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The next time that you attend a game at The Stronghold, look up and to the left of the castle. You might spot Chandler Blanchard, Director of Game Presentation, orchestrating the show from Merlin’s Perch. Every part of the Silver Knights’ award-winning show is curated and executed by Blanchard and his team. 

“I want to talk about how talented our team is in general,” he said. “It’s not just me that’s on the show. It’s Jessie [Laureanti], it’s Trent [Dieterle], it’s Ethan [McCoy], it’s Andrew [Martinez], it’s all our part-time staff, the stage managers, it’s the control room. Just being surrounded by incredibly talented staff and crew makes my job that much easier.” 

Blanchard’s commitment to that team mentality is seen in the opening video and lineups, projected on the ice at the start of each game. The intros are made from scratch before the game and carefully tailored to incorporate elements from that day’s opponent, Theme Knight, jersey, and even proximate holidays.  

“It’s one of the most complex things we do, but they’re all really gratifying to see,” added Blanchard. “Especially after the hard work that our team put into not only the content, but also the programming to make it come to life. The workload of getting all of them on the ice was definitely a feat, so I’m really proud of my whole team for making that a success.” 

“And it’s fun to lean into different things with them. We had the holiday themed ones with the wreaths on the faceoff circles. Star Wars Knight was so much fun, getting to plot out the hyperspeed and crashing into the snow planet to match the Silver Knight’s battle in the snow;  there were a lot of small details that we put into things. And Thunder Knight with the lightning and the intro was also so great. I’m really proud of our ice projections.” 

So, once all of these in-game assets are made, how – and when – are they presented to fans each game? 

The answer to that can be found in each matchup’s production script, a 13-page document with size five font. It kicks off with the tech rehearsal, hours before doors open, and concludes with the final centre hang graphic and PA read of the night. No second, from the five-second introduction of the national anthem singer to the two-minute long Town Crier speech, is left unaccounted for. 

But hockey can be an unpredictable game. 

“A lot of it comes down to getting that pre-production script ready, and then being ready to adapt and change things on the fly,” said Blanchard. “For example, if one team keeps icing the puck, we can’t go to a timeout after that. Or if we’re under two minutes, we won’t go to a TV timeout. So we have to figure out how to fit in certain items within the league rules without it feeling choppy. Each timeout is typically 70 seconds, and we have a lot to fit in. If we have to adjust things, we’ll fit in an asset like a video on the fly. And we need to make it seamless for the fans while still meeting our obligations.” 

That willingness to improvise also opens up great creativity in making the assets ahead of each game, like the custom ‘make noise’ videos or writing the Town Crier’s pregame script. 

“There’s definitely stuff that’s very spur of the moment, like ‘hey, let’s try this and see if it sticks.’ Being in the AHL gives us a lot more freedom to be creative and take risks,” he said. “And a lot of the time, it ends up working out because we have trust in each other. But I think my favorite thing we do is the Town Crier speech at the beginning of the game. Setting the scene, who we’re playing, and the call-and-response of the crowd, they all just make it awesome. That’s a huge part of how you build a great atmosphere.”

That great atmosphere has not gone unnoticed, on and off the ice. The Silver Knights’ game production team have won awards in back-to-back years and are nominated for two more this season. In 2022, they won the AHL’s award for Best In-Game Experience in the Western Conference. In 2023, they won the Golden Matrix Award for Best Overall Production, Minor Leagues, with the Golden Knights taking home the matching Major League trophy. 

Now, in 2024, the team have been nominated to repeat that Best Overall Production award and are additionally named a Golden Matrix finalist for Best Mascot. 

“It means a lot to us because we put a lot of work into these projects,” Blanchard said. “It really pushes us to keep on being more creative and more innovative. It puts our name on the map in all different sports and different leagues. We’re always thinking about how we can separate ourselves from other minor league teams and also how we can get ourselves on the map with major league teams. They’re seeing our stuff and asking about it and how we do it. Making an impact on the industry is something that we want to do, too. To get this recognition from the league and from our peers is exceptionally cool.” 

“And we want our guys to share the same sentiment that they have at the NHL level when it comes to home ice advantage. They love playing in Vegas and we want guys to love playing in Henderson. I think it’s a testament to everyone that we work with that helps drive that stuff.” 

There are still months before doors open on another HSK season. But for those that just can’t wait, what are some surprises fans have to look forward to in 2024-25? 

“We’re currently working on developing the Silver Knight to have a more fleshed out character,” he said. “She’s a newer character, so we’re definitely giving her some more time.” 

“And I feel like, for me personally, I want to do more fan activations. I don’t feel like we have enough contestants. We do a lot in terms of getting fans involved, but I’m always meeting with the sponsorship team to discuss how we can get integration with our fan stuff and play more games. I feel like we’re just following the mantra and culture of our entire organization, we’re always looking at how to get people involved and engaged throughout the entire game. The fans make these great buildings to call home.”

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