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How HBO, NHL might top the first 24/7 series

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To call HBO and the NHL’s 24/7 experiment a success is an understatement. For hardcore hockey fans, the mini-series was so outstanding that many people became genuinely emotional during the last episode’s final sequences.* Yet the biggest gains might have come in the impact it made on casual fans and those totally ignorant to pucks; all of a sudden a brand new audience – and a sophisticated one in that – learned about some of the most interesting people in sports.

The great news is that all signs point to another 24/7 series between HBO and the NHL. Yet as HBO president Ross Greenburg explains in a video at the bottom of this post, it will be tough to top the groundbreaking original series.

NHL executive John Collins already discussed the potential idea for HBO to follow two teams around during a playoff series, so I thought I’d pass along a few ideas/suggestions for a 24/7 sequel and solutions for possible problems.

Following a playoff series

Why it would be awesome: One thing that gave the Penguins/Capitals special some extra juice is the fact that the two teams really don’t like each other. Imagine the kind of vitriol that would develop during a grueling, high-pressure best-of-seven series? It’s OK, you can get excited about the idea.

How to make it work: Of course, the tough part is that teams go from secretive to Big Brother/CIA-level scarce with details during the playoffs. (Just wait for the vague “upper/lower torso” type injury reports we’ll be stuck with in April, May and June.)

My suggestion to (partially) solve that problem: air the footage after once the series concluded. Sure, that would hurt it a bit from a “timely” standpoint, but then teams could feel slightly less paranoid about information “leaking” via HBO’s cameras and microphones.

Follow a buzz-poor team during a full season

Why it would be awesome: It was hard not to get a little attached to Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma and players such as Matt Hendricks (seen in a screen capture that is this post’s main image) during the 24/7 series, but it was just the tip of the iceberg since it followed only a month (or so) of play. Imagine how amazing it would be to follow a team during the course of an 82-game season?

Maybe an elite team like Pittsburgh or Washington would balk at the idea, but what about a team struggling to generate buzz like Florida, Phoenix, Dallas or Atlanta? The last two would be especially interesting because they have been successful during this season and employ colorful characters like Dustin Byfuglien and Steve Ott. HBO would gain a full season of access; the team would find an unusual way to drum interest in their squad.

How to make it work: Again, the team could request a slight delay on the footage or maybe enter into an injury-related gentleman’s agreement with the network.

***

OK, so those are two ideas worth considering for the future of the 24/7 series. How would you try to top that great Penguins/Capitals series? Let us know in the comments and enjoy Greenburg’s reflections on the special and its future.

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* – Did I go into “trying not cry during sad movie” mode during the end of that episode? Maybe. (Crushes beer can on forehead to compensate for expression of feelings.)

Bruce Boudreau’s mother scolds him for his profanity-laced speech aired on HBO

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There are a lot of things that will stand out from last night’s premiere of HBO’s “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic” series. As Joe discussed, we’ll get some unique looks at the sport as well as some rare, candid moments from coaches and players.

But the beauty might be in the wildly different situations the two teams find themselves in right now. Sure, the Pittsburgh Penguins lost two in a row, but they’ve generally been on fire. Meanwhile, the Washington Capitals are suffering from something they haven’t experienced very often since Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench: a prolonged losing streak.

Such a rash of defeats brought out some colorful language from Boudreau. In fact, after watching that clip, I’m not sure if people should just limit the profane parallels to New York Jets coach Rex Ryan alone.

While some people utilize obscenities with the finesse that a chef uses spices (“not too much rosemary” … “just sprinkle in a swear word or two if you drop something heavy on your toe”), Boudreau’s profanity-laced speech reminds me of those times when the previous person at a restaurant messed with a salt shaker and all of its contents fall on your food. Boudreau’s f-bomb heavy rant almost over-saturates his message, not unlike how pervasive profanities can be in a Quentin Tarantino script.

Either way, the angry tirade made its way onto the HBO show and it turned many heads. In fact, it got the attention of Boudreau’s mother, who probably wanted to put a bar of soap in her son’s mouth.

My mom already called me about how many (swear words) I used,” Boudreau said Thursday.

The first episode of the reality series, “24/7: Penguins-Capitals, Road to the NHL Winter Classic” aired Wednesday night. It’s a behind-the-scenes look at the two teams as they approach their outdoor game Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh.

The Capitals are currently in a seven-game winless streak, and Wednesday’s show included footage of Boudreau colorfully yelling at his players on the bench during a timeout and in the locker room. During one particular speech between periods, Boudreau used a particular curse word 15 times in the span of a minute.

“It was a passionate speech. It wasn’t anything that I’m sitting there and manufacturing up the word, just to say the word,” he said Thursday. “When you’re talking with passion, sometimes I don’t know what’s coming out of my mouth, quite frankly.”

Let’s hope that no one – not even Tarantino – would manufacture such a speech.

Bruce Boudreau, Dan Bylsma’s personalities may shine in HBO’s 24/7 series, which premieres tonight

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If you ask people around the game of hockey, most will probably admit that – for all the game’s many strengths, including the character of its players – it’s not very often that we get to learn much about how much character each player and coach displays.

Most of the time, the game’s biggest stars either lean heavily on cliches (like Sidney Crosby) or struggle a bit considering the fact that English isn’t their first language (like Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin). Sure, every now and then a vibrant talker comes along like Patrick Kane or Jeremy Roenick, but most of the time an interview only illuminates a person’s expertise in saying exactly what the PR staff wants to hear.

Getting to know two of the league’s most talented young teams is one of the main reasons that people are so excited about HBO’s “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic.” (The other being that it’s HBO, the network that seems like it has a Midas touch right now.)

While there will be some interesting chats with oddballs such as Maxime Talbot, the true stars could end up being coaches Bruce Boudreau and Dan Bylsma. Chris Botta of the New York Times’ Slap Shot blog provides an inside look at the series, which premieres tonight on HBO at 10 pm ET.

If this four-act play features enough drama, Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin could see their fame extend beyond hockey nation. The teams both have plenty of funny and insightful “character actors,” from Pascal Dupuis and Eric Godard in Pittsburgh to Brooks Laich and D.J. King in Washington, who will undoubtedly emerge as leading players.

Although the eminently quotable Capitals Coach Bruce Boudreau was picked by most pundits to become the breakout star of “24/7,” watch out for the man behind the home team bench. Despite leading the Penguins to the Stanley Cup in 2009, Dan Bylsma is far from a household name — even in Pittsburgh. But he is an original thinker, a charismatic figure and more than a little quirky. So far, he has enjoyed the HBO life.

“We’ve encouraged the guys to make the most of the experience,” Bylsma said of having every word and image captured for broadcast. “This is something we’ll look back on years from now and appreciate. We’re going to enjoy the moment.”

I worked with Bylsma for one season when he was an assistant coach with the Islanders in 2003-4. Although assistants are more comfortable to be themselves than the head coach, Bylsma is quite the free spirit. If, as advertised, HBO’s cameras will be everywhere around the Penguins for these four weeks, you’ll get to see what I mean.

It should be a lot of fun to watch.

Info on the first episode of HBO’s 24/7 series on the Winter Classic, premiering Dec. 15

2011 Winter Classic Logo

In case you haven’t noticed, we have passed along plenty of videos and other links to whet your appetites for HBO’s upcoming “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic” series.

The four-part series will start airing on HBO beginning Wednesday, December 15th at 10 pm ET.

Surely we’ll share more information about the series as the first episode approaches and even as the four-part series progresses, but HBO and the NHL handed out a few more bits of official information about the first part today. Here is a quick summary of what to expect from the debut episode, including when it will air on the network and what the first one should be about.

Episode #1

Debut: WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT)

Other HBO playdates: Dec. 15 (11:00 p.m.), 16 (5:00 p.m., midnight), 17 (10:00 a.m., 8:00 p.m.), 18 (10:30 a.m., 11:15 p.m.), 19 (9:00 a.m.) and 20 (5:00 p.m., 1:20 a.m.), and Jan. 1 (7:00 a.m.)

HBO2 playdates: Dec. 19 (11:50 p.m.), 21 (8:00 p.m.), 28 (2:00 p.m.) and 30 (1:30 p.m.), and Jan. 8 (1:30 p.m.)

HBO On Demand availability begins: Dec. 20

Head coaches Bruce Boudreau of Washington and Dan Bylsma of Pittsburgh, along with a host of key players, including the Caps’ Alex Ovechkin and the Pens’ Sidney Crosby, are in the spotlight as the two clubs battle through their busy December schedules.

HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals – sneak preview

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The 2011 Winter Classic is just a month away and as you’d be right to expect, we here at PHT are excited for it. The game is set for 1:00 pm on New Year’s Day and will be live on NBC and we’ll be there to see the sights around Pittsburgh both inside and outside of Heinz Field.

Making things more interesting and much more fun is what HBO is doing with their tremendous 24/7 series. This time around, HBO will be following both teams and documenting everything leading up to January 1 in their series: 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road To The Winter Classic.

If you’ve yet to see it, we’ve got the preview for the series which kicks off on December 15th at 10 p.m. It’ll be the best 11 minutes you can spend today to get psyched up for the game.

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