Ad of the Day: NHL

Y&R looks to the past once again in its latest evocative spot for the Stanley Cup Final

When the Edmonton Oilers won the Stanley Cup in 1988, Wayne Gretzky insisted on having a team photo taken on the ice—with not just the players but management, coaches, trainers, scouts and various assistants as well. It was one of the great moments in the career of hockey's greatest player—he would learn just hours after that game that his time with the Oilers would be over—and the photo on the ice is a tradition that has been repeated by every Stanley Cup-winning team since.

The tradition is now at the center of a new National Hockey League spot from Young & Rubicam in New York for the Stanley Cup Final series, which begins Wednesday night between the New Jersey Devils and the Los Angeles Kings. It's the third in a trilogy of sorts that began in 2008 with the "Cup Raise" spot and continued in 2010 with "No Words." All three spots follow a simple and effective formula. With moving piano scores in the background, they show archival footage of previous Stanley Cup celebrations—the lifting of the cup itself; the players left speechless in post-game interviews; and now, the team photo—and let the sport's history speak for itself. Each ad also wraps with a single poignant line. "It weighs 35 pounds … except when you're lifting it," the first spot said. "There are no words," said the second. And this new spot, full of gleeful faces and scrums of bodies mugging for the camera, wraps with the line "It makes boys out of men."

On the one hand, you could say there's nothing too special about these spots. Archival footage and clever end lines nomally don't make for much of a masterpiece. And yet, the ads are undeniably powerful. They tap into a history and tradition that's peculiar and idiosyncratic, and worth celebrating regardless of which team actually wins the Cup. (The two teams involved this year are just guests at the party, almost incidental to the larger narrative.) And by sidestepping the more obvious plots—e.g., Devils and Kings players actually playing hockey—the spots recognize that the glory of past Cups more compellingly sets the table for this one than focusing on two teams that have yet to meet.

The new spot breaks tonight during Game 1. At the end of the deciding game, whenever that may be, the cameras will be rolling—capturing footage for future spots in this most historical of sports promo campaigns.

Client: NHL
Spot: "Boys"

Agency: Young & Rubicam, New York
Chief Creative Officer: Jim Elliott
Creative Director: Cliff Skeete
Associate Creative Directors, Copywriters: Jonathan Graham, Bruce Jacobson
Art Director: Cliff Skeete
Broadcast Producer: Jona Goodman
Head of Production: Nathy Aviram
Account Director: Marc Rappin
Account Executive: Chad Oliver

Editorial Company: Comso Street Editorial
Editor: Steve Bell
Executive Producer: Maura Woodward
Producer: Stacey Piculell
Color Correct: Nice Shoes
Color Artist: Lez Rudge
Effects: Switch FX
VFX Aritst: Jon Magel
Producer Diana Dayrit

Mixing: Heard City
Mixer: Phillip Loeb

Music: Future Perfect
Composer: Victor Magro