What they're saying about HBO's upcoming Winter Classic series

pens-caps-24-7-logo.jpgWith the news breaking early this morning that cable giant HBO would be producing a documentary leading up to the Winter Classic featuring the Penguins and Capitals, it’s only fair that we hear from those who will be involved in everything.

The production will be called “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” and will debut the first episode on December 15th at 10 pm. The show will follow both teams leading up to and including the Winter Classic on New Year’s Day in Pittsburgh. It will also include a regular season meeting between the two on December 23rd. Think this will be punchy at all? You better believe it.

As for the players who will be featured, they’re beyond excited about it as D.C. Sports Bog’s Dan Steinberg found out from the Caps perspective. If some of these quotes are any indication, NHL fans are going to eat this up like it was breakfast.

The Caps players were told about the series by GM George McPhee on Thursday morning, and then the media had at them about the prospect of being on unedited national television. Especially the unedited part.

“Well, hockey players don’t swear, so we don’t have to worry about that,” Matt Bradley said.

“Well, if I’m gonna say some bad words it’s gonna be Russian words,” Alex Ovechkin said. “Probably you guys don’t understand it. I don’t know. We’ll see.”

“I don’t know if guys are gonna be able to watch what they say or what,” Mike Knuble said. “There’s nobody in here that’s just an absolute idiot, saying dumb things all the time. I mean, I guess in the course of your workplace, you always let something stupid come out of your mouth. Some people it’s once a day, some people it’s once a week….We’ll have language. That’s the reality of pro sports. It happens. There’s moments that are kind of ugly at times. Stuff might get ugly at times, but probably our year will be going pretty smoothly.”

So whose mouth will you have to watch out for?

“Schultize,” Bradley said, straight-faced. “Schultzie gets pretty crazy behind the scenes. A guy like him, him and Tom Poti, those two guys, when you get them alone behind the scenes might get pretty crazy.”

“I mean, there’ll be certain guys like [Jason] Chimera that will take it over the top,” Knuble said. “When he sees the camera, it’ll be a whole different person.”

The way I’m picturing this playing out is if you took the Twitter account of Coyotes pugnacious forward Paul Bissonnette and acted it out in real life in front of the cameras. Except that no one would be acting. If you’re looking for ways to have the NHL showcase the personalities of its players, this HBO mini-series is going to be the elixir we’ve been clamoring for.

If you’re worried about the series being all about Ovechkin and Crosby, you’ve likely got a reason to be nervous as those two personalities demand a lot of attention anyhow. That said, the folks at HBO are at least saying this will be an all-encompassing project and not just the Sid and Ovi show. Steinberg asks the pertinent question with his own take on things.

How much of this is about Ovi and Crosby?

“It’s a show about the sport, it’s a show about the teams and about the journey with two teams simultaneously during a four-week period leading up to a very very unique event,” HBO senior VP Mark Taffet said. “It’s not specific to any one player, and we know we’re going to have a great experience, because these two teams are very open-minded, very creative, and they’ve shown a great willingness to allow us in places where many cameras haven’t been before.”

My translation: a lot.

All right, so people are going to be skeptical until it’s made and that’s fair. They will be doing their fair share to show what goes into putting on a game outdoors as far as setting the rink up and doing maintenance on it and ensuring that the players will have the best and safest ice out there.

We’d be remiss if we failed to mention that the Winter Classic will be live on NBC on New Year’s Day so consider this HBO project to be your warm-up for all the goodies going on here that day. Don’t worry, we’ll be talking plenty about it as the time approaches. I promise.

(Picture courtesy of the Pittsburgh Penguins)

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    Animal activists protest Ducks’ Stoner over grizzly bear hunt

    Keith Fialcowitz

    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — A small group of vocal protesters gathered outside Honda Center on Monday night to call for the suspension of Anaheim Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner, who faces charges in Canada of illegally obtaining a license to shoot a grizzly bear.

    While Ducks fans entered the rink for their home opener against Vancouver, about 20 protesters held signs and shouted slogans condemning Stoner. He faces five charges related to the 2013 hunt on British Columbia’s central coast.

    “Killing is not a sport! Play a real sport!” the protesters shouted in unison. “Shame on the Ducks!”

    Judie Mancuso, the president of Social Compassion in Legislation, compared Stoner to quarterback Michael Vick and Minnesota dentist Walter Palmer, whose killing of a beloved lion in Zimbabwe sparked an international outcry.

    “The entire globe is against trophy hunting right now,” Mancuso said. “If most of these hockey fans understood that was the issue, I think most of them would be on our side.”

    Wildlife groups and First Nations leaders have been outraged by Stoner’s killing of the bear, named Cheeky. Stoner defended his actions at the time when graphic photos of the kill were publicized, but he hasn’t commented recently.

    The protesters were serenaded by chants of Stoner’s name by many fans, while others stopped to look at the signs. Mancuso said her group hopes to raise awareness of Stoner’s legal troubles.

    “If people didn’t have outrage with the NFL, Michael Vick would have gotten away with it,” Mancuso said. “The only way that anything is going to happen is if we do this. If there’s not public outcry, nothing is going to happen, so we’ve got to try.”

    Stoner grew up on Vancouver Island, but hasn’t lived in the province full-time for several years, which authorities say made him ineligible for the hunting license used to take the bear. He played for the Minnesota Wild at the time of the shooting.

    Stoner faces two counts of knowingly making a false statement to obtain a hunting license and one count apiece of hunting without a license, hunting out of season and unlawful possession of dead wildlife. His case is set for Nov. 13 in Vancouver.

    The 30-year-old Stoner was in the Ducks’ lineup for their home opener, and he fought Brandon Prust in the opening minutes. Stoner is beginning his sixth full NHL season and his second with Anaheim after signing a four-year, $13 million deal as a free agent before last season.

    Related: Ducks d-man Stoner charged with unlawful grizzly bear hunt

    NHL on NBCSN: Red Wings face Lightning in ’15 playoff rematch

    Steven Stamkos, Henrik Zetterberg
    AP Photo

    NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2015-16 campaign tonight when the Detroit Red Wings host the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 p.m. ET. You can stream the game online here.

    The Lightning made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final in 2015, but their journey almost ended in the first round at the hands of the Red Wings. Detroit shutout Tampa Bay twice in that series and the two squads were locked in a scoreless tie until the third period of Game 7.

    Despite the fact that the Red Wings were a mere hair away from advancing instead of Tampa Bay, the Lightning are often mentioned as serious Cup contenders while Detroit is typically regarded as a good, but not amazing team. However, that gap isn’t entirely unjustified.

    After all, Tampa Bay has a very effective core of forwards that features Steven Stamkos, Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. If the highly regarded Jonathan Drouin, 20, is able to build off of his strong start to the 2015-16 campaign then the Lightning’s offense could be even more dangerous this season.

    Detroit certainly has some offensive star power too in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, but the duo is 35 and 37 years old respectively. On top of that, injuries have been a recurring issue for Datsyuk, who isn’t expected to make his season debut until November after undergoing ankle surgery.

    As good as those two forwards still are, the Red Wings have to hope that their younger players will be able to lead the charge sooner rather than later. The good news is that 19-year-old Dylan Larkin‘s campaign is off to a strong start with three points in two games while 23-year-old Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice on Saturday.

    The Red Wings have opened the season with back-to-back wins against Toronto and Carolina, but tonight’s game represents their biggest test to date. Meanwhile, the Lightning are similarly undefeated after three games, but this contest will be particularly trying for them given that it’s their third game in four days.