Ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes at an NHL practice or game? Who the team jokers are and who takes things seriously 24/7? How a coach prepares his team to go into battle?
The CBC and the NHL will help answer your curiosities with a seven-part series called NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other from executive producer Ross Greenburg, the former president of HBO Sports and winner of more than 50 Sports Emmys.
The series, which premieres Jan. 23 on CBC and will also be broadcast in the United States by NBC Sports Network, will tell the stories of more than two dozen of the NHL's top stars -- on and off the ice -- as they participate in the Coors Light Stadium Series and the Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic outdoor games. The series will also follow NHL stars to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Multiple camera crews are being assigned to the New York Rangers, New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks and Ottawa Senators for more than eight hours a day over 100 days of shooting, creating hundreds of hours of material that will be edited down to seven hours for television.
NHL stars such as Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Chicago’s Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, Vancouver’s Daniel and Henrik Sedin, the Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist, and Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles are some of the players that will be featured.
It's similar to what HBO has done with its 24/7 series, only on a grander scale.
“We know there is such an appetite for this type of content, with the ability to get closer to the players, to get inside the locker rooms and on the ice and to hear the stories from these guys,” said John Collins, the NHL’s chief operating officer. "It’s such a unique opportunity in such a unique year."
It's all being done in partnership with the NHL Players' Association and will be executive produced by Greenburg, Steve Mayer and Julie Bristow, a former CBC executive whose duties included overseeing the production of Hockey Night in Canada.
In the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series, the Ducks and Kings will play at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, followed by the Rangers and Devils at Yankee Stadium on Jan. 26, the Rangers and the Islanders at the same venue on Jan. 29, and the Penguins and Blackhawks at Soldier Field in Chicago on March 1. The Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic pits the Canucks against the Senators at B.C. Place on March 2.
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings will also play an outdoor game -- the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic -- at Michigan Stadium on New Year's Day, but they are not participating in NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other because they are already committed to HBO’s 24/7.
In a massive undertaking such as this, Greenburg said it is paramount that the TV crew not interfere with the day-to-day operations of the NHL teams.
“The approach is always to be a fly on the wall,” Greenburg said. “We have gained the trust of the individual teams, and in our initial meetings we discussed [that] the cameras will come in and we’ll put microphones on people, but we will never get in the way of what they have to do to prepare their team on a day-to-day basis.
"We’ve really gained their trust. After a day they really don’t notice that our cameras and microphones are there.”
Added Bristow: “What makes a documentary access series successful is the kind of partnership we have with the NHL and NHLPA about making the players and their inner circles comfortable with this notion. For sure there are stories to be told and we’ll plan storylines in advance as much as we can, but what inevitably happens is when you have almost 100 days of shooting and you are following this kind of action, storylines will emerge and they will change what your original ideas were and who the key characters were.”
Shooting for the series begins Nov. 28 in Ottawa.
The series will premiere in Canada on CBC on Jan. 23, with subsequent parts airing on Jan. 30, Feb. 6 and 27 and March 6 and 13. The series will be broadcast on NBCSN in the United States starting Jan. 22, and will be rebroadcast in Canada on Rogers Sportsnet starting Jan. 26.