When COVID-19 brought the National Hockey League to an abrupt halt in March, the teams still had 189 games to play. Fans waited anxiously to learn the fate of the season and culminating Stanley Cup Playoffs, wondering what that might look like when it returned minus the cheering spectators filling packed arenas.
Their answer, kicking off in full this month with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, is an exciting use of video, audio and lighting designed to vary the way each game looks. Instead of cardboard cut-outs filling seats, viewers see LED screens, monitors and stages around the ice for a unique, television-friendly feel.
Undefined Creative, a creative partner of the NHL for over 10 years, was called on to produce the extensive array of motion graphics required for its “Return to Play.” With over 1,000 individual deliverables, this package consists of 20 unique animations (also delivered in stills) in three screen sizes for each of the 24 teams, as well as sets of generic NHL, Eastern/Western Conference and Stanley Cup elements.
The deliverables were directly inspired by motion graphics Undefined Creative designed for the NHL’s new Manhattan headquarters. An extensive package for multiple interior screens was underway in early March, and despite the move-in date going on hold, Undefined Creative was able to continue production, to get as much content as possible ready for its eventual debut. And once “Return to Play” became a reality, the NHL got the idea to translate this work into the look for the arenas.
Undefined Creative began production on July 6, just two weeks before they had to start delivering final renders for the games in Edmonton and Toronto. Although the NHL already loved the creative direction, making the approval process smoother, all final content created for “Return to Play” still had to be original, even if loosely derived, and nothing in the existing package was streamlined for a two-week turnaround. Yet, given Undefined Creative’s extensive experience providing screen content for the live NHL Awards ceremony, the team knew they could deliver quality creative work under pressure.