When we start a broadcast season, we always start with a plan: A schedule, a budget, new features, returning broadcasters/videographers just to name a few things. But what makes every season that much more fun are new elements we never expect along the way. We had the inception of the Chicago Wolves Series which gave the opportunity to dozens of players (as well as broadcasters) to shine in a professional arena. As part of that, there was the inaugural SHL vs. CCHL All Star Game that was played for the Old Wooden Skates trophy. The Blackhawks Highschool Rivalry Series returned, with Genna Rose from the Blackhawks broadcast team joining for all 4 SHL contests. AHAI commissioned an in-depth profile of the The SHL Network and its growth for the AHAI Newsletter. Along the way our brilliant technical director Jimmy “The Whiz” Olson conceived the idea of a “Goal Cam”. We come up with lots of ideas that are, frankly speaking, pie in the sky and way outside the realm of what a high school hockey league budget could ever afford (find us before or after a broadcast and maybe we’ll share some of those). With this one though, NT Hockey Club stepped up and sponsored the goal cam bringing to life the coolest new feature on the network since our “Inside The Glass” sideline reporter that we debuted in 2019. And you better believe we’ll continue to push for every new feature we can.
There were 7 OT Games, 4 Shootouts, and all but 3 games were decided by 2 goals or less. Practically every time the SHL Network (Please Subscribe if you don’t already!) showed up, you had a down-to-the-wire clash. The terms “Instant Classic” and “Best Game in the Network’s history” were used 3 or 4 times because, as we all saw, the games just kept getting better.
We always like to point out, this league isn’t just about the Chicago Area. We had viewers from 12 countries, including: Canada, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Sweden, Italy, UK, Germany, Mexico, Slovakia, Indonesia, South Korea. Within the US, we had viewers in: Milwaukee, Detroit, Naples, Marco Island, St. Louis, Bloomington (IN), Tampa, Minneapolis, Rochester (NY), Columbus (OH), Miami and more. The SHL is truly an international league.
You may be asking yourself “Well… people watch from all over… but how many people are actually watching?”. The SHL GOTW broadcasts AVERAGED over 2,000 views per game, with the SHL/CCHL All star game smashing our previous regular season record with just under 4,000 Views.
This season introduced another key aspect we’d been striving for since the beginning: community participation. Current and former players, coaches and students contributed on and behind the camera all season long. A community is only as powerful as the people willing to contribute to it and the SHL Network is the embodiment of that. As always, if you want to get involved please don’t hesitate to reach out. Instagram DM, email, or a good old fashioned “hello” and a handshake before or after a broadcast.
But here’s the best news yet; WE’RE NOT DONE. We’ll be broadcasting the entirety of the SHL Final as well as select SHL playoff games along the way. We’re proud to announce that J&M Media in partnership with AHAI will be the home for the AHAI State Semi-Finals for the Red Varsity, Girls Varsity, and Combined divisions. We hope to have more news to share about additional contests to be broadcasted soon.
This article also serves as a thank you. The SHL and wider Chicagoland hockey community continues to show through your viewership how passionate high school hockey fans are in this area and around the world. Every handshake, pat on the back, direct thank you or story about where a friend/family member is watching that day’s game from brings a smile to our faces. Thank you’s are also in order to Sam Schwartz and Dylan Ward. When Dylan took over the SHL Instagram account less than a year ago, the account had ~700 followers and was only sparingly engaged with. As of this writing, there are 3,664 followers. If you’re not already, punch that follow button. All of the highlights, final scores, contests and more allow the SHL to have a social media presence that mimics many professional organizations. When Sam isn’t stirring up controversy with his weekly power rankings, he spends countless hours keeping the SHL website in pristine order updating many parts of the site that, believe it or not, GameSheet does not allow for automatic updating. Their tireless work allows the broadcast team to be more informed, thus providing for better broadcasts and the circle goes around and around. And a final thank you to SHL league president Evan Poulakidas, whose answer to pretty much every ask we go to him with is “Yes”.
Finally, we want to challenge all of you. Players: give us even more unforgettable moments to broadcast. Coaches: keep guiding your teams to electric performances. And fans: keep bringing the intensity and passion you do every single night at the rink that give those special moments that much more juice. The “Best Game in the Network’s history” could be at any moment: will YOU be the one to make it?