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Volume 21 No. 2
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New access will pay off in daily show for NHL

In agreeing to send its players to the 2014 Winter Olympics, the NHL and NHL Players’ Association were able to obtain unprecedented access in Sochi for their own media platforms — NHL Network, and — along with an agreement to coordinate key public relations efforts.

The NHL at previous Olympics has been frustrated by its lack of access to its own players. Commissioner Gary Bettman has publicly questioned the benefit of shutting down the league for more than two weeks every four years for the Olympics compared to any promotional value gained.

The NHL could not present content from Vancouver venues, but that changes in Sochi thanks to new agreements.
Negotiations for the Sochi Games aimed to address those concerns. The player-participation agreement that ultimately was reached with the International Olympic Committee and the International Ice Hockey Federation is for the 2014 Games only but will provide a notable change from what was seen in 2010, in Vancouver.

Among the gains is a daily, 30-minute show from Sochi that will air on NHL Network. “NHL Tonight: Sochi Edition,” a wrap-up of the day’s events from the hockey tournament with highlights, interviews and analysis, will air at 3 p.m. ET and loop until 8 p.m. ET. The show, hosted by the network’s Kathryn Tappen, will be produced from an NBC set location at the Olympics.

NHL Network also was granted access to hockey players for live and taped interviews from the NBC in-arena set locations at this year’s Olympics and the mixed media zone, the press area the athletes walk through after fulfilling any interview requests with broadcast rights holders after their competition.

NBC, which gave its consent to the NHL for the increased activity of NHL Network, is the U.S. broadcast rights holder of the NHL and, of course, the Olympics. NHL rights holder CBC is the IOC’s rights holder for Canada.

The IOC traditionally has allowed only broadcast rights holders to bring cameras into Olympic venues and to conduct interviews with athletes. As a result, at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, NHL Network could not present any content from Olympic venues. The same held true for NBA TV in London at the 2012 Summer Olympics, where reporter David Aldridge’s news bulletins were broadcast from locations outside of Olympic venues.

This will be the fifth consecutive Winter Games to feature NHL players, dating to Nagano in 1998. There are currently 147 NHL players on rosters for this year’s Olympics, including at least one player on each of the 12 national teams.

In addition to the planned daily show, the NHL and NHLPA gained rights to the following from their agreements with the IOC and IIHF:

n will be on-site to cover all NHL players in the Olympics and will present previews and recaps of every game, a daily digest of each NHL player’s performance, and other features.

n NHL digital platforms will provide links to video and additional Olympic content available via NBC and CBC sites.

n The league and NHLPA will receive 12 media credentials that allow access to the Olympic Broadcast Center, and and will have a total of four seats in the main press box at all hockey games.

n All releases and statements related to the hockey tournament, including those pertaining to any on-ice and off-ice issues that could arise, will come from the coordinated efforts of the IIHF, NHL and NHLPA.

NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly negotiated with the IOC and IIHF in seeking the increased access, with consultation on access requirements from Jamey Horan, the league’s vice president of player development and event communications.

NHL COO John Collins; Bob Chesterman, NHL senior vice president of programming and production; and NHL Network executive producer Mark Preisler struck agreements with NBC so NHL Network could produce the daily program and use studio space.

“There have been stringent rules in place in the past, so as a programmer, it’s exciting to be able to provide this level of reporting from the Olympics on NHL Network,” Chesterman said. “We wanted to serve our fans with the best coverage possible of our players, so we’re very happy with how the agreement turned out.”

Staff writer Tripp Mickle contributed to this report.