HBO’s preview of their 24/7 Winter Classic documentary will air Saturday


HBO does plenty of things right. From great series like The Wire to boxing and comedy specials, the network almost seems like it has the Midas touch.

The NHL will receive its star treatment as part of the channel’s popular, Emmy-winning “24/7” series. Not too surprisingly, HBO chose to follow the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins around for the reality show/documentary as they prepared for the 2011 Winter Classic.

Hockey fans clamoring for any bits and pieces they can absorb from what should be a transfixing bit of video should be excited: HBO will tease puckheads with a 12-minute preview of the special this weekend.

It will first air 12:15 a.m. ET on Saturday, following a live boxing telecast. The actual documentary will premiere on Wednesday, December 15 at 10 pm ET. HBO will air replays of the previews frequently and it will also be available for those with On Demand packages. Here is the planned replay schedule of the preview, in case you cannot see it the first time.

HBO replay schedule:

Sat. Nov. 20 at 5:40 a.m.
Sun. Nov. 21 at 12:45 p.m.
Wed. Nov. 24 at 9:45 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 26 at 12 midnight
Sat. Nov. 27 at 1:15 p.m.
Mon. Dec. 6 at 3:15 p.m. and 8:45 p.m.
Tue. Dec. 7 at 11:15 p.m.
Fri. Dec. 10 at 7:45 p.m.
Sat. Dec. 11 at 7:45 p.m. ET/6:15 p.m. PT
Sun. Dec. 12 at 11:00 a.m.
Mon. Dec. 13 at 6:15 p.m.
Tue. Dec 14 at 8:45 p.m.

HBO2 replay schedule:

Tue. Nov. 23 at 2:30 a.m.
Thur. Dec. 2 at 9:45 p.m. and 5:45 a.m.
Sat. Dec. 4 at 1:45 a.m.
Sun. Dec 12 at 9:45 p.m.

All times are ET/PT except where noted.

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)

HBO to produce documentary series based around Capitals and Penguins in the Winter Classic


2011winterclassic.jpgAre you ready for some uncensored, behind the scenes NHL action? You’d better be because cable network HBO is going to be jumping head-long into the league to produce a documentary series based around the Penguins and Capitals playing in the Winter Classic this winter. Seth Rorabaugh of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette breaks the news on what it will be like.

It will be similar to the popular “Hard Knocks” series, which has documented the training camps of NFL teams over the past decade. This summer, HBO had full access to the New York Jets.

Much like “Hard Knocks,” this NHL series will have players wearing microphones on and off the ice and would offer an uncensored look at the Penguins and Capitals leading up to the New Year’s Day game. A game between the Penguins and Capitals Dec. 23 in Washington is expected to be one of the main focuses.

HBO’s “Hard Knocks” is what gets everyone’s attention for sure as that’s been a huge hit with NFL fans, but Ken Fang of Fang’s Bites clues in on another HBO series that this would more likely play out like.

And while “Hard Knocks” is being mentioned in the Post-Gazette and Puck Daddy stories, I have a feeling this is going to be of the 24/7 series variety. Hard Knocks is co-produced by NFL Films and HBO. And I believe the name is even owned by the NFL and licensed to HBO.

The 24/7 series is owned by HBO and has focused mostly on boxing, but did venture into NASCAR earlier this year with a look at Jimmie Johnson’s preparation for the Daytona 500.

The 24/7 series has won several Emmy Awards over the years and brings a well-known brand name to the NHL. It also gives the league some free marketing for the Winter Classic through HBO.

Call it “Hard Knocks” or “24/7” or even “Sid and Alex’s Winter Vacation” if you want, we’re sold on this immediately because virtually everything that HBO does that is sports-related is masterfully done. Their work in previous hockey-related productions surrounding the 1980 Miracle On Ice team and the Broad Street Bullies are shining examples of treating hockey stories with both reverence and profound respect while not dumbing things down for everyone watching at home.

The NHL handing the keys off to HBO to produce this documentary series highlighting the two most media-friendly/media-loved teams is a brilliant move to let fans see what guys like Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, and Backstrom are like behind the scenes and off the ice. Getting a more profound view of coaches Bylsma and Boudreau are going to be pleasures to watch. Getting a closer view as to what goes on into putting on a huge event like the Winter Classic will be fascinating.

The only question left is: Will die-hard fans eat it up or will they turn their backs on seeing two media darling teams continue to get more of the spotlight? While we expect there will be plenty of loud grumbling about that, when you’re dealing with two superstars like Crosby and Ovechkin, accepting that they’re going to be the most featured guys in the spotlight is all part of the game. It’s not as if they haven’t earned it after all.

‘John leaves a lasting mark’: NHL announces Collins’ departure as COO

John Collins
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One of the driving forces behind the NHL’s growth over the last decade is moving on.

John Collins, who’s served as the league’s chief operating officer for the last seven years, will be leaving his post to embark on a new business opportunity.

More, from the League:

Collins, who joined the NHL in November 2006, had been COO since August 2008.

“John leaves a lasting mark,” said Commissioner Bettman. “His energy, creativity and skill at building strategic partnerships helped drive significant revenue growth for our League. We are grateful for his many contributions and wish him the best in his new endeavors.”

Said Collins, “I’m grateful to Commissioner Bettman for his leadership and friendship over the past nine years. He had a vision for extending the reach of the NHL and supported us completely as we set out to make the game as big as it deserves to be.

“The NHL’s future is filled with promise and potential and I will admire and cheer the League’s successes to come on the global stage.”

Collins, 53, was regarded as one of main presences behind a number of the NHL’s most successful initiatives, including the Winter Classic and Stadium Series, the HBO 24/7 collaboration, the relaunched World Cup of Hockey, Canadian and American television deals and partnerships with companies like SAP, Adidas, Major League Baseball Advanced Media and GoPro.

During Collins’ tenure, the NHL was twice named “Sports League of the Year” by the SportsBusiness Journal and SportsBusiness Daily — once in 2011, and again in 2014.

Eric Staal says he’d like to re-sign with Carolina

Carolina Hurricanes v Florida Panthers

At 31 years of age, Eric Staal may not be the player he used to be.

But he’s still pretty good. And if Steven Stamkos and Anze Kopitar re-sign with the Lightning and Kings, respectively, Staal could really make a killing in unrestricted free agency this summer.

Who was the last center with Staal’s credentials to hit the open market? Brad Richards in 2011? It just doesn’t happen very often anymore.

Not that Staal will necessarily hit the market.

“I would like to [re-sign with Carolina],” he said today on Sportsnet’s Hockey Central at Noon. “Obviously there’s decisions that need to be made moving forward.”

Indeed there are. And let’s remember that the Hurricanes aren’t the Lightning or the Kings. They’re not trying to remain Stanley Cup contenders. They’re not even close to that right now. Even if Staal does really want to stay, re-signing him may not make the most sense for GM Ron Francis.

Does Staal expect to maintain, or even stay in the neighborhood of, his current $8.25 million cap hit?

How many years does he want?

If the answers are “yes” and “quite a few,” the ‘Canes may be better off trading him at the deadline — or even just letting him walk for nothing — then rebuilding around youngsters like Noah Hanifin and Elias Lindholm, not to mention whoever they get in the upcoming draft, which could be Auston Matthews.