London Knights in preliminary talks about television series

(QMI Agency file photo)

(QMI Agency file photo)

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:22 PM ET

Junior hockey fans may get an unprecedented look behind the closed doors of the London Knights.

Considering how tightly the Knights value their privacy, it would be a chance to see what happens inside one of the most successful hockey organizations of the last 15 years, something a little juicier than marketing pieces for the franchise.

The Knights, Sportsnet TV and the OHL have begun preliminary discussions about highlighting the Knights in a series that will focus on the Knights' road to the 2014 Memorial Cup. It will be held at the Budweiser Gardens next May.

Sportsnet ran the highly successful “On The Edge” eight-part series that featured the Saskatoon Blades and their road to this year’s Memorial Cup.

The series really went behind closed doors, following hockey players, being on the scene when players were told they were traded and showing aspects of the game fans wouldn't usually get the chance to see.

“When we won the bid for the 2014 Memorial Cup, Scott Moore, (president of broadcast for Rogers Media,) asked us if we would be interested,” said Knights’ governor Trevor Whiffen. “Absolutely we would be interested in doing it. So if the league wants to do it and our broadcast partner wants to do it, we’ll do it.

“We’re going to meet over the course of the next 10 days to work out a very rough framework.”

Moore was also on the Memorial Cup site selection committee that selected London as the site for the 2014 tournament.

Discussions are at a very early stage. On The Edge garnered big numbers and was shown repeatedly on Sportsnet. But some junior hockey people had concerns about footage shown in some episodes that dealt with the tougher side of junior hockey, including trades and fighting.

The OHL and the Knights are very cognizant of the fact there is a lot of competition for hockey players. Competing organizations and leagues would like nothing better than to show junior hockey in a less than favourable light.

It’s a fine line between producing something that comes off as a commercial for a hockey league and a documentary that’s enticing enough for fans to watch.

“There has to be some input from the team and the league so you are getting some representation of the OHL experience that you like to share with the public,” Whiffen said. “There are going to be highs and lows with every hockey team but you want it to be representative of the experience and not just the lows.”

Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch says there may be a difference between how On The Edge was presented and the eventual final product should the Knights and league participate.

“I’m sure the approach might be a little different knowing just the way we want to present our product,” Branch said. “That will be up at the end of the day to Rogers Sportsnet, the Knights and the league.

“The way it was explained to me, the concept would be no different than the 24/7 concept the National Hockey League has, so there will be full editorial control.”

Whiffen says he believes the program could be good for everyone.

“The kids might enjoy being involved in that,” Whiffen said. “Our fans might enjoy seeing a behind the scenes look that’s a little grittier than a documentary. On the heels of the HBO series that has come out of the U.S., those have really helped drive interest in hockey in the United States. Anything you can do to raise the profile of your team, your league and your markets is good. But you want to tell the right stories too.”

As for being worried about something appearing that might hurt the image of the league and the Knights . . .

“All I know is that young people really enjoy the program,” Branch said. “I don’t think for a minute we should be afraid of it. We’re going to full discussions when its time to see if the project will go forward.”

morris.dallacosta@sunmedia.ca

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