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Derek Sanderson a fine subject for NBC’s documentary kickoff

The flashy, flamboyant, and flawed Derek Sanderson will be explored in an NBC documentary.
The flashy, flamboyant, and flawed Derek Sanderson will be explored in an NBC documentary.AP file photo

The rise and fall and rise again of Derek Sanderson, one of Boston’s most beloved sports iconoclasts, has always remained in the consciousness of fans around here.

But his remarkable and ultimately redemptive story may not be as familiar to hockey fans in other markets, which is a major reason why NBC Sports Group chose Sanderson as the subject for the initial offering of its fledgling “30 for 30”-style sports documentary arm, NBC Sports Films.

NBC Sports Network will air “Center of Attention: The Unreal Life of Derek Sanderson” on Monday, June 8, following Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final. Sanderson, the Joe Namath of hockey who for a time in the 1970s was the highest-paid athlete in the world, has a life story worthy of a mini-series. The film, narrated by actor and Boston native John Slattery, runs just an hour. But it should make for a terrific hour.

“Derek is a name from the past, from a great time and era in the NHL,’’ said Mark Levy, NBC Sports Group’s senior vice president for original productions and creative. “He’s not forgotten in Boston, but it’s maybe a little lost nationally.


“Other athletes have had heralded careers but their life story may have happened on the ice, as opposed to Derek’s story. He was a wonderful player, but the story of his life and everything that happened off-ice may not be as widely known.”

Levy said the inspiration for a documentary came to him while he was thumbing through Sanderson’s recent biography at a Barnes and Noble.

“I remembered him as a player when I was, you know, 8 or so years old,” said Levy. “I knew about the Bruins and leaving for the WHA, but nothing about his life after that.

“Our goal with NBC Sports Films is to tell great stories about subjects and sports our core audience comes to us for, and Derek’s story struck me as a perfect topic for our inaugural foray.”


‘Hard’ choices

As fascinating as it would be to watch the Patriots on a season of “Hard Knocks,” there’s a better chance of the franchise changing the Flying Elvis logo to Roger Goodell’s smirking visage than there is of Bill Belichick allowing HBO’s cameras behind the scenes.

The NFL does have parameters for making a team participate involuntarily in the program, which is in its 10th season.

Franchises that have been featured on “Hard Knocks” in the past decade, have a first-year coach, or made the playoffs in the past two years can decline to participate.

Per a resolution that was passed by league owners in 2013 out of fear that teams would not volunteer to appear, any team that does not meet those criteria is required to participate if chosen.

This year, for instance, nine teams were under consideration before the Houston Texans were announced as the subject earlier this week.

The Texans, who went 9-7 a season ago, are a compelling choice, with an eclectic and talented roster that includes the never-camera-shy J.J. Watt and introspective running back Arian Foster. The NFL and HBO indicated that the Texans, who have never been featured on the show, were voluntary participants, though a comment from Texans general manager Rick Smith through the team’s public relations department was almost laughably generic.

“This is an opportunity to provide a behind-the-scenes look at our team as we prepare for the 2015 season,” said Smith. “Fans will get a chance to see the great competition that takes place day-in and day-out on the practice field, as well as get to know all the unique personalities on our roster.”


They also happen to be the closest we’ll ever come to seeing the Patriots on the program, since the Texans feature several prominent personalities with New England ties, including head coach Bill O’Brien, defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel, linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, and quarterbacks Ryan Mallett and Brian Hoyer.

In fact, if Vince Wilfork and his wife Bianca aren’t central figures in this year’s edition, which premieres Aug. 11, then HBO is doing it wrong.

New man at NESN

NESN announced the hiring Wednesday of Jeff Mitchell as its coordinating producer of Red Sox baseball. He replaces Jim Daddona, who informed NESN he was leaving before spring training but agreed to stay on through May while the network searched for his replacement. There has been an unusual amount of turnover in the role at NESN since longtime coordinating producer Russ Kenn left the post after nine seasons in January 2013. Mike Baker held the position during the 2013 season, then Daddona came on board in September 2013. Mitchell has vast experience in producing and directing baseball telecasts, having done so for the Mets, Padres, and Pirates. He has also served as the director for Fox Sports’s national game of the week, and has paid his dues in other ways as well: He’s been the producer/director of “The Tim McCarver Show” for 14 years . . . Longtime Herald sports columnist Tim Horgan has died at age 88. Horgan was one of the most widely respected and admired Boston sportswriters of any generation. He is fondly remembered as a panelist on the Don Gillis-hosted “Voice of Sports,” which aired on WHDH 850 in the late 1960s and early ’70s and is still spoken of reverentially.


Chad Finn can be reached at finn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeChadFinn.