Sports and history collide in the new HBO Canada original documentary series “Sports On Fire,” which premiers Friday, January 9th at 9pm and is directed, executive produced and created by Pete McCormack. In the premiere episode “A Cold War,” viewers are taken back to 1972 to revisit the historic Summit Series between Canada and Russia – while the Summit Series is the stuff Canadian hockey legend is made of, “Sports On Fire” takes a unique approach by compiling unfiltered viewpoints from athletes, historians, and journalists in fast-paced hard-hitting style that’s made for pay television.
CraveOnline: How did this project come about?
Pete McCormack: I had this idea for the series where sports and history collide… but not historical sports moments. This is not about Game 7 of this series or that… in hockey it’s the Summit Series right in the middle of the Cold War. I’m very passionate about sports and I love history, and to combine the two was fun. We got into discussions with Project 10 and went to Bell, and Bell was fantastic creatively – they pushed me to do what I do and I appreciated that. We wanted to keep “Sports On Fire” on fire and not lukewarm.
Do you think some of the historical aspects of these stories will surprise viewers?
Definitely. We’re trying to do some myth busting and ask questions that had never been asked. And we found out things that had never been spoken about. It was very exciting for me. I feel privileged and honoured to do these stories – these are moments in our collective journeys and to revisit them was very gratifying and challenging and daunting.
What was the most difficult thing about working on “Sports On Fire”?
On one level what was incredibly challenging was trying to get archives – monetarily and what they’ll let you use. And I think just not being afraid to push the edge of what we were exploring, to not wake up too nervous about something that had been said. From a history and sports point of view that was difficult. We looked at how unfair gender testing is and how much damage it causes, Jesse Owens said some things that broke some myths, with hockey we pushed Bobby Clarke quite far as to things that happened with him, we looked at NASCAR and prohibition and how that led to stock car racing, which was known but it still makes you nervous when you’re gong up against these huge institutions. You want to be respectful and professional. We’re trying to be fearless when talking about very big institutions and brands, and still tell the truth. We were really trying to stay on the edge and have that collision of sports and history and dig up more that hadn’t been known.
You could only cover a select amount of stories… any others you’d like to have touched on?
There are definitely more stories and we hope to do another season.
Any other projects you’re currently working on or will be working on in 2015?
I have some different dreams for sure. I’m working with the band Spirit of the West, and other things as well.