The NHL and HBO Sports are joining forces for a third season of "24/7," this time featuring two Original Six rivals, the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, as they prepare to meet at the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2014.
HBO will debut a new episode of "24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" on four consecutive Saturday nights, beginning Dec. 14. The series follows the teams simultaneously, chronicling their highs and lows each week, and builds to the sixth edition of the Winter Classic, with more than 100,000 fans expected to attend the game at the "Big House" on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Mich.
"Taking our '24/7' reality series into the world of the National Hockey League has been a riveting experience that our subscribers have thoroughly enjoyed," said Rick Bernstein, executive producer of HBO Sports. "The '24/7' franchise is fashioned on larger-than-life personalities, engaging storylines and unrestricted access. The cooperation provided by the teams, coaches and players is the special ingredient that has made this program a landmark series."
For the first time, Sportsnet will give fans in Canada access to the series, which will be available in 8.5 million households. Sportsnet, which holds regional television rights to the Maple Leafs and four other Canadian teams, will show the series on four consecutive Sundays, beginning Dec. 15.
This is the third edition of "24/7" to highlight NHL teams as they prepare for the Winter Classic. HBO followed the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the 2011 game and did the same with the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers prior to the 2012 Winter Classic.
"HBO's '24/7' has been a game-changer for us," said John Collins, NHL chief operating officer. "The wide-open access our clubs provide on and off the ice gives a real sense of what it takes to play in the NHL and just how special our players are. Our fans love it, and there's no question new fans have been attracted by watching the games and the personalities come alive through the lens of HBO's storytelling.
"Red Wings-Maple Leafs will provide no shortage of great stories, and having Sportsnet as our first partner in Canada will make this year's edition bigger than ever."
Detroit and Toronto are longtime rivals. The organizations first played each other Jan. 4, 1927, and the teams have met seven times in the Stanley Cup Final. As part of the NHL's realignment for the 2013-14 season, the Red Wings and Maple Leafs are in the same division, the Atlantic, for the first time since 1997-98.
"Our players are acutely aware of the tremendous marketing value derived from the HBO '24/7' series, and we are excited, as are all hockey fans, to see this initiative return to the NHL," said Mike Ouellet, chief of business affairs for the NHL Players Association. "The NHLPA is looking forward once again to having our players participate and provide viewers with an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at some of the greatest athletes in the world."