Popular "24/7" series will find a new home

While HBO and the NHL will no longer collaborate on the popular and critically acclaimed reality series "24/7: Road To The Winter Classic," it doesn't mean the series that takes viewers behind the walls of two NHL teams over a period of weeks is going away, sources tell ESPN.com.

The NHL will reveal on Sept. 23 a new U.S. broadcast partner for a similar reality series that will chronicle the preparations by the Chicago Blackhawks and the Washington Capitals leading up to the Jan. 1 Winter Classic, set for Nationals Park in Washington, NHL chief operating officer John Collins told ESPN.com Thursday. There will also be a Canadian broadcaster, league officials said.

Collins, who helped usher in an era of more openness from the normally staid NHL community with the introduction of the first Winter Classic in Buffalo, New York, in 2008, and then the subsequent "24/7" series, said the new series will feature similar access to both teams leading up to the Winter Classic and will include the unfettered dialogue and commercial-free format that made the first three installments so successful.

Although there was speculation that efforts by the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs to restrict access leading up to last season's record-breaking Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Michigan, might have been a factor in HBO moving on, that was apparently not the case, at least according to HBO representatives.

"Everybody at HBO enjoyed working with the NHL and its teams on 24/7 the past four years," HBO spokesman Raymond Stallone told ESPN.com in an email Thursday. "It was an exciting endeavor and we're very proud of the never-before-seen presentation of the world of hockey that 24/7 was able to capture.

"There was never an expectation that HBO would chronicle the lead-up to the Winter Classic every year.

"We wish the NHL the very best and the door will always remain open," Stallone added.

It's believed budgetary issues were among some of the factors that led the two sides to part ways on the project.

The series garnered 15 Emmy nominations and three Emmy wins during a three-year run with its NHL programming.

"HBO took us to places we never thought we could go," Collins said.

The series was so popular and helped the NHL attract nontraditional fans over the life of three installments that the league was determined to find another option for keeping it alive.

The new series is again expected to feature four episodes with uncensored behind-the-scenes access to both teams. Although the NHL wasn't prepared to reveal its new broadcast partner until later in September, when the 2015 Winter Classic jerseys will be unveiled in Washington, Collins did say it was important that the format be similar.

Once you open the door on the rawness and emotion of the teams as they prepare for an important game like the Winter Classic, it's hard to take that away from viewers, which is why it was important to have a partner that could air that kind of content, Collins said.

There will also be options for fans to view the series on different technological platforms, Collins said.

It's also possible the NHL will be looking at other behind-the-scenes productions this season beyond the Winter Classic event.

It's expected former HBO president Ross Greenburg will produce the new as-yet-unnamed series.

Greenburg was also involved with the "NHL Revealed" series of documentaries last season that included other outdoor games that made up the Stadium Series and the Sochi Olympics.

Greenburg was the moving force behind the initial "24/7" leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. He left HBO in the summer of 2011 and is now an independent producer.