NEW YORK — The NHL often appears stodgy and stuck in the past, at least from a fan's perspective. In New York on Monday, John Collins proved that there's more than a few modern thinkers in their offices when answering a question about a DVD boxed set potential for their new series they'd just announced, NHL Revealed.
He smiled and said, confidently, "More in terms of a digital product than a box set. Because, well… it's kind of a dead market." The league was hinting that director's cuts of Revealed would be left to the NHL's website rather than included on a DVD set, which have become more and more irrelevant in the Netflix era. It may not seem like much, but that statement really stuck with me more than anything that Collins, execs from NBC, CBC and Ross Greenburg productions conveyed on Monday.
Over and over again, it looks like hiring Collins is the smartest personnel move of Gary Bettman's tenure as the NHL's commissioner. One of the brains behind the Winter Classic, and the man who poked and prodded HBO and Greenburg to launch 24/7, clearly sees NHL Revealed as the next level, next chapter if you will, of a story he wants to tell. Because there's a lot more to tell.
"I think that there's such a unique opportunity to do this type of programming around the NHL," Collins told a gathering of reporters at Del Frisco's in New York City. "Obviously, growing up in NFL Films and understanding the heavy hand they had in shaping the National Football League, you come to the NHL now for six-plus-years."
"Were coming up on our 100th anniversary and yet, there's so little storytelling. We cover the games, but we don't have a chance to kind of slow it down and celebrate the moments and that's what I think were starting to do here."
Officially titled NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other, the seven-part series (spanning eight hours) will take viewers into the cultures of nine NHL teams participating in the league's first ever Stadium Series: a collection of five outdoor games played over the course of six weeks. The league will also include the Heritage Classic (the Canadian-only event), while 24/7 returns for a third season on HBO to cover the Winter Classic.
The show airs on NBCSN in the United States and CBC in Canada. The five one-hour editions of the show will air on Wednesdays from Jan. 22-Feb. 5, as well as Mar. 5 and 12. The one episode that sets it apart, airing Feb. 27 and spanning two hours, will follow the athletes from those various teams to the Olympic Games. The league and Greenburg's crews will have access to the Athletes Village, among other events.
This aspect was a huge coup for and a big reason the network went back to the Olympics. "Through all the debate of whether we, as a league, should be there or not be there," he said, "we're there, it's a great platform, we should try to take better advantage of it."
A highlight of that will be seeing rivals turn into teammates and vice versa. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are two such athletes who will be profiled with both the Chicago Blackhawks at Soldier Field and Teams USA and Canada in Sochi. Other stars likely profiled include names such as Crosby, Malkin, Lundqvist and the Sedins, though Greenburg has promised the lesser-known, lunchpail types can make it in, too. He was also excited to note that three of the 24/7 series' most popular coaches — John Tortorella, Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma — would all be returning to reality television.
NHL Revealed has a high pedigree to live up to, despite being the first show of its kind. It has the power of a league, two networks and three very well-respected producers (Julie Bristow and Steve Mayer are working along with Greenburg to make this project go) backing the project. It sends the league into a different stratosphere, for better or worse, where fans will have access to see their favorite stars and meet new ones over an insane period of time, when you think about it. I have confidence in their ability to execute.