NHL, NBC and CBC Team Up for Hockey Docuseries
The pro hockey league's latest behind-the-scenes TV show -- which will include storylines surrounding the 2014 Winter Olympics -- comes as the NHL revolutionizes how it presents and sells star players to fans and viewers.
TORONTO -- The NHL is once again opening its team locker and meeting rooms to documentary cameras for NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other, to air on NBC Sports Network and the CBC in Canada in early 2014.
The latest behind-the-scenes hockey series for the NHL sees former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg pair up with Canadian indie producer Bristow Global Media, led by former CBC programming exec Julie Bristow.
Their seven-parter will follow star NHL players preparing for outdoor games, including at Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles and Yankee Stadium in New York, and traveling to and from the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.
As with any sports documentary series, rating success will hinge on securing dramatic storylines around star players, coaches and Zamboni drivers as filmmaking crews follow Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks and brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Vancouver Canucks.
"This is driven by the access to the players and teams and their inner circles," Bristow, whose ties to the NHL include having overseen its Hockey Night in Canada franchise, told The Hollywood Reporter.
To get NHL fans and viewers closer to the game, star players and their team benches will be mic'd for insights on what and how they're thinking during a game. And close-up camera shots and sounds will be used to show what it takes to be a star NHL player, whether as they deal with teammates, coaches and referees during a game, or off the ice.
Greenburg won dozens of Emmy Awards with HBO doing wide-access docuseries on boxing, NASCAR and the NFL with the Hard Knocks series before teaming up with the NHL to showcase its players after NBC Sports signed a 10-year TV deal in 2011.
The pro hockey league is now into the third season of its 24/7 all-access series, with the latest cycle a four-parter leading up to the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs, to debut Dec. 14 on HBO and Dec. 15 on Sportsnet in Canada.
But while the NHL no longer sees all-access camera crews as intrusive, producing a fly-on-the-wall series about hockey, especially in Canada where hard-core fans consider the sport a religion, is not easy.
"This is definitely a change for a sport that likes to present the game in a certain way," Bristow argued.
That said, the NHL, as it continues to roll out new outdoor hockey games this season, recognizes an insatiable appetite by fans and viewers to see more of the field of play and their favorite players on it.
And that's coming as live sporting events become rare DVR-proof experiences increasingly aired with companion programming like the 24/7 series and now NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other.
A 40-day window for production of NHL Revealed will start with the 2014 Coors Light NHL stadium series, then shift to Sochi for the Winter Olympics and culminate with the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic.
The series will debut on NBC Sports Network on Jan. 22, followed a day later with a bow on the CBC.
NHL Revealed, also to spotlight stars like John Tavares of the New York Islanders, and goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings and Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils, will have its finale March 13.
Rogers' Sportsnet channel will also re-air the series in Canada.