‘HBO 24/7′ returning for Season 3 with Red Wings and Maple Leafs, more NHL input

After two seasons that changed the way fans see the National Hockey League and its players, NHL COO John Collins confirmed that there will be a Season 3 for "HBO 24/7: Road To The NHL Winter Classic," featuring the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We're bringing it back," Collins told Puck Daddy exclusively on Tuesday, although he said a formal announcement is forthcoming.

There was no guarantee "24/7" would come back for a third season, after a change at the top at HBO Sports. The Associated Press speculated in January that HBO could "decide to keep the show, and possibly expand it from its four-week run, or move in a different direction."

Collins said there are going to be two significant changes for next season's production, beginning with the fact the NHL will be more involved behind the scenes.

"We're going to work a little more closely with HBO on production. We've been in partnership with them, but now that we have an original productions group here, we're going to work a little more closely with them on the production side," said Collins.

What does that partnership entail?

"I think it's going to be more of a collaboration," he said. "To the fan, they won't see any difference in production whatsoever. We're not going to limit access. We're not going to change any approval rights. There won't be anything different about this."

Keep in mind that Ross Greenburg was the guiding light for the network's sports reality programming. The former HBO Sports president is now set up at his own production company, working with the NHL in its "24/7"-like series "NHL 36" on NBC Sports Network and producing content for NHL Network.

The NHL's original production team working with HBO could mean Greenburg has some influence over one of his most successful creations. It also means that the NHL's production team can learn a bit from their HBO counterparts.

"We've made a significant investment in content on our side. We have our own production crews in-house, and we're going to integrate those crews with the NHL crews and get some practical hands-on experience," said Collins.

The other significant change: The NHL expects to have a Canadian network partner in presenting "24/7" next season.

"We're going to have another partner to announce, who will take the series in Canada," Collins said. "I think this is one of the benefits of having Toronto in the game. They're paying attention to this in ways that, frankly, they haven't previously in the market up there."

No word on which Canadian network, or production company, will join the fun.

We'll have much more with John Collins on Wednesday regarding Winter Classic ticket sales, the NHL's playoff ratings and NHL Network news.