NHL to launch 'Men in Blazers on Ice'
Hockey version of popular interview series to premiere on League social, digital channelsby Jon Lane @JonLaneNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer
"Men in Blazers" is putting on skates.
The popular interview series has entered into a partnership with the NHL and Jägermeister for a weekly broadcast called "Men in Blazers on Ice," starting Wednesday at 1 p.m. ET. The first episode features Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie. The program can be viewed on NHL social and digital channels YouTube, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, with select episodes airing on NBCSN during broadcasts of "Wednesday Night Hockey."
Other scheduled guests include Toronto Maple Leafs center Auston Matthews, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper, St. Louis Blues center Ryan O'Reilly and Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.
For host Roger Bennett, who started "Men In Blazers" as a Grantland podcast focusing on soccer in 2011, hockey has been a second love since he immigrated to the United States from England in 1993.
He became a fan of the sport when he attended a Washington Capitals game at US Airways Arena, the former Capital Centre in Landover, Maryland. He was amazed by the performances of Olaf Kolzig, Peter Bondra and Craig Berube, and knew that he had to somehow play a big role in promoting the game.
"It's an honor, a joy and a delight," Bennett said. "I've learned so much not just about hockey, but about life itself by talking to these gentlemen."
Bennett learned about Oshie's pregame ritual with captain Alex Ovechkin that includes three high-fives and a hard elbow, individualized handshakes with teammates, how someone his size (6-feet, 195 pound) plays a big game, and the optimism he injects into the locker room.
"Oshie is, to me, not only a hockey hero but a life hero," Bennett said. "To watch a guy game to game, to watch this joyful, exuberant and incredibly hard-hitting … to see guys lock into him and try to take him to the shadow realm, and instead they bounce off him. To be able to talk to him about that, ask them why that is, he just looked at me and said, 'little guy syndrome.' It's amazing."
"Men in Blazers" became a cult hit on ESPN during the 2014 World Cup and a weekly half-hour program on NBCSN covering the English Premier League that debuted Sept. 15, 2014.
It evolved into conversations with sports personalities outside of soccer including Houston Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, retired tennis player Caroline Wozniacki, and eventually Ovechkin and current New Jersey Devils defenseman P.K. Subban
The venture into hockey passed the test. Discussing the game on a popular platform is now in full bloom.
"To be able to work in the NHL now is an absolute honor and a wonder, and something I'll never take for granted," Bennett said.