With a new head coach, new general manager, and several new player additions, the Philadelphia Flyers are entering the 2019-2020 NHL season with a drastically different look on the ice.
The Flyers are looking to give its fans a behind-the-scenes look at that transformation thanks to an NHL Network all-access series that is following along with the team during its training camp.
“It’s a unique year for us, one that we think will be a truly special season for this franchise – it’s a new day in a lot of ways,” said Michael Shane, Flyers chief business officer. “We think we have a great story to tell about what we’re building; the timing couldn’t be better.”
The Flyers are the featured team on this year’s Behind The Glass all-access series, which was launched last year and is produced by NHL Network in conjunction with NHL Original Productions.
While the NHL is not a stranger to all-access shows – it has chronicled the road to the Winter Classic, Stadium Series and Stanley Cup Final dating back to 2011 on a variety of platforms – it had never gone the route of the NFL’s Hard Knocks series and had a show focused on the preseason and training camp.
Steve Mayer, the NHL’s chief content officer, said that while NHL training camps don’t have the drama of the multiple rounds of cuts like NFL ones do to drive the storyline, it also provides a different point of differentiation compared to the other shows the league has done in the past.
“It’s a different kind of drama, with real opportunity for different access points unlike what you’d see in the middle of a regular season or the playoffs,” Mayer said. “This series brings viewers into the rooms with the coaches and general managers, listening to candid conversations that they’d never be allowed to hear or see otherwise.”
Mayer said that since debuting last year with a behind-the-scenes look at the New Jersey Devils, several teams have offered to take part in future iterations.
However, he said, the series also aims to provide a look at one of the NHL’s most unique aspects of its schedule in recent years – when teams open their season in Europe as part of the league’s global series event.
“Seeing a player travel to his hometown or country is something that we think is extremely compelling,” Mayer said. “Moving forward that will forever be a qualification to be in the series.”
The Flyers will be starting this season with a training camp and exhibition game in Switzerland, followed by opening the regular season versus the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague, Czech Republic. Flyers assistant captain Jakub Voracek is from the Czech Republic,
Beyond just chronicling the Flyers’ overseas trip, the series is also coming at a crucial time for the organization as its new business leaders are aiming to chart a new course for the organization in terms of fan outreach and transparency.
Valerie Camillo joined the team as its new president of business operations from the Washington Nationals in January 2019. Shane, who was previously the senior vice president of customer revenue at the Nationals, joined the team in April.
“We’ve had frank internal discussions about being a lot more active on our social channels and overall more engaging with our fans,” Shane said. “Our fans have been demanding to know what’s going on behind the scenes and we know it’s not just enough to show up on a game day – we’re committed to providing that level of transparency.”
Andrew Brenner, a senior producer at the NHL Network and who has been part of the crew embedded with the team, said that “in all steps along the way, the Flyers organization has not only been incredibly helpful in all facets but also has been extremely open to this concept and allowing us into all of these different places.”
In total, three separate embedded NHL Network camera crews will capture more than 150 hours of footage to produce the four 30-minute episodes.
Jed Tuminaro, NHL Network coordinating producer, said that the value in having a show like this is crucial in engaging not only Flyers fans but the broader sports fan.
“Fans want this stuff – they love to see the players and their personalities,” he said. “There are so many ways to access highlights or videos from games, but there is a real demand to see more content that goes deeper.”
Mayer said that the NHL is committed to providing more content with this sort of access beyond these series. He noted that he showed the trailer to this year’s series at a recent NHL board of governors meeting, and it was received very well.
“Teams really see the value of shows like this – it’s significant when it comes to brand building for a team, but it also shows culture in a great way,” Mayer said.
In addition to airing on the NHL Network – the show debuts on September 25 – it will also re-air on Sportsnet in Canada. It will also re-air 10 countries globally – Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Norway, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The league will look to leverage the show across its social channels, airing clips on its YouTube, Facebook, and IGTV pages. The Flyers and NHL Network will also share clips on their respective digital and social channels.
Mayer said that the hope will be that content from this series will not only hook avid fans who want to be a fly on the wall when a coaching staff makes a decision to send a player down or not but also speak to even non-NHL fans who might be intrigued by the response Voracek gets when he returns to his hometown.
“When we get a chance to highlight exchanges like that and player personalities, we think that attracts all types of viewers,” Mayer said. “Ultimately we think it is compelling if you’re a hockey fan, or not,” Mayer said.