09-23-2010, 04:00 PM

Pens, NHL and HBO to Showcase Hockey in Reality TV Series
Thursday, 09.23.2010 / 1:36 PM /
Features By Sam Kasan

The National Hockey League and HBO are going where neither has gone before: behind the veiled curtain to reveal the real personalities, lives and drama of two NHL teams.

HBO Sports’ reality franchise “24/7” will take viewers deep into the NHL’s greatest rivalry, between the Penguins and Washington Capitals, and reveal what really happens behind closed doors with a four-episode, all-access series culminating with the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic at Heinz Field on New Year’s Day.

“The Winter Classic is one of the premiere events in sports,” Penguins CEO David Morehouse said. “The opportunity to showcase what we think is the best sport in the land is unprecedented.”

The series, “24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE WINTER CLASSIC,” will follow both teams for four weeks in December, showing the preparation, execution, highs, lows, joys and bruises of the NHL regular season.

The series will be similar to the ratings giant "Hard Knocks," a look inside National Football League training camps, but this will be the first HBO show that covers a team during the regular season.

“HBO is thrilled to do something for the first time for us in the regular season of any sport,” 24/7 and Hard Knocks senior producer Dave Harmon said. “It’s a very different thing showing meaningful games behind the scenes, the personalities of the Penguins and Capitals behind the scenes.

“We expect that you will see is an unvarnished look at four weeks in the lives of these teams will be.”

The series will give viewers a rare of glimpse into the day-to-day functions of a team. The HBO crew will have access to all areas of the players, coaches and staffs' lives – games, practices, locker room, training room, weight room, equipment room, lounge, coaches offices, management offices, team plane, team hotel, etc.

“There are several regular-season games within this series before the Winter Classic,” Harmon said. “While the series ends with that game on Jan. 1, we’re not going to be treating the three weeks before as a lead up to the Winter Classic, but as their lives, their games, their practices, management plans, leading through all four weeks.”

Such access can have certain drawbacks, as with any groundbreaking venture.

“We think it’s worth the risk,” Morehouse said. “We have the type of team that isn’t going to do a lot of embarrassing things behind the scenes. So we’re not that worried about it. We also think this is an unprecedented opportunity for the league and for the team. To have this kind of exposure is important.”

To give the show a truly genuine feel, HBO was given only one limitation in what it is allowed to air. The teams have power of attorney if anything is filmed that would put the club at a competitive disadvantage.

“There is always an admission that if what we shoot puts the team at a competitive disadvantage, we will agree not to show it,” Harmon said. “If they don’t feel comfortable with the cameras around talking all the time, then nothing you’ll see in the series will be real. We’re going to shoot everything as it happens. We plan at HBO on airing everything we get because we want to make the best television show possible. We acknowledge that when there is strategy involved and injuries involved that other teams in the league might see on the air. That would be the limitation on the show.”

The realness of the players, coaches and staff are what makes the 24/7 and Hard Knocks programs so captivating. It’s that raw look that fans starve to see.

“This isn’t going to be G-rated,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. “It’s going to be the way things are done and how we do things. It’ an emotional sport, which makes it exciting. It’s passionate. You’re going to be talking about the game and practices and things will come out. That’s what makes the HBO special so great. We have to be who we are.”

“(HBO is) very good at capturing authenticity and authentic moments,” Morehouse said. “It really does bring you into the emotional side of athletics and competitive sport.”

Shero also pointed out that the Penguins are about more than just their marquee players.

“We talk about Crosby and Ovechkin, we’re into the personalities here,” he said. “I think when you talk about NHL hockey teams, you talk about the training staff and you talk about the support staff. Those guys are the fabric of the hockey team. The interaction between the players and those types of individuals, people will see what it’s like. I’m looking forward to it. The players are looking forward to it. We’re thrilled to be involved.”

Once the players get more comfortable with the ever-present cameras, they will relax and be themselves. Then their personalities will really shine and take center stage on the show.

“The segments leading up (to the Winter Classic) will be part of creating the team and personalities that we have,” Shero said. “We’re looking forward to that. I don’t think it’s about Crosby and Ovechkin. I think it’s about the teams, and personalities are going to come out. If it does, like I hope so, then it should be great for HBO and for the league.”


Penguins To Co-Star In HBO Reality Show Series '24/7 Penguins Capitals' In DecemberThursday, 09.23.2010 / 10:47 AM / Features By Jason Seidling

The Takeaway:

> The Penguins and Washington Capitals will participate in the HBO series ‘24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road To The NHL Winter Classic,’ a behind-the-scenes show similar to the NFL’s popular ‘Hard Knocks’ series.
> The four-show series is scheduled to air Dec. 15, 22 and 29 and Jan. 5 at 10 pm., with an immediate encore at 11 p.m.
> Cameras will be following the Penguins everywhere – locker room, weight room, hotel and plane – during production in December leading up to the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2011.
> Players believe ‘24/7 Penguins Capitals’ can boost the profile of both the Penguins and the NHL.
> The Penguins expect fans to be most intrigued by what players do off the ice.

Have you ever wondered what goes on inside the Penguins locker room? Or what players are really like away from the rink?

If so, you are going to love hearing Thursday’s announcement by the National Hockey League and HBO that the Penguins and Washington Capitals will participate in the all-access, uncensored, behind-the-scenes reality television series ‘24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road To The NHL Winter Classic’ to help build excitement leading up to the Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic between the two teams on Jan. 1, 2011 at Heinz Field.

“I think it’s going to be pretty cool to have them follow us around a bit,” Crosby said. “I’m sure it will be something that we look back on and it will be great to see the interaction with all the guys and all the preparation leading up to games. That will be pretty neat to have all the footage of. Hopefully fans will get to know our team a little better as regular people as well.”

“It’s definitely something exciting – for the fans especially,” Maxime Talbot added. “We are happy that our team was chosen. As if playing in the Winter Classic wasn’t big enough, now it’s getting bigger.”

With superstars Crosby and Evgeni Malkin of the Penguins and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, arguably hockey’s top three players in the world, this year’s scintillating Winter Classic matchup between the two rivals has set the stage for one of the greatest regular-season games in league history. Those storylines are what made the Penguins and Capitals such an attractive option.

‘24/7 Penguins Capitals’ is slated to air at 10 p.m. on Dec. 15, 22 and 29 and Jan. 5, with an immediate encore broadcast following each show at 11 p.m. The first three episodes will be released prior to the Winter Classic, and the Jan. 5 finale will highlight the actual outdoor game.

This is the most-extensive, behind-the-scenes, all-access coverage an NHL team has ever granted. HBO cameras will be following both the Penguins and Capitals everywhere and anywhere throughout the entire month of December.

General manager Ray Shero and head coach Dan Bylsma are allowing the HBO production team access to areas usually off-limits to the mainstream media, such as the locker room, weight room, coaches offices and team meetings.

In fact, HBO will spend December riding on team buses and planes with the Penguins and Capitals while also staying at the team hotels. The ‘24/7’ crew will be miking Byslma and some of the players during games and practices.

“I think fans will get a better understanding as to what it takes to be a hockey player,” Matt Cooke said. “Some people think we just go out and play games, but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on behind the scenes and making sure that you’re conditioned and making sure that the different activities that we do, hand-eye activities and all that kind of stuff – just the different aspects of preparing day in and day out.”

“I think fans are going to appreciate how hard we work to prepare for games,” Arron Asham said. “Everyone thinks it’s an easy sport, but it’s one of the toughest sports out there physicality-wise. You have to be in great shape to play this game.”

The ‘24/7’ series was originally created to provide an inside look into the sport of boxing, but the success of the show, combined with the immense popularity of HBO’s yearly summer hit ‘Hard Knocks,’ convinced HBO executives to branch their ‘24/7’ entity out to other sports.

“Taking our reality series ‘24/7’ into the world of the National Hockey League is a perfect fit,” said Ross Greenberg, president of HBO Sports. “The ‘24/7’ franchise is fashioned on larger-than-life personalities, engaging storylines, and unrestricted access. With Sidney Crosby leading the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin leading the Capitals, we have all the ingredients for a dynamic show that will take viewers deep inside professional hockey and set the stage for the Winter Classic.”

Many of the Penguins spent the summer watching the New York Jets participate in ‘Hard Knocks,’ which is a one-hour showing that provides an all-access look into a National Football League team’s training camp.

“I watched ‘Hard Knocks’ and I understood more about football,” Talbot said. “Hopefully our show is going to bring more of the fringe fans. They are really going to see what is going on in a hockey locker room and behind the scenes. Hopefully that will make them like hockey even more.”

Because many of the Penguins were able to view ‘Hard Knocks’ as fans, the players think they have an idea what aspects of ‘24/7 Penguins Capitals’ are going to most appeal to fans.

“I think fans are going to be intrigued to see what players do with their down time, who they hang out with and what their lives are like,” Paul Martin said. “From a management standpoint, fans will see what they do with players and contact stuff. Typically, a fan can’t see things like that.”

“Most fans just see us in our equipment playing the game,” Talbot said. “Yes, they might see us up on the scoreboard doing some different charitable things, but I really think they are going to see a different side of us, the real us. They will see what it’s like when we get dressed in the locker room and what the atmosphere is. It’s way more than just skating around.”

While having cameras present all the time for a month will be something unlike anything the players have ever dealt with, they view the opportunity to participate in ‘24/7 Penguins Capitals’ as something that can benefit the Penguins, the NHL and the sport of hockey.

“I think the other sports that have done it so far have had a pretty high notoriety within the United States,” Cooke said. “You only hope we can have that same kind of success. Hopefully this will expose fans to our sport, and hopefully spark some more interest in our sport throughout the U.S.”

“This really helps everyone get to know us as Penguins and learn what kind of guys we are and what some of our hobbies are,” Martin said. “This is a great group of guys on this team, so I think there is going to be some good stuff in that regard. That’s also going to help the NHL, because this might help us attract fans who are on the fence and might learn to like the game a little more.”

“I think this is going to be good for hockey,” Asham said. “It’s going to give us a little more exposure. I think between last year’s Winter Olympics and the Winter Classics every year, they have been great for the game, but this is going to help all of us even more.”