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NHL announces American Sign Language broadcast for Stanley Cup Final

The NHL will offer an alternative broadcast designed for deaf viewers for all games between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers

NHL announces American Sign Language broadcast for Stanley Cup Final

The NHL is bringing the Stanley Cup Final to a whole new audience.

On Wednesday, the league, announced "NHL in ASL," an alternative broadcast of the Final series designed for deaf viewers. The telecast will be available on ESPN+ and Sportsnet+ for all games of the matchup between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers.

"NHL in ASL" is done in partnership with P-X-P, a company devoted to improving accessibility and inclusion in professional sports for the deaf and hard of hearing community.

The broadcast will offer play-by-play and color commentary in ASL, provided by Jason Altmann, the COO of P-X-P, and Noah Blankenship, a Denver resident selected from a pool of around 50 potential candidates, according to an NHL press release.

In addition to commentary and ASL visual descriptions of major plays, the broadcast will also feature a metered bar indicating real-time crowd noise, to give viewers a visual sense of the game's atmosphere.

John Lasker, senior vice president for ESPN+, told ESPN that alternative broadcasts had been a challenge that they had wanted to take on since 2021, when ESPN regained the rights to broadcast NHL games.

"When we got the NHL rights back, there were these hints of innovation in the baselines of the deal. We have all these opportunities to think about how we serve fans better," Lasker said. "To me this is like, this is where streaming and technology, innovation and risk taking all sort of comes together."

Brice Christianson, founder and CEO of P-X-P, told ESPN that the alternative broadcast is a step up from closed captions, which ESPN added to streams two years ago as part of an effort to be more accessible.

"With captions, you're forcing them to read in their second language. There's usually run-on sentences. There's incorrect phrases," he told ESPN. An ASL broadcast, therefore, offers a more holistic experience for deaf and hard-of-hearing fans.

Per Christianson, they have spent 18 months bringing the project to fruition, spending hours and hours on research, preparation and rehearsal. Christianson is previously connected with the NHL, having provided ASL interpretation for NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman's news conferences since 2022, according to ESPN.

In addition to the Stanley Cup Final broadcasts, NHL senior executive vice president and chief content officer Steve Mayer told ESPN that there are plans to expand "NHL in ASL" during the 2024-2025 season.

"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," Christianson told ESPN. "I'm excited for the world to see what the deaf community is capable of. They just need to be given opportunities."