Gary Bettman

Bettman: Teams must take part in HBO 24/7 to play in Winter Classic


While fans wait patiently to see who will participate in the 2012 Winter Classic, it turns out today that there’s a new wrinkle thrown into the mix for teams hopeful of landing a spot in the annual New Year’s Day spectacle.

The Sports Business Journal reports that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sat down with YES Network’s Michael Kay for an episode of “CenterStage” and when answering questions about the Winter Classic, Bettman said that teams hopeful of participating in the game must allow their locker rooms and players to be open (subscription required) to be a part of HBO’s 24/7.

“HBO Sports has told us they would like to do (‘24/7’) again and again and again.” Kay asked Bettman how he would handle a Winter Classic team that refused to allow film crews into the locker room. “If you’re not going to allow (‘24/7’), then you’re not going to be in the Winter Classic,” Bettman said.

It’s a bold step for Bettman to lay this stipulation down on teams as there are a few potential teams that have been less-than helpful in opening themselves up to the media in the past. For some teams, controlling the message that comes out is more important than openness and transparency with what goes on in daily operations.

Forcing those teams that might be on the fence about leaving themselves open to public interpretation of how things go on a day-to-day basis to make a choice of whether or not they want in on the annual event is a real “put up or shut up” move by the league, and it’s a smart one.

After all, if a team’s motivation for being in the Winter Classic is to just get a piece of the financial pie that results from the game, the least they can do is take part in a cable series that’s helped generate tremendous attention for the NHL and the Winter Classic itself. If a team is unwilling to shoulder the load of doing their part to generate publicity for the league then they serve no purpose in taking part in the game that’s become the beacon of attention for the NHL.

Many have been critical of Gary Bettman’s tactics in the past (yours truly especially) but when it’s come to the Winter Classic and now with HBO’s 24/7, they’ve got a really good thing going. Considering the heaping amount of positive feedback (and ratings) for the 2011 Winter Classic in Pittsburgh, it just makes good business sense to lay things out like this and scare off anyone that might even be a bit apprehensive. Bettman has made it clear that many teams are clamoring to host or be involved in future Winter Classics and with HBO’s help, he’s got leverage to start figuring out which teams are willing to go all the way or not.

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


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.

* – 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.