Last night’s final episode was the crowning glory to what’s been a thrilling ride and it gave appropriate credence and attention to the game which this series was building up to. HBO spent appropriate amounts of effort showing the tremendous work Dan Craig and his crew put into building and preparing the rink at Heinz Field for use during the Winter Classic. The efforts of him and his crew can’t be stated enough and HBO did them a great service to show off what they would do.
One of our highlights to last night’s episode was getting the inside look at the NHL phone conference to make the decision to postpone the game to 8 p.m. It’s a shining example to how serious the ice crews were about doing it right. It also showed us that Colin Campbell isn’t much of a talker on the phone. Perhaps he’s just a wordier guy through e-mail.
Having been in Pittsburgh during the days leading up to the Winter Classic it afforded me the chance to see how the HBO crews work behind the scenes and seeing how they were trailing every possible storyline and everyone involved was impressive.
For instance, they were tailing Caps GM George McPhee and a handful of Caps players at the AHL game held at CONSOL Energy Center on December 30. They hovered over McPhee for a good long time before moving on to guys like Karl Alzner and John Carlson who were there to watch the game and see former AHL teammates take on the Penguins farm team. There wasn’t a single rock left unturned which makes us cross our fingers that we’ll see a Blu Ray DVD set in the future with plenty of extras.
As for their coverage of the game, much like everything else that’s been done in this series, it was spectacular. Every in-game storyline that erupted was given the right amount of attention from Mike Rupp’s fight with John Erskine, to Sidney Crosby’s complaints about being hauled down on what was very nearly a breakaway, to hearing both teams do their bit of politicking to get more calls in their favor. Nothing was muted and nothing was underplayed. In a word it was all just perfect.
Being given access to both teams’ locker rooms between periods was a true treat and provided a bit of hands-on attention to the wicked hit Crosby took from David Steckel at the end of the second period. We’re no doctors here but it was clear that Crosby was stunned by the shot.
The closing was a beautiful end piece to what’s been a masterful production to help give hockey the glorious spotlight we know it deserves as fans and one that casual fans or never-were fans were able to latch on to and say, “Hey, maybe we should check this out.”
Seeing Caps coach Bruce Boudreau break out a Bud Light tallboy can to celebrate the win with his coaches or seeing Pens coach Dan Bylsma look just pained declaring how bad he wanted to win that game shows that even though the Winter Classic is still just a regular season game played on a grand and glorious stage, winning is the important thing.
We’re going to miss not having more 24/7 to look forward to and whether or not HBO chooses to do more work with hockey (a 24/7 following the Stanley Cup finals would be about the greatest thing we can think of) we’ve at least gotten this taste of life behind the scenes. Getting a closer look at the players in the more natural state in the locker rooms as well as at home made for a tremendous luxury we’ll not soon forget.