Big City Greens Classic

An NHL on ESPN game on Saturday is putting true next-generation technology on full display.

The game, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Boston Bruins, is very real, but every goal, check, and save that happens will be recreated in an animated game set inside the Disney Channel’s comedy series Big City Greens.

ESPN’s broadcast crew of Drew Carter, Kevin Weekes, and Arda Öcal will wear Meta Quest Pro headsets to help immerse them in the animated action.

ESPN and Disney had a successful run in last year’s Big City Greens game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals. The VR headsets should help the broadcast team blend the two worlds.

“This will be the first time where it really feels like I’m actually in an animated world,” Carter said (via Sportico).

Carter said he had some reservations about the headsets at first, namely, how he would check things like the scoreboard and his game notes if he were wearing a VR set. But he figured out how to make it work.

 “I’m kind of a stubborn play-by-play guy,” Carter said. “I only know one way to do it.”

The broadcast will use two different tracking systems, NHL EDGE positional data (NHL Puck and Player tracking) and Hawk-Eye Innovations optical tracking, to help recreate the action.

Big City Greens character Gramma will coach the Bruins, while her grandson, Cricket, will coach the Penguins (obviously, Sidney Crosby and Brad Marchand will be handling those duties for their respective teams in the real game).

The actual game will be shown on ABC and ESPN+, with the animated version shown on Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney+, and ESPN+.

Traditional fans may not like it, but this is the future of sports telecasting, and that future will be here sooner than anyone expects. NASCAR President Steve Phelps announced last week the racing series is developing virtual reality tech that will allow fans to join actual races in real-time as a “41st car.”


About Arthur Weinstein

Arthur spends his free time traveling around the U.S. to sporting events, state and national parks, and in search of great restaurants off the beaten path.