My favorite moment in the first episode of NBCSN's NHL Revealed (which is a really a league production, in conjunction with executive producers Ross Greenburg, Julie Bristow and Steve Mayer) is kind of a tragic joke about hockey and the United States. Ottawa Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson visits a cowboy-wear store in Nashville prior to a game against the Predators. Karlsson tells the store proprietor (who couldn't be more "Nashville cowboy" if The Simpsons drew him up) that he wants to wear his cowboy boots with the pants he wore to the store rather than get special jeans to go with them.
The store owner, clearly bewildered, says "I knew you were strange."
The thing I like about NHL Revealed was that it seems to embrace the idea that hockey people are giant weirdos in the best way possible. Roberto Luongo looks painfully awkward while listening to a John Tortorella speech. Corey Perry's obsessive compulsive disorder is well on display. And that whole scene where Drew Doughty walks outside the top floor of his apartment, Romeo & Juliet-style.
These guys are different, and you should like that about them, NHL Revealed seems to say. After years of trying to promote the toughness and skill and teamwork and sheer brute force that these athletes exert, here is a show that treats them (for the most part) as individual stars with unique, interesting lives. It's an approach that I like, and one that distinguishes it from its most obvious competitor, 24/7.
My lone problem with the show is the narration, done by Rossif (son of Donald, half-brother of Kiefer) Sutherland. Anything is going to seem weak in comparison to the freakishly amazing Liev Schriber, but wow, he was extremely stilted in his delivery. It made every attempt to advertise an upcoming NHL stadium game (which this show is ostensibly here to promote) seem like putting a giant Pepsi sign on the backs of every NHL player in terms of obviousness.
Other than that, however… it was just fine, really. There's always some skepticism to a program that a particular league is backing, but it manages to focus on the positive without seeming like propaganda. There's the occasional dropped out swear word (which will be available on a director's cut purchaseable through Amazon Instant shortly) and the gruff coach speak. There's Evgeni Malkin cursing at Alexander Ovechkin in Russian.
Mostly, though, it was accentuating the positive without delving into treacle. Martin Brodeur visiting with family after Montreal was sad but not maudlin, and Kyle Okposo being at the birth of his daughter and then returning to the team to score a goal in a victory was great storytelling.
NHL Revealed will morph into a different show pretty much every week from here on in, between the Stadium Series games and the Olympics (a two-hour show focusing specifically on Sochi will be must-see) you won't be quite certain what's coming up week to week. But the NHL and its producers earned enough of my good faith in week one that I'll be coming back to check it out from here on in. Now get me that director's cut!