After taking a big leap by expanding its menu of outdoor games to six — including a nontraditional matchup between the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium — the NHL will go big in promoting its strategy by participating in a seven-part TV series that will air on NBCSN and two Canadian networks.
"NHL Revealed: A Season Like No Other" will focus on the nine teams involved in the five Stadium Series games (the New York Rangers will play twice). HBO will chronicle the Jan. 1 Winter Classic in its 24/7 series.
Cameras will follow stars, their teammates and coaches from preparations for the Jan. 25 game at Dodger Stadium through the Sochi Olympics and beyond, a story arc made possible by the NHL's acquisition of access and rights to players' images during the Games. The series will air in the U.S. on Jan. 22, Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 27 (two hours), March 5 and March 12.
The first two episodes will feature the Kings and Ducks and the first NHL outdoor game played in California. Players will reappear when the series explores the dynamic between teammates who will become rivals at Sochi, such as Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown of the Kings and Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne of the Ducks.
"This is an incredible year and we want to take as much advantage of it as we can to really grow the sport and grow the relevance of the sport, get people paying attention to just how unique it is," John Collins, the NHL's chief operating officer, told The Times in a phone interview Monday.
"I think that there's been a strong desire to do a lot more of this type of programming. We love the sport, we admire the players, and we want to take all that and put it on screen for the fans."
Although "NHL Revealed" will be modeled on HBO's entertaining 24/7 series, it will follow more than one game and focus sharply on players. Unlike the 24/7 series — which made a cult figure of Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau and his salty language while he coached the Washington Capitals — "NHL Revealed" will be sanitized to meet standards of NBCSN, the CBC and Sportsnet. There are plans to make a director's cut available later.
"You may hear many beeps because the fact is we want to depict what's going on in the locker rooms and off ice and on ice as much as possible," Ross Greenburg, executive producer of the 24/7 series and producer of this series, said during a conference call with reporters.
Getting involved in this is smart for the NHL. Being innovative and capitalizing on its many untold stories can help the league make an impact on those who love the game and those who would love it if they knew more about its character and characters.
Ducks anticipate attendance upswing
The Ducks have been at or near the top of the standings most of the season, but they're closer to the bottom in home attendance.
Their announced average of 15,367 in eight home games represented 89.5% of capacity at Honda Center, which was 22nd after Sunday's games. Overall, NHL teams had played to 94% capacity, down from last season's final 97% but a solid number because attendance traditionally increases after New Year's.
The Kings were among 15 teams that had played to 100% capacity or more.
"None of us are ever happy unless we're completely sold out, but I think there's a lot of good signs right now," said Tim Ryan, the Ducks' chief operating officer and chief executive of Honda Center's management company.
Among those signs is a 20-year pattern of attendance spiking in the second half of the season, especially when the team plays well. Ryan also cited increased season-ticket sales, which reached 11,000 to start the season. That's up from 9,500 last season and the highest since 2010. "And if I had to guess, we will be sold out of suites in the next 12 months," he said.
The expanded team store and opening of the Grand Terrace restaurant also boost their bottom line. "We've set records for both merchandise sales and food and beverage sales for single games that stood for 20 years," Ryan said. "That says that we're moving in the right direction."
The trick is for the marketers, ticket sellers and players to continue moving forward.
Free-spirit goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, bought out by the Philadelphia Flyers, is back in the NHL. After signing a one-year, $2-million contract with the Edmonton Oilers, he played two games for their Oklahoma City farm team and gave up six goals on 50 shots. He was recalled Sunday and might start Tuesday against Columbus, surely what he'd call a humongous big game.
Peter Holland went from being a spare part in the Ducks' organization to centering James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel on the Maple Leafs' first line. The Ducks traded Holland and Brad Staubitz to Toronto for defenseman Jesse Blacker, a 2014 seventh-round draft pick and a 2014 third-round pick that will become a second-round pick if Holland plays 25 NHL games this season. Toronto was desperate for help at center because of injuries and Nazem Kadri's suspension.