It’s that time of year again for the NHL to grab the attention of the casual fan. As we move between the NBA’s Christmas Day long marketing platform and inch closer to the college football championship, hockey will take its turn with the Bridgestone Winter Classic on New Year’s Day from Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Mass.
The game between two “Original Six” teams and heated rivals, the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens, will again be the signature event on the first day of 2016, with all the coverage coming via NBC, whose partnership with the NHL has become a win win for both brands over the years.
The lead up to this year’s game has been even better than the last few as once again 52 time Emmy winner Ross Greenburg has taken fans behind the scenes with a four week buildup to the game, this year again every Wednesday at 10 pm on premium channel EPIX, (as well as for free on virtually any device as well as on NHL.com, Bruins.com and EPIX.com).
The series this year has not disappointed fans looking for just enough F bombs, some gratuitous blood, and a deeper dive into the lives of the players that we have had in recent years. Last week, the Bruins Brad Marchand joined the Boston Pops for a reading of “The Night Before Christmas,” while Boston native Jimmy Hayes spent time with his family in some of his favorite childhood stops, including his childhood home where he and another current NHL’er, his brother Kevin of The New York Rangers, dueled it out for years. On the Canadiens side, P.K. Subban, who has not surprisingly become the camera darling of the series, took his teammates to Children’s Hospital for a surprise visit, while another local Canadiens star, Torrey Mitchell, took the cameras in his house for a meet and greet with his young family.
EPIX was also on hand as a rehabbing Brendan Gallagher caught up via Facetime with one of his favorite NFL players who is also on the mend, Bengals star quarterback Andy Dalton, while the Bruins Max Talbot returned to Pittsburgh to revisit the successes of seasons past. The access, unique in regular season play to hockey, again helps set the scene for two teams playing atop, or close to the top, of the NHL standings as the big day approaches.
“The NHL is the only league that has allowed us in during the season to actually track two teams while they’re playing games that count,” said Greenburg last week. “I think there’s a real hunger and a thirst among the American sports fan to kind of go behind the scenes. It’s rare that they get that glimpse of what it’s like to be a professional athlete.”
Regardless of the reason, the access to hockey, combined with EPIX all-access platform, works again.
“I knew that hockey was a sport that had never really been seen up close and personal. The impact, the warrior mentality, you know, the sound of the ice coming off those blades, the impact as they hit the boards, you know, with a crunching hit behind the goal — all those things have never really come through on television,” Greenburg added in a recent interview for LoHud.com. “When you follow hockey on television you have to stay high and wide in order to follow that puck, but we’re able a la NFL Films, to go down close to the ice and I think that vantage point and hearing the microphones on the players during the game is something that’s brought the entire game to life for the American public.”
The access is what fans crave, and it is again delivered by a master storyteller and his team, the perfect lead-up to hockey’s signature event New Year’s Day