcasts.

Both channels will offer North American tv broadcasts but will provide localised commentary and local insights to the games.

“This is a significant deal and will allow us to bring all the NHL games to the Nordic countries for the first time ever,” said NHL director John Collins. “This broadcast agreement ensures that NHL fans in the Nordic countries an entirely new way to approach the games and the players. This agreement is a win for both NHL hockey and our fans.”

Included in the deal is an online broadcast service of games, Viaplay, which will allow fans to stream live games through the service.

Again there is no news about the continued availability of Gamecenter live.

This deal would mean that the NHL is available on TV in nordics, uk and the Czech republic. I will report any new tv deals for other regions.

Personally I have to say that this deal is really impressive and I hope it pleases the fans in the Nordics.


This statement was just released by ESPN America:

““Unfortunately, the NHL will not be part of the programming schedule on ESPN and ESPN America in the UK, Ireland or Nordic countries this season.
ESPN spoke to the NHL and their rights holders about continuing a partnership in these regions but we could not reach an agreement that worked for everyone.
We wish the National Hockey League and its new partners all the best while we remain in active discussions with them about coverage in many other parts of Europe.

Our channels will continue to provide a wide range of live sport, award-winning documentaries, original news & chat shows, and more.”

Judging by this, each of the countries will have a regional sports channel showing the NHL this year. For the UK the rights have been sold to Premier Sports and in the Czech Republic to Nova Sports. This suggests that channels like Viasat or Nelonen Pro might be getting NHL on the screens in the Nordics.

However, ESPN America has only pulled out from the Nordics, UK and Ireland, it does not mean that it wouldn’t pick up the broadcast for other European countries where a deal is not in place as of yet.

There is still no update as to whether GameCenter Live will be switched off, or if it will remain accessible to viewers in Europe.

Though ESPN America has pulled out, I would argue that in benefit of the sport it would be better to have the games on as many channels as possible, however, I can only guess that channels that have purchased the rights have demanded these on an exclusive basis to ensure that they can snag up as big of a share of the market as possible.