For a guy who's got a seat waiting for him at every game he attends, Skip Krueger leaves home plenty early.
As a producer for Fox Sports North, the Aberdeen native has a hand in many of the Minnesota sporting events local fans watch on the network. The work to make sure each broadcast is a good one starts long before the game does, he said.
Krueger produces, among other things, a fair number of Minnesota Timberwolves games. If tipoff is set for 7 p.m., planning the broadcast begins at 10 a.m., he said, and sometimes even the previous night.
As a producer, Krueger helps with just about every type of programming the network creates — from live game broadcasts to preproduced 30-minute shows, such as "Vikings GamePlan."
Much of his time, though, is gobbled up by live broadcasts and the travel that sometimes comes with them.
Krueger produces live game and pregame or postgame shows for the Minnesota Timberwolves, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Wild and University of Minnesota Golden Gophers hockey teams. He said he works more Timberwolves games than he does those of the other squads.
During a 10 a.m. phone call, he and others working on the game talk about the topics and elements they want in the broadcast.
For a home game, Krueger gets to the arena or studio about 12:30 p.m., and the production team starts gathering the video and building the graphics needed for the broadcast.
At 4:30 p.m., there's a dinner break, then more prep before the Timberwolves pregame show goes on the air at 6:30 p.m., a half-hour before the game begins.
During the game, the pregame and postgame producer will sit with an analyst, usually a former player, and take notes about key sequences that help determine the outcome. For a Twins game, Krueger might look on with ex-Twins Ron Coomer or Roy Smalley.
He grabs video clips and builds graphics to go with the information he collects from the analysts to be able to explain the game's storyline during the postgame show.
Fox Sports North also has instructional segments during many postgame shows. Krueger said that while ESPN and other national networks previously had such features, Fox Sports North was one of the first regional networks to use them.
During an instruction segment, former Wild player Wes Walz, for instance, might explain the keys to a successful hockey faceoff. A faceoff is more complex than players slapping at the puck with their sticks, Krueger said, and former players are brought in to explain, in simple terms, the keys and complexities.
The instructionals come with a fine line. An analyst has to construe things in a way that is easy for casual fans to understand, but not condescending to hard-core fans.
A postgame show might end at 10:30 p.m. or later, Krueger said, so the days can get long.
They can also be chaotic, especially when Krueger produces the game itself. One person will produce the play-by-play broadcast, another the pregame and postgame.
Whereas Krueger has time to watch the game when he works on the pregame and postgame shows, it's more hectic when he oversees the play-by-play broadcast. During the game, he's in contact with the director of the game, telling him what video clip is ready to go, what sponsored elements — the Toyota Key Stat, for example — need to be worked in and what team-related events — a ticket promotion, perhaps — are upcoming.
For all that needs to be incorporated into a play-by-play broadcast, Krueger said, there's also a simple rule of thumb.
"If in doubt, show the game," he said.
No matter how hectic it gets in the studio or truck or behind the cameras, the aim is to make the broadcast look smooth for viewers, Krueger said.