NEW YORK – Now that the NHL season has resumed following the long Olympic break, hockey fans are about to get an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at what went on in Sochi.
The television series "NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other" resumes Thursday night in the United States and Canada with a two-hour episode compiled during the two-week Olympic hockey tournament in Russia.
Taking advantage of the NHL's television partners NBC (United States) and CBC (Canada) — both Olympic rights holders — executive producer Ross Greenburg and his team were granted unique access to the teams and players, enabling them to tell a story well beyond the on-ice action that ended with Canada's second consecutive men's gold medal.
"We had access that I have never seen during an Olympic games," Greenburg told The Associated Press. "It has been a wonderful experience.
"Most leagues do not allow this kind of access during the season. So you're dealing with a league that's open to that. That in and of itself is a real head start. To have this access through the stadium games and in Sochi, it has taken it to another level. That is what is so inspiring. This has really been a game-changer for the league. This should open the floodgates, and I think you will see a lot more of this programming."
The upcoming episode will show NHL stars touring the Olympic Park, wired for sound during practice and while they spent time with their families in Sochi. It will also feature unseen celebration footage from Canada's dressing room after the club topped Sweden for the gold medal.
Upon his return to North America this week, New York Islanders captain John Tavares gave a brief insight into how raucous that party was.
"If you can tell by my voice right now, it was pretty special," Tavares said in a raspy tone. "It was a lot of fun. It is something I will never forget. Even though you are only together for a couple of weeks, how much goes into that tournament and how hard it is to win it and the way we did it was certainly a great feeling."
The "NHL Revealed" platform is a seven-part series that focuses on nine teams, both on the ice and off it, during the season and in the NHL outdoor spectacles that conclude this week with games in Chicago's Soldier Field and in Vancouver.
"You think about what a hand that NFL Films had in shaping the image of the National Football League, and all that was through telling stories about the game, showing a different point of view to the action that you already watched," NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said. "They did that for 50 years. We're only really just getting going on telling so many of these great stories about the great athletes that we have in the sport.
"The beauty of these kinds of shows, is it appeals to the core hockey fan who knows who these guys are, and maybe they learn something that they hadn't known about before, and it appeals to the casual fan who maybe is seeing these guys for the first time and want to get to know more about them."
Greenburg, the former HBO Sports president who has won more than 50 Sports Emmys, was awed during this project, both by the access his crew had and by the personalities of the players they were covering.
"The athletes themselves are fascinating because they have obviously a skill level on the ice, but they are really down to earth, tough, accessible, and in many ways they are the every man," he said. "I am struck at times by how normal their lives can be, even as NHL players.
"There is a trust factor that we are going to stay in the background, be flies on the wall, not get in their way when they're going through their routines — whether it's practice or game day — and they can trust us that we're not going to impact the game itself."
And this could be just the beginning.
"Most people when they see the Olympics, the Olympic coverage generally covers the live event," Collins said. "They are covering any highlights or any stories that come out of that live event in a news sort of fashion, and the up close and personals are kind of in the can by the time you get to the Olympics. They are done three months ahead of time.
"For the first time, because of the unique partnerships and circumstances, we had the chance to get in on the ground floor of the various teams and with the players in this two-week ride."