Mystery, Alaska on NHLN

Sports movies feel like a natural fit for league networks at times, and an interesting way to perhaps add further value to them and draw viewers who have already seen them in is combining the film with some behind-the-scenes features and interviews. NHL Network did that with The Mighty Ducks last fall, and now they’re doing it with Mystery, Alaska, airing Wednesday night at 8 p.m. Eastern as part of their ‘Rink Reels” series.

The 1999 film, written by David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, The Practice, Boston Legaland Sean O’Byrne (100 Days in the Jungle, Burn: The Robert Wraight Story) and directed by Jay Roach (Austin PowersMeet The ParentsAll The Way), features a small hockey-obsessed Alaska town whose team eventually takes on the New York Rangers in an exhibition game. It stars Russell Crowe, Hank Azaria, Burt Reynolds, and Mary McCormack among others, and features cameos from Phil Esposito, Little Richard, Steve Levy, Barry Melrose, and long-time Los Angeles Kings’ announcer Jim Fox. During the NHL Network broadcast, NHLN’s Tony Luftman will introduce interviews and behind-the-scenes clips featuring Roach, Fox and Crowe. One clip involves Crowe talking about his decision to wear #10 in the movie in honor of famed NHLer Ron Francis:

“I got to hang out with a bunch of the players, mainly with Ron Francis. From what I’ve seen of the game, this fellow is exactly the sort of guy that I believe my character would be. He’s just Mr. Consistency, he ain’t super flashy, he doesn’t do any of that [salutes] necessarily – sorry Jaromir [Jagr]. He’s just a very internalized sort of man and his real stuff just comes out on the ice. They say all these things about Ron, ‘He doesn’t have all the tricks,’ and that sort of stuff. How many times has he scored a goal between his legs? How many times has he just flashed out of nowhere and put the really important puck away? He’s just a very impressive man, a very impressive player, so that’s why I went with number 10 in the course of the movie.”

Another is a recent NHLN interview with Fox, where he talks about how he appreciated the effort taken to make the film’s locker-room scenes feel true to life:

“I really thought the inside-the-locker-room scenes were authentic. I think that’s as close as you can get to what happens in a locker room, how guys talk, how they kid each other, how they’re jabbing back and forth when the game’s getting ready to be played, how intense it gets, and things like that, confrontations, those types of things. Certainly it was a little bit, uh, colorful as far as the language goes, but that made it even more authentic.”

He also talks about filming scenes with Mike Myers (who played the movie’s color analyst), and doing so in California rather than on set in Alberta. “Mike didn’t have any scripted lines, he improvised everything, it was all ad-libbed. …With Mike just doing what he’s doing, I broke down a couple times, I just started howling. But I think through the magic of movie making they can keep those things up.”

This is logical programming for the NHL Network, and it’s cool to see them add some extra content with these interviews and behind-the-scenes clips. That’s definitely a way to build up some extra attention for this film, and maybe even draw in some who have already seen it. And it’s an approach that might make sense for a lot of sports networks in airing sports movies; some extra insights on how these movies came together and what those involved thought of them is always appreciated.

About Andrew Bucholtz

Andrew Bucholtz has been covering sports media for Awful Announcing since 2012. He is also a staff writer for The Comeback. His previous work includes time at Yahoo! Sports Canada and Black Press.