New York -- Cameras are going to shine brightly on the National Hockey League and many of its star players in an upcoming docuseries orbiting the sport’s upcoming Stadium Series and the Winter Olympics.
A seven-part all-access series, NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other, will face off in mid-January leading into the first of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series at Dodger Stadium and conclude with the Heritage Classic in Vancouver in early March. In the States, NBCSN will televise the series starting on Jan. 22, while the CBC drops the puck the following night. Rogers’ Sportnet will rebroadcast NHL Revealed in Canada. The networks are contributing to the production costs.
The series is being produced by Ross Greenburg, the former HBO Sports president and 50-time Sports Emmy winner on behalf of the NHL and Toronto-based Bristow Global Media Inc. and its principal, Julie Bristow, the former CBC executives, whose duties included overseeing production of the channel’s Hockey Night in Canada. Steve Mayer, senior vice president and executive producer of IMG Productions, which produces hundreds of TV hours annually, also is serving as an executive producer on the series. Mayer has produced the All-Star Fantasy Draft and All-Star Skills Competition for the NHL.
Expanding on the scope and format of HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic -- Greenburg served as executive producer on the premium channel’s initial airing leading up to the Jan. 1, 2011 game between the Pittsburg Penguins-Washington Capitals -- will cycle and change lines providing a mosaic of the players, teams and the venues, before, during and after the contests in question.
At a lunch here on Nov. 18 introducing the series, Greenburg said shooting on the series will begin in Ottawa next week. NHLPA divisional player representative Steve Webb said many intriguing storylines will emanate from the players battling their rivals in the NHL, before becoming teammates and/or foes when they engage for their respective nations in Sochi, and then resume their North American professional relationships after the Games.
Bristow Global Media and Greenburg’s team will be sending their own dedicated project crews to Sochi. Jon Miller, president of programming at NBC Sports and NBCSN, said the documentarians will have access to players on planes heading to Russia and on buses going to the games in Sochi. He said the parties are working on gaining more access to the competitors in Russia, including during their stays in the Olympic Village.
The 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series begins on Jan. 25, when the Anaheim Ducks face the Los Angeles Kings at Dodger Stadium (9:30 p.m. (ET), NBCSN/CBC). The next two contests follow at Yankee Stadium: on Sunday, Jan. 26 when the New York Rangers play the New Jersey Devils (12:30 p.m., NBC/CBC) and three days later when the Broadway Blueshirts face the New York Islander (7:30 p.m., NBCSN/TSN).
After the NHL players’ participation in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games, the Stadium Series resumes in Chicago on March 1, when the Penguins visit the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field (8 p.m., NBC). The 2014 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic concludes the run of events on March 2 in Vancouver, B.C., where the Vancouver Canucks will entertain the Ottawa Senators (4 p.m., NBCSN/CBC).
Among the players expected to be featured in NHL Revealed: Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins; Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Blackhawks; brothers Daniel and Henrik Sedin of the Canucks; John Tavares of the Islanders; and goaltenders Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, Jonathan Quick of the Kings and Martin Brodeur of the Devils.
NBCSN will premiere NHL Revealed in the U.S. on Jan. 22; Jan. 29; Feb. 5; Feb. 27 (two hours); March 5 and March 12, with all of the episodes save for the two-hour installment, leading out of its Wednesday Night Rivalry franchise. The CBC will debut the series in Canada on Jan. 23; Jan. 30; Feb. 6; Feb. 27 (two hours); March 6 and March 13, while Sportsnet will offer encore presentations north of the border on Jan. 26; Feb. 2; Feb. 23; March 2 (two hours); March 9 and March 16.
In addition to the seven TV hours, a “director’s cut,” including the game’s often colorful language, will likely land on digital platforms. Although the digital game plan was not specifically outlined, NHL COO John Collins said footage could serve as a preview of sorts leading into the linear TV bow, with other content perhaps following the TV debuts of the different installments.
Collins said international rights-holders have expressed interest in the series, which is part of the NHL’s three-year push to push its overall business past the $4 billion revenue mark, with one-quarter generated from national monies. In 2006, the NHL was a $2.2 billion league with only 6% of its revenue derived from national revenues. In 2011, the league netted some $3.2 billion in revenue and with its 10-year, $2 billion deal with NBC Sports Group, including the coverage around the New Year’s Day Winter Classic, current negotiations for new TV pacts in Canada, plus ticket, merchandising and sponsorship monies from the Stadium Series, Collins said the league is en route toward reaching its overall revenue and national-percentage goals.
The executives at the lunch talked about sponsor interest and activation around the Stadium Series contests and the Olympics that will also manifest in terms of running commercials in the game telecasts, as well as on NHL Revealed.
Collins said that given the wider distribution of NBCSN and the CBC versus HBO’s Stateside and Canadian presence, NHL Revealed should provide more exposure to the sport and its players than 24/7 has. This year, HBO will focus on the Detroit Red Wings-Toronto Maple Leafs meeting at Michigan University in its latest installment of the 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic franchise. Televised by NBC, the contest is expected set a world record for hockey attendance with over 110,000 crowding "The Big House" on New Year's Day.
Collins said just as Sabol Films and NFL Films built bridges to the uninitiated, casual and hard-core fans of pro football over the years, NHL Revealed and 24/7, along with NBCSN’s profile 36 Series, are helping to convey the great stories and history of the NHL to Americans, many of whom did not grow up with or play the game. Collins began his pro sports career at NFL Films.