The NHL made an announcement about two weeks ago that did a fantastic job flying under the radar. While the hockey world was preoccupied with minute-by-minute updates concerning Sidney Crosby and was trying to figure out if Ken Hitchcock would be a decent NHL coach again, the NHL announced the creation of NHL Original Productions. That doesn’t sound exciting—and anyone familiar with the NHL Network knows better than to get excited with anything the league produces on its own. We’re talking about a network that excites fans when they use HD and upgrade their set from a janitor’s closet.
Needless to say, the bar isn’t exactly set all that high. You see, that’s exactly why the NHL Original Productions announcement is such a big deal.
Maybe we should back up a minute. What does the NHL Original Productions thing mean? What is it going to do? Put simply, it’s going to bring Ross Greenburg to the hockey world for more than just a few weeks in December. You may not know the name Ross Greenburg—but if you’re a fan of sports and/or have HBO, you’re most assuredly familiar with is work.
Remember the 24/7 series that was every hockey fans dream come true last year? Yeah, that’s a Ross Greenburg thing.
Did you get a chance to check out the Broad Street Bullies documentary that took a look back at the 1970s Philadelphia Flyers? Even if you hate the Flyers (or weren’t even born in the mid-1970s), it was an entertaining look at a larger-than-life team. That was Greenburg’s work as well.
Maybe you’re not someone who follows hockey on HBO. Ever heard of “Real Sports” series, the NFL’s “Hard Knocks,” or the Derek Jeter 3k documentary? You guessed it, both Greenburg productions.
The man has 51 Sports Emmys over the last three decades. In hockey terms, he’s the Wayne Gretzky of… whatever Sports Emmys are in. But awards and all that other stuff doesn’t matter. The reason it’s exciting for hockey fans is because of what he will bring to the table for hockey fans. Check out what he had to say about the opportunity to join forces with the NHL.
“Hockey players compete in a sport that requires an unmatched combination of world-class skill and relentless toughness, all the while remaining the most approachable and genuine of professional athletes. I am thrilled to be able to tell their stories in exciting and innovative ways and delighted that I’ll be working so closely with the NHL for years to come.”
For anyone who has been in an NHL locker room, they’ll tell you the same thing. You’ve heard it a million times, but the vast majority of NHL players are good human beings. They can be passionate and gritty on the ice—but soft spoken and polite in the locker room. Or incredibly funny. Or just be the kind of guy that you’d want to have a beer with on a Saturday afternoon. Those are the stories that Greenburg wants to tell.
You know what? Those are the stories I want to hear.
Just as important as Greenburg’s vision is that the league is onboard with the plan. The league’s COO John Collins has known Greenburg for awhile and explained what the NHL is looking for with the new partnership:
“Extending our programming and production capabilities through this relationship with Ross Greenburg will allow us to do more story-telling, bring fans further inside the game and promote our players through compelling content that our avid fans crave and new fans will embrace.”
What does that mean for us fans? It means we’ll finally have shows and specials that pull back the curtain on the NHL and its players. Fans will learn that Teemu Selanne is an amazing human being who will talk to anyone who needs a quote—for as long as the media (or fans) need him. Fans will learn that Steve Ott is a funny, honest guy who more people would root for if they could sit down and talk with him. Fans will learn that Willie Mitchell is a smart (and funny) guy who is much more insightful that the average fan might expect from a shutdown defenseman. They’ll find out that Brent Burns is more eccentric than they may think—and he’s awesome.
The possibilities are endless.
The best part is that the man had the choice to stay with HBO where he has been wildly successful or to join forces with the NHL. He chose the NHL—and every hockey fan in North America should start getting excited. With Greenburg signing on with the NHL, it very well could change the way we look at our sport and the players who play it forever.
So while I’ll continue to watch Crosby make his comeback and monitor Ken Hitchcock’s success behind the bench, I’ll know that something great is coming around the bend. And when it gets here… that’s when the good stuff begins.