Home Sports Column: Chicago Blackhawks’ new miniseries ‘Every Shift’ needs to go harder if it’s going to be hockey’s version of ‘Hard Knocks’

Column: Chicago Blackhawks’ new miniseries ‘Every Shift’ needs to go harder if it’s going to be hockey’s version of ‘Hard Knocks’

by staff

From an informal conversation with Jaime Faulkner, you could tell the Chicago Blackhawks president of business operations had been kicking around an idea for a cable-style TV series for quite a while.

“Hard Knocks” for hockey, if you will.


She wasn’t sure what it would show, what format it would take or where it would air, but the cameras were rolling.

Everywhere. All the time.


“We have been filming everything,” Faulkner told the Tribune last month. “And we will start to release some of that as soon as we get through the first part of our season. We intend to tell and show the fans what it’s really going to take and what’s really happening for the rebuild.”

That idea eventually took the form of a miniseries called “Every Shift,” and tonight, the Hawks will roll out the first 10 1/2-minute episode at 6 p.m. at blackhawks.com/everyshift.

“I’ve been wanting to do a reality series since I started” Faulkner said in December 2020, “because I think there’s so much value to telling the stories and getting access to our fans to things that they can’t see.”

She added: “When we went into this, we knew there were a lot of things that happened behind the scenes that our fans would be interested in. And when you start to pay attention to it and capture it on camera, you realize there’s incredible storytelling about what it takes to actually rebuild a team.”

The first episode of “Every Shift” includes footage from the locker room and coach’s meetings, with confessionals by coach Luke Richardson.

“I love being here,” he says in one interview. “The city is a great sports city, they’ve had success in all the different sports over the different years at different times. For me coming in and to have this team playing and improving every shift, that’s my responsibility.”

In another scene, Patrick Kane and Richardson go over strategy at the whiteboard.


Later, Richardson drops a choice word during a stressful moment in a game against the Detroit Red Wings, his regular-season debut in front of home fans at the United Center.

“That’s what we can’t (bleeping) do. Gotta stay above them.”

The Hawks won 4-3 in overtime, a nice tidy ending for the video. But the Hawks said they would’ve run the game’s outcome, even if it was a loss.

If the series ends up being a curation of rah-rah sound bites and flattering moments, then no thanks.

That’s the danger: Turning the footage into a polished, documentary-style promotional video. And it would be easy to fall into that trap.

What has made HBO’s “Hard Knocks” so popular for NFL fans is its messiness. Coaches joking and arguing with each other. Players beating the odds and screwing up.


At its core, though, it deals in the harsh reality of sports: Everyone can’t win, even if they’re on the same team.

As cliché as it sounds, professional sports is a business, and viewers get to be a fly on the wall as lives and careers hang on a thread with each performance. Anything short of those stakes is a missed opportunity.

The Hawks don’t know how many episodes will be in the first season of the miniseries, produced by its Banner production team— maybe another four or five. But they say there will be opportunities to go deeper, get more “real,” as losing streaks happen, players get sent down or traded and who knows what else.

“Every Shift,” what it can become, is part of the “transparency” the Hawks have been promising.

“(General manager) Kyle (Davidson), (CEO) Danny (Wirtz), and I believe that it is very important to be transparent with our fan base around this rebuild,” Faulkner said. “And we fully intend to show the fans what we’re doing behind the scenes.”

That means players, coaches and even front office personnel, she said.


“We’re filming meetings that are happening with Kyle and Luke. We’re filming meetings that are happening with Kyle and players.”

Blackhawks president of business operations Jaime Faulkner speaks as they introduce Kyle Davidson as their new general manager on March 1, 2022, at the United Center.

In March, Davidson and Wirtz announced the franchise would undergo an organizational restructuring and roster makeover. Building a winner was going to take years, and the Hawks were going to take big risks on and off the ice.

Chicago Tribune Sports

Chicago Tribune Sports


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Faulkner said, “I think Kyle wants to be as transparent as possible with our fans about what’s happening, progress, the amount of work and time it’s going to take to do this rebuild.”

She said Wirtz also supports “being as transparent as we can be with our fan base.”

When Wirtz and Faulkner recently engaged in a deeper discussion with the Tribune about transparency, Wirtz said, “When there’s missteps, it’s taking ownership. It’s personal ownership of, ‘We got it wrong.’”

Faulkner added the Hawks should “celebrate when we get it right, but be really honest when we get it wrong. And be clear about that. And be OK with that.


“I think the accountability piece, I think we’re going to hopefully make more good decisions than bad decisions.”

All that applies here too. The successes, the failures, the conflicts — show it all.

If “Every Shift” is too sanitized and doesn’t give fans a reason to not only care about the struggle but the people behind the struggle, viewers will take a hard pass.

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