Martha’s Vineyard has lots of nicknames — “Hockey Island” might be a new one.

That’s the much-deserved sobriquet the National Hockey League bestows on the Vineyard in the well-polished, 17-minute documentary short of the same name that was released on the league’s Youtube channel Tuesday.

The NHL spared no expense making the documentary, shipping over an entire five-person camera crew to film the Vineyard high school boys hockey team for nearly a week in the run-up to its season opener against off-Island rival Whitman-Hanson, looking to spotlight the challenges, intricacies and passion of a hockey program on an Island known more for its ice cream than its ice.

Although the documentary was initially hinted to air during the NHL’s outdoor Winter Classic game played at Fenway Park in early January, an NHL spokesman said Tuesday that the production team didn’t want to rush things, opting instead to take their time with the video and release it later in the month.

After much anticipation, including a one-minute teaser that came out over the weekend, it hit the internet Tuesday, quickly garnering thousands of views.

While the video was meant to focus on the Vineyard hockey program — and it does — it actually ends up spending just as much time off the ice as on it, as the producers used the lens of the hockey team to spotlight the off-season community that is of course well-known to year-round residents but less familiar to those on the mainland.

The ferry ride is in a sense a main character in the film. — Courtesy NHL

It begins with all the traditional panoramic drone shots — the wreath on the Edgartown Lighthouse, the sun setting over the Menemsha harpooner, the Gay Head cliffs — as familiar Vineyard voices, ranging from VTA administrator Angie Gompert to Edgartown town administrator James Hagerty, explain the that Island is much more than a summer tourist destination.

In fact, they say, it’s a hockey haven for the working class year-round population — a feature made all the more remarkable by the challenging logistics of playing on an Island six miles off the coast.

“This year, the local boys hockey varsity high school team will travel 1,148 miles by land and sea to face their opponents,” the documentary states, the Gay Head Light shimmering in the background.

Later, both coaches and players get an on-camera chance to dispel misconceptions about the Island.

“They think it’s a lot of rich people around here, like a vacation spot,” said goalie Zack Mathias. “It’s almost the exact opposite.”

The documentary then delves into the history of hockey on the Vineyard — beginning with its open-air rink in 1982 to its state championship in the early 2000’s. Longtime head coach and West Tisbury police chief Matt Mincone takes center stage, filmed as he runs both the police station and the locker room.

But even as the documentary highlights the players and staff on the team, as well as the community members that support it, the film’s main character looms much larger, even without a speaking role.

Filming was done in the run up to the season opener against Whitman-Hanson high school. — Courtesy NHL

“The big thing for us is obviously transportation,” athletic director Mark McCarthy says. “We have a boat.”

The ferry and its particularities serve as both narrative fodder and eye candy for the NHL film crew. In the documentary, the Whitman-Hanson coach explains that he scheduled the game with the Vineyard in part because the ferry ride and travel serve as a good team bonding experience at the start of the season. The team also lost to the Vineyard in overtime last year. Whitman-Hanson wants revenge — as well as a coveted team photo near the ferry’s prow.

“The boys get excited. They love the ferry thing,” their coach says.

That “ferry thing” looks and feels very different for the Vineyard team, who spend hours every week traveling to away games against high schools across the region and state. They don’t take team photos on the boat. But there is a different, more quotidian form of team bonding, mainly on the lower decks as the team discusses school classes and eats take-out dinner.

“There’s the bus to the boat to the bus to the rink, and then to turn it around,” Coach Mincone says. “This is normal practice for us. This is what we do. I think teams love coming here to play and use it as a bonding thing. I think the difference being, that we do it every away game.”

The time on the ferry helps provide an intimate portrait of the Vineyard hockey team, their seemingly foreign experience familiar to any Island athlete, from youth sports through high school.

Coach Mincone says in the documentary that he used to “chalk talk” on the boat. But he explains that he stopped doing that, realizing that the team needed the time to decompress, particularly when games are often over faster than the travel it takes to play them.

By the time the documentary reaches its climax, the season opener against Whitman-Hanson has taken a backseat to the words Coach Mincone pasted on the locker room exit, slapped by every player before they skate onto the ice. “The sign I put up many years ago says, ‘Your big opportunity may be where you are right now,’” Coach Mincone explains.

Spoiler alert: Whitman-Hanson wins the game. But they’re on Hockey Island. Even the NHL knows it was the journey that mattered.