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'NHL Revealed' a unique challenge for Greenburg

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- For all he's done in his almost three decades worth of award-winning experience documenting the nuances of sports and its characters from behind the camera lens and in edit rooms, Ross Greenburg has never taken on a production with the size and scale of "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other."

Greenburg, who won 51 Sports Emmys and eight Peabody Awards during his 26-year tenure at HBO Sports, is one of three executive producers tasked with developing seven hours of all-access NHL-based reality TV for NBC and CBC.

"NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other" will follow the players and teams participating in the four 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series games, the 2014 Tim Hortons Heritage Classic in Vancouver, and the 2014 Sochi Olympics from mid-January through mid-March.

"I've never undertaken a reality-based show with this number of teams and characters at your disposal," Greenburg told "You can look at that as a plus in that you have so much ground to cover that you can pick and choose some colorful characters with unique stories and dive into it that way. Or, you can look at it as a negative and say, 'My god, what am I going to have to leave on the edit room floor?' "

Greenburg, as President of HBO Sports, was the executive producer for the first "24/7: Road to the Winter Classic" series produced by HBO in 2011. He said his experience working on that series, which featured the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, gave him an up-close knowledge of hockey players and their generally humble nature.

"There is a closeness to a hockey team that I haven't seen in many other sports, and that's at every level," Greenburg said. "You don't really see an arrogance or an aloofness to hockey players. They have stayed down-to-earth as human beings and there is just a guy next door sitting on the living room couch talking normal like you-and-I quality to them."

Greenburg said that every-man quality makes for insightful and entertaining television. It's part of why he wanted to document it again, only on a grander scale.

The undertaking ahead of Greenburg and fellow executive producers Julie Bristow, a former executive at CBC and current president & CEO of Bristow Global Media, Inc., and Steve Mayer, the Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of IMG Productions, is to turn what will be hundreds of hours of content coming from nine teams into seven hours of TV that gives the viewers the same feeling Greenburg had when he did the first "24/7" series.

"They're human beings," he said. "They're not to be put on a pedestal and awed. They're to be looked at realistically."

"NHL Revealed" debuts Jan. 22 on NBC Sports Network in the United States and Jan. 23 on CBC in Canada.

Subsequent episodes will air in the United States on NBCSN on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 27 (two hours), 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.

"NHL Revealed" will be filmed by crews that embed with the teams for three or four days at a time at least four or five times during the entire production process. There will be two crews going to Sochi to capture the players at the Olympics. The editing will take place in Toronto.

Each episode will be anchored by one of the marquee events on the NHL schedule, starting with the first three Stadium Series games.

The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks open the Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25 (9:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN/CBC). The Stadium Series moves to Yankee Stadium the following day as the New York Rangers play the New Jersey Devils (12:30 p.m. EST, NBC/CBC). The Rangers and New York Islanders complete the pre-Olympic leg of the Stadium Series on Jan. 29 at Yankee Stadium (7:30 p.m. EST, NBCSN/TSN).

"The focus on those first couple of episodes will be on those teams, as they prepare for those stadium games and execute on those games," Greenburg said.

The focus in parts of the second episode and most of the third episode is expected to turn toward the Chicago Blackhawks, Pittsburgh Penguins, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators as players participate in regular season games while preparing to go to Sochi for the Olympics.

"The show would have worked without the Olympic games because the Stadium games in and of themselves and simply following players and teams throughout the regular season is fascinating television, but the icing on the cake is surely the Olympics," Greenburg said. "Not only because of the great feeling these players have for their countries and playing for their countries, but also for that dynamic of suddenly in midseason turning your teammate into your rival.

"For [Evgeni] Malkin and [Sidney] Crosby to be joined at the hip and firing pucks at the opponent suddenly to have to turn around and check each other on the ice when Canada plays Russia, it's just a fascinating dynamic. We'll be with them on the plane over, on the plane back. We'll be interviewing them between games. We'll be following their families in Sochi, and maybe them if they get out of that Olympic village and go somewhere to relax."

The Stadium Series finale takes place at Soldier Field, where the Blackhawks and Penguins will play on March 1 (8 p.m. EST, NBC). The Canucks and Senators participate in the Heritage Classic on March 2 in Vancouver (4 p.m. EST, NBCSN/CBC).

"There is a simplicity to having two teams to follow for four or five weeks because you can embed guys in those two teams, get the footage in, go through the editing process and you have an easily identifiable beginning, middle and end," Greenburg said. "Here what we have are nine teams over a two-month period participating in five different stadium games and the Sochi Olympics, and to interweave the stories through the eyes of the individual players on all of those teams to make some semblance of logic out of it is really the challenge."


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