It’s that time again, when fans rockin’ the red flock to Verizon Center for the most intense, electrifying, Pulp Fiction-esque shot of adrenaline to the heart they’ll experience all year.
A Capitals game? Yeah, that too, but it’s preceded by a show that virtually ensures that the spectators will scream at the top of their lungs before the game even starts. Yes, we’re talking about the Caps’ playoff introduction video and light show.
With the Caps in the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year, which guarantees them at least two home games, it’s time to shine for Michael Wurman, the Caps’ director of game entertainment and TV production.
“The nature of a playoff video is that it will be a cherished moment in time,” said Wurman, who has been working with a team of developers on this season’s video, which will debut before Game 3 on Monday, April 16.
“That’s why it’s very important to us — it’s that time stamp when people can remember back to that playoff run. It’s a challenge for us to try to top that every year.”
After a Presidents’ Trophy-winning season two years ago, Wurman selected Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” as the soundtrack for the postseason run. Last year, it was Avenged Sevenfold’s “Nightmare,” which Wurman had planned to use nearly 10 months earlier. “The playoff video is something we usually think of way into the offseason,” he said. “I always have one or two songs in my back pocket since last summer.”
Though he had it selected well in advance, the “Nightmare” intro almost didn’t happen. Fans of the song know all too well of the F-bomb at a very key moment of the chorus, something the Caps obviously had to cut for the family-friendly Verizon Center. “The way [Avenged Sevenfold] punctuates the F-word, it was killing the video,” Wurman said. “The radio edit sounded like a bleep. I think the bleep is worse than the actual version.”
As the playoffs approached, one word stood in the way of a production that was sure to blow the roof off the Phone Booth. If Wurman didn’t find something to cover up the two-syllable vulgarity, he’d have to think of a backup plan.
“Second to last game of the regular season, we ran the ‘Unleash the Fury’ video,” Wurman said, referring to the arena’s battle cry featuring comedian Tom Green in a Caps jersey with a guitar, typically played during the third period of close games. “Went home, ran the ‘Fury’ part over the F word. Instead of losing that beat.. it was, ‘Halleluhah!’”
To create the videos, Wurman works with a company called Base Productions, which is responsible for in-arena video content, as well as the Emmy-winning Caps Red Line videos. Base Productions has worked with the organization for the better part of a decade, and employees attend on game nights to ensure all goes well.
Once the music cut is finalized, they send it to lighting guru Rich Petkevis, who spends upwards of 10 hours programming Verizon Center’s light show. Then another company, ANC, sets up the video rings above and below the scoreboard and around the arena.
What’s to come this year? Wurman, who plays the drums, has a passion for heavy metal acts like Dream Theater and Ozzy Osbourne. The songs he picks generally fit the theme of the season, so there are plenty of possibilities that sum up this year’s unexpected roller coaster. But will it top last year’s video? The final product may not even be ready until game day.
“The next video is always my favorite one,” he said.