Kings Going to the Show, Not HBO


The Los Angeles Kings will be part of an inside access documentary.  HBO won’t be part of it though.

Starting in 2011 HBO began producing a four-episode short series called “24/7 Road to the Winter Classic”.  It featured an inside look at NHL teams and players involved in the New Years day, Winter Classic series.  2011 filmed the rivalry of the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburg Penguins.  2012 was the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers, another great rivalry.  In 2013, there was no show due to the NHL lockout that resulted in a reduced half-season and canceled Winter Classic.  2014 featured two of the original six: the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings.

Jan 1, 2014; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Members of the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs shake hands after the 2014 Winter Classic hockey game at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

While the Winter Classic has expanded to include more games with the Stadium Series, HBO has shut down productions.

The 2014-2015 season has two outdoor games scheduled, the Washington Capitals host the Chicago Blackhawks on January 1st, 2015 for the Winter Classic, and the San Jose Sharks host the L.A. Kings at Levi’s Stadium on February 21st, 2015.

Last week it was leaked that HBO is cancelling the series focused around the NHL outdoor games.  Reasons for the break vary from reduced budgets to the NHL not wanting to front the cash, to production and new material concerns.  However, the NHL has been hard at work making plans to allow fans to continue getting the inside scoop.

Enter EPIX – a subscriber based premium cable and satellite television network-channel, as well as a subscriber video-on-demand service.  Basically it’s a hybrid of HBO and Netfilx.  EPIX is the mutant child of MGM Studios, Paramount Pictures, and LionsGate Entertainment.

EPIX has agreed to film (and pay for most of the costs) four-episode segments on both the Blackhawks at Capitals Winter Classic, and the Kings at Sharks.  Scott Burnside of ESPN reports the details of the agreement will be revealed at a press conference in Washington D.C. on September 23rd.

EPIX is a less publicized channel than HBO.  As a result EPIX has fewer subscribers.  It’s the perfect fit for the NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, who prefers the intimate courtship that comes with smaller networks, as opposed to larger channels like ESPN that don’t give the NHL preferential treatment.

The good news for viewers is they will get to see the same uncensored, behind-the-scenes looks at NHL teams in the midst of the regular season.  Have no fear, foul-mouthed locker-room cursing is here to stay.  And with players from Russia, Europe and Canada, you can hear cursing in multiple languages.  Oh, the other good news is the show will be made available, commercial free, on multiple platforms throughout the United States.

Kings fans will get to peek into the locker rooms, the game, the lives of NHL players, and a Pacific Division rivalry that has more drama than

Apr 28, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards (10) and San Jose Sharks center Logan Couture (39) fight during the third period in game six of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Staples Center. The Los Angeles Kings won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

January 25, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings walk into the stadium before of the Stadium Series hockey game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

ever.  A stunning, and historical series comeback in the first round of the 2014 playoffs reinforced the Kings confidence and led to their second Stanley Cup victory in three years.  For the Sharks it’s another dark chapter in a story that’s becoming a reoccurring nightmare.

The outdoor games are supposed to be something different: a fun experience to bring the players and fans back to hockey’s roots of playing outdoors on the pond.  For the Sharks, the fun experience will take a backseat to revenge.

The Stadium Series game will be the fourth of five meetings between the Kings and Sharks in the 2014-2015 regular season.  The teams begin and end their season squaring off against each other on October 8th, 2014 and April 11th, 2015.  On opening night the Kings raise their second Cup banner in the face of the Sharks, something they have never won.  The last game of the season is sure to be a fierce battle to finalize playoff seating.

Highlighting the Stadium Series and bringing additional coverage to the Kings will do wonders to help continue the burgeoning growth of hockey fans in California.  And with a history like the Kings-Sharks rivalry, it’s sure to be a hell of a show.