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China Games

Flames, Bruins to be showcased on 'All Access'

NHL China Games trip covered in behind-the-scenes special premiering Friday

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

Sean Monahan said it best.

"[It's] one of those things that you'll remember for the rest of your life," the Calgary Flames forward said. "A lot of stories to tell when you get back.

[RELATED: China Games built memories, chemistry for Bruins, Flames | Zhao helping grow hockey in China]

Those stories are the ones that "NHL China Games All Access" will tell, with the behind-the-scenes special from NHL Original Productions premiering in Canada on Friday at 7 p.m. ET (Sportsnet One), and in the United States on Sunday at 4 p.m. ET (NBCSN). 

As part of the 2018 O.R.G NHL China Games, the Calgary Flames and Boston Bruins spent eight days of training camp in China, playing preseason games in Shenzhen and Beijing while experiencing everything, from the Great Wall of China, to the Forbidden City, to training camp practices and the first games and goals of the season. 

All of it is chronicled in "All Access". 

"This is big for team bonding," Flames captain Mark Giordano said. "I think anytime you can get your team together for nine days, it's important because we have a lot of new faces around our team this year and a new coaching staff."

Video: Go behind-the-scenes with NHL China Games All Access

That bonding is at the forefront of the show. This was a chance for the Flames and Bruins to get to know each other, to spend time together, to see things they never thought they would see - together.

That especially comes through once the teams head to Beijing for the second half of the trip, where the Flames take in Tiananmen Square and the Bruins hit the Silk Market.

But nothing is like the Great Wall. 

"It's pretty incredible to see the Great Wall, to really experience it in person," Bruins forward Brad Marchand said. "It's a place I'd always dreamed of going to, but to actually be there and see how magnificent it is, it's definitely something you want to see."

More than that, it's about forging that bond, as they take chairlifts and gondolas up the Great Wall, as they hike along it, as they sign their names, as they perform death-defying feats, egged on by their teammates, or at least by Bruins forward David Pastrnak.

"Training camp is about fighting for a spot and all of that, but at the same time, you have to become a group," Pastrnak said. "Hockey is a team sport, so you have to become a good group and play as one man. This is a good opportunity for us to become close to each other and hopefully it's going to help us."

This was a historic trip, for the teams involved, for the NHL, and that comes through in the show. There is the Stanley Cup being embraced, literally, by fans in China during the Cup's first visit to the country. There is Wayne Gretzky, spreading the message of hockey. 

"We're just trying to give hockey a little bit of a jump-start, a little bit of a boost," Gretzky said. "The game is a great game, and once people get a chance to play it and see it, it's going to grow on its own."

That story is told in "All Access". It's the one underlying the practices and the games, the sightseeing and the team building. It's in the faces of the fans as they watch the action in Shenzhen and Beijing, as they see a game trying to find a foothold, two teams trying to find footholds. 

"Obviously, every country is different, but it's fun to see how the fans react," Pastrnak said.

For those watching the show, it's just as fun to see how the players react to China. 

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