NEW YORK -- Five outdoor games, featuring nine different NHL teams, combined with the NHL's participation in the 2014 Sochi Olympics should provide plentiful ingredients for must-see TV.
The NHL believes in the compelling content. On Monday, the League, along with the NHLPA and broadcast partners NBC and CBC, jointly announced the creation of an all-access television series entitled "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other" during a press event in Manhattan.
The series will feature an exclusive inside look at the four 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games, the 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic at BC Place in Vancouver and the Olympics, focusing on the star players from the nine teams involved in the five outdoor games.
"We love the game, we admire the players and we want to take that and make it as big as we possibly can," NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said. "We want to make it big through the events we do. We want to make it big through the programming we do. It's not just enough to feed the core hockey fan, but we want to expose the sport to casual fans as well and continue to grow the game. That's been a huge part of the partnership with CBC and it's been a huge part of the NBC relationship."
Collins stressed that the NHL's participation in the Olympics is a factor behind the series.
"It's a huge storyline for how we want to profile the game and how we want to profile the players," Collins said. "CBC and NBC have come on board, as they always do, to make some of this a reality. We've been able to pull together really an all-star lineup of executive producers to tell the stories that are going to come out of a hundred days and nights of shooting throughout this process."
The series is being produced by Bristow Global Media Inc., headed by Julie Bristow, a former executive at CBC whose duties included overseeing production of CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada and creating and producing other top programming.
Ross Greenburg, the former HBO Sports president and winner of more than 50 Sports Emmys, will serve as an executive producer on behalf of the NHL. Greenburg was executive producer of HBO’s initial "24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic." Steve Mayer, the senior vice president and executive producer of IMG Productions, is serving as an executive producer on the series as well.
The seven-part series debuts Jan. 22 on NBCSN and Jan. 23 on CBC (with a re-air Jan. 26 on Sportsnet in Canada).
Subsequent episodes will air in the United States on NBCSN on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 27 (two-part), March 5 and March 12. CBC will air the one-part episodes one day after NBCSN but will also air the two-part episode on Feb. 27. Sportsnet will provide additional viewing opportunities on Jan. 26, Feb. 2, Feb. 23, March 2 (two hours), March 9 and March 16.
"I don't think there are many leagues out there besides the NHL and really with John's leadership and vision that could have put this all together in this short period of time," NBC Sports President Jon Miller said. "When the Winter Classic first happened this was something he had thought about and we had talked about for a long time, about bringing games to stadiums. The natural progression is bringing fans inside the ice and letting people see what is going on."
There will be production teams embedded with the teams for several days in a row, and two production crews will follow the players in Sochi.
"What's most important is we want to give that feeling to the viewer that they're inside, that they'll be in training rooms, meeting rooms and locker rooms, they'll be hearing from coaches, players will be miked on the ice, cameras will be low on the ice in arenas," Greenburg said. "We also want to bring to life these Stadium games and, obviously, Sochi because those are the big events."
Stadium Series games begin on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, when the Anaheim Ducks face the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium (9:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN/CBC). The first of two Stadium Series games at Yankee Stadium follows Sunday, Jan. 26 when the New York Rangers play the New Jersey Devils (12:30 p.m. EST, NBC/CBC). The Rangers battle the New York Islanders three days later on Wednesday, Jan. 29 (7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN/TSN).
Following the NHL’s participation in the 2014 Games, the Stadium Series finishes in Chicago on Saturday, March 1 when the Pittsburgh Penguins square off against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field (8 p.m. EST, NBC).
"The players are excited to be a part of it," said Steve Webb, a divisional player representative for the NHLPA. "They understand to grow the game we have to do things like this, we have to do things big, extravagant in a way where it creates attention and draws people in to watch our sport. Here you have an opportunity to get really in-depth behind the scenes with a lot of our greatest players."
Greenburg said a key storyline to follow will be the arc of some players going from teammates in the NHL to rivals in the Olympics to teammates again in the NHL, or vice versa. He said the producers have earmarked Penguins center Evgeni Malkin as a player they want to follow in Sochi because he will be participating in the Olympics in his home country.
"There is something about going home to play in front of your home country in your home event," Greenburg said. "There is some beauty to that."
Greenburg added the goal of the series is to have the star players on each team be the main characters, but with the expectation that the camera and the storyline will gravitate to some role players who stand out. As an example he mentioned Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis' surprising lead role in the "24/7" series featuring the Penguins and Washington Capitals three years ago.
"We're looking forward to finding those little gems," Greenburg said. "People will develop."
While admitting HBO's "24/7" and "NHL Revealed" are similar in that they're access-driven shows about hockey, Collins said the viewer will find that the comparisons stop there because of the path each series follows.
"'24/7' is a chronological, intense look at two teams that clearly has a beginning, a middle, and an end being the Winter Classic," Collins said. "The coach in '24/7' tends to be the focus because that's who controls much of the action and what goes on. I don't think that's expected to be the case here. We're going into this with a view toward saying we want to make the players the focus. And because we have nine teams, and all these various events with the Olympics in the middle, you're not going to get that same chronological countdown."
Mayer pointed out that an interesting element to "NHL Revealed" is the show will follow all nine teams throughout the entire series. So even though the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings play at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, players on those teams will be featured in episodes through the series finale.
"Each of the shows will have the stadium games and Sochi involved so you'll feel the climax, closing segment," Greenburg said. "Of course the last segment will wrap up the experience of the preceding hours you watched as a viewer as well as a look to the playoffs. That in and of itself will be an interesting ending."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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