How ‘Road to the Winter Classic’ producer treated the loss of beloved Blackhawks’ equipment manager

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On Monday, PHT spoke with EPIX ‘Road to the Winter Classic’ producer Ross Greenburg about one of the most emotional moments from this year’s series — the end of episode two, which served as a memorial for Chicago equipment manager Clint Reif, who passed away on Dec. 21 at the age of 34:

“It wasn’t easy,” Greenburg said. “We’d already cut a nice one-and-a-half minute segment with Clint much earlier that week, the week before he died. It was in the show. When he passed away, the next decision that had to be made was ‘Oh my God, how are we going to treat this?’ And do it in as graceful and professional way that we could, in order to tell the story — but also do it respectfully, not only to his family but also to the Blackhawks and the viewer.

“We chose to end it with [head coach Joel Quenneville] Q’s words, because no one could really come up with the kind of verbiage needed at the end of that show, other than Q. He was very close to Clint, as was the rest of the team, and we figured once we knew that there was a press conference prior to that Sunday night game, I knew that Q would not only be very eloquent and heartfelt, but that he would be very emotional.

“I knew that was going to be the best way to sign off.”

The scene hit home with many. USA Today called it “one of the most moving parts” of the series and the New York Times described it as a “startling moment tastefully handled.” Yahoo’s Greg Wyshynski wrote the coverage was “a hundred times more effective than any eulogy could have been.”

Greenburg said the reception has been “incredibly positive.”

“Obviously everything goes through the Blackhawks and when we sent it to them, they were very happy with the way we ended it,” he explained. “They thought we did show a lot of respect to the family and the organization in ending it that way. So we were happy to hear that.

“Once we knew we got their blessing, we knew that we had handled it the right way.”

Following news of Reif’s passing, Chicago defeated Toronto 4-0 in an emotional affair at the United Center. Several players were visibly upset following the game, and many spoke of the tight relationships formed with Reif during his nine years with the club.

“He might as well have been wearing one of these sweaters,” captain Jonathan Toews said, per the Chicago Tribune. “A selfless person, always thinking about how he could help others. Just a positive guy, an unbelievable guy to be around.

“A special dude, for sure.”

On Dec. 31, NBCSN will air the first three episodes of Road to the Winter Classic during a special three-hour block beginning at 8 p.m. ET. It will serve as a lead up to the 2015 Winter Classic on New Year’s Day, which will air live on NBC at 1 pm ET.  

The final installment of the series will premiere exclusively on EPIX Tuesday, January 6 at 10pm ET.