Cat fights can be choreographed and arguments orchestrated, but there’s no faking drama when it comes to sports, even in the reality realm.
That’s demonstrated to the fullest on Tuesday when “EPIX Presents the Road to the NHL Stadium Series” goes behind the scenes of last weekend’s outdoor hockey matchup between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks in the San Francisco 49ers’ NFL stadium.
“This is real. A lot of reality programming is manufactured and scripted, but in our world, we are flies on the wall and it is all playing out in front of us,” executive producer and former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg tells TheWrap.
“The games happen and the outcomes are unpredictable, so sports keep reality clean. It is the only pure reality that I have ever seen on television.”
After working on the first notable sports reality show, “Hard Knocks,” HBO’s annual glimpse inside NFL training camps, Greenburg has now trained his sights on the NHL, having spent Saturday’s game getting as up close and personal with the players as possible. “You see how down-to-earth, courageous, dedicated and determined they are. Hockey players are a special breed; off the ice they like to have a little fun, but they take their jobs very seriously,” he said.
“Hockey is as intense a sport as any I have ever encountered. It is rugged and at times it is beautiful,” explained Greenburg, who has closely covered other andrenaline-fueled sports such as NASCAR, boxing and football.
“The drama, the thrill, the pain when players get injured and are coming off the ice and getting stitches … you can’t script that stuff, which is critical to us. It’s great to bring a camera and just wrap yourself around it,” he said.
Using eight GoPro cameras as well as crews in the locker room and all over the arena to capture what makes the Stadium Series so special, “We get down on the ice and really listen to the players and the fans.”
While playing ice hockey in Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium comes with the natural obstacle of turning a football field in sunny California into a frozen ice rink, Greenburg said the biggest challenge was having two days to edit before the show aired. “As we finish the first period, we send content to our New York studio, then we put this thing to bed within about 48 hours of it being shot.”
Kings player-turned-radio commentator Daryl Evans believes that the outdoor series epitomizes the current growth of hockey. “This is the tip of the iceberg. It is something I have had visions of and it is great to see,” he told TheWrap. “When you play hockey in a football or baseball stadium you have so much more seating. It is great entertainment and fantastic to watch on TV.”
“EPIX Presents the Road to the NHL Stadium Series” airs on Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET.
The partnership between EPIX and the NHL also reaches out to 60 million hockey fans with a digital all-access free pass. The series can be watched online at www.epix.com/nhl, NHL.com and the Sharks’ and Kings’ websites; or via the EPIX and NHL Facebook pages, the official app of the NHL available on Android and iOS, and the official EPIX App on Android, iOS, XBOX 360, PS3, PS4, Roku and Windows 8.
Watch the video here.