The NHL Stanley Cup Final to be Broadcast in American Sign Language for the Deaf Community

The Stanley Cup Final is set to make history by being broadcast in American Sign Language (ASL) for the very first time. This innovative move is aimed at providing a fully immersive viewing experience for the deaf community. The NHL has collaborated with P-X-P to create “NHL in ASL,” which will be available as an alternate stream on ESPN+ and Sportsnet+ for every game of the series between the Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers.

The telecast will feature deaf broadcasters, Jason Altmann and Noah Blankenship, providing coverage through ASL. Unlike traditional play-by-play and color commentary, this broadcast promises to be more conversational and relaxed, offering a deeper layer of storytelling. The aim is to elevate accessibility and inclusion in professional sports for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Brice Christianson, the founder and CEO of P-X-P, expressed his excitement about the opportunity to showcase what the deaf community is capable of when given the right opportunities.

In addition to the announcers, the broadcast will include graphic visualizations tailored to the deaf community. These visual elements will enhance the overall viewing experience by providing real-time indicators of crowd noise levels, custom visual emotes for key events like goals and penalties, and depictions of the intensity of the game. This approach goes beyond closed captions, offering a unique and inclusive way for the deaf audience to engage with the game.

John Lasker, senior vice president for ESPN+, highlighted the role of technology and innovation in making this ASL broadcast possible. The idea of an alternative stream like this has been in consideration since the NHL returned to ESPN, and it aligns with the network’s commitment to increasing accessibility for its broadcasts. Lasker emphasized the importance of serving fans better through such initiatives and praised the NHL for embracing this groundbreaking approach.

In the past, closed captions were considered a significant step towards accessibility, but the introduction of an ASL stream for the Stanley Cup Final marks a new milestone. According to Christianson, closed captions often pose challenges for deaf audiences, as they require reading in a second language and may contain errors. The use of ASL not only addresses these issues but also provides a more inclusive and engaging experience for the deaf community.

The inclusion of ASL in the Stanley Cup Final broadcast is a moment of pride for Altmann and the entire deaf community. As someone who grew up unable to fully connect with broadcasters due to the limitations of closed captioning, Altmann views this initiative as a significant step towards eliminating those barriers. The incorporation of deaf consultants at P-X-P ensures the accurate interpretation of hockey terms that may not have direct equivalents in ASL, making the broadcast more authentic and engaging.

This pioneering project has been in development for 18 months and is set to pave the way for more inclusive sports broadcasting. Christianson expressed his excitement about the impact of this broadcast, not only in how the games are presented but also in showcasing deaf representation to a wider audience. The plans to expand “NHL in ASL” into the 2024-25 season signal a continued commitment to diversity, accessibility, and innovation in sports broadcasting.

The introduction of an ASL stream for the Stanley Cup Final represents a significant milestone in sports broadcasting. By prioritizing accessibility and inclusivity, the NHL and P-X-P have set a new standard for engaging with diverse audiences. This initiative not only enhances the viewing experience for the deaf community but also celebrates diversity and representation in sports media. As the “NHL in ASL” broadcast continues to evolve, it is clear that the future of sports broadcasting is more inclusive, immersive, and engaging for all audiences.


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