Bettman: 24/7 an Opportunity for “Hockey Fans and Sports Fans” to Get to Know NHLers

It’s clear that NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman sees the debut of 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic as a huge coup for the league.

Speaking in a press conference with the NHL’s COO John Collins – who Bettman said was “responsible” for the idea – and HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg, Bettman said that 24/7 would be “an absolutely fantastic opportunities to bring hockey fans and, in fact, all sports fans an opportunity to see our players and see our game in ways that they’ve never been able to do it before and in ways that perhaps no fans of any sport have ever been able to do it before.” Greenburg added that allowing HBO cameras into a regular season sports locker room was “unprecedented access.”

What will the series provide an insight into? Greenburg promised to “bring you into the team meeting rooms, into the locker rooms, the planes on chartered flights, at home, everywhere these players, coaches, assistant coaches go during this four week stretch. That is at the heart what this 24/7 series is all about, to bring you, the viewer, access you’ve never been given before so you understand what it takes to be a professional athlete and compete at this high level.”

So … will the players adapt to HBO not having to abide by the FCC’s standards and practices for “foul language” on television too? Greenburg: “every once in a while you might hear a little salty language with a little Canadian or Russian flair to it.” How does Bettman – the commissioner who suspended Sean Avery for making a sex joke – reconcile this? He says that “If this is going to be authentic, it needs to be authentic and guys aren’t going to be scripted” but noted that “My guess is, before we air the first show, we see what we have, there will be the appropriate reviewing and critiquing and warnings of who should be watching it.” Greenburg added that HBO has total editorial control, though that won’t go as far as strategy and injuries.

Bettman and Greenburg both alluded to the fact that Heinz Feild’s conversion to set up for the Winter Classic will also be a part of the series “There’s a third team involved as we go to the run?up in the Winter Classic, that’s going to be the NHL crew that’s in the process of converting Heinz Field into a hockey rink. There probably will be some footage of the Steelers coming off the field and the crew immediately going on to begin the conversion that has to be done in record time to get A quality ice ready for a regular-season game.”

In the end, the show might not be as good if not for what Bettman called “both the Capitals and Penguins from the top down, ownership, president, managers, players, coaching staffs, have been across the board excited and supportive of this project”

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Hockey Night Returns Soon!

CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA returns with a dynamic line-up on and off the ice with the game’s best match-ups and all of the exclusive features Canadians have come to know and love!

Following two pre-season games on Saturday, September 25 and Saturday, October 2, the regular season begins with NHL Face-Off on October 7. Scotiabank Hockey Tonight will be live from the Air Canada Centre and the NHL Face-Off festivities at Dundas Square in downtown Toronto at 6:30 p.m. ET/ 3:30 p.m. PT, followed by the resumption of two classic rivalries: the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. ET/ 4 p.m. PT, and the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT. The action continues on Saturday, October 9 starting at 3 p.m. ET with Columbus taking on San Jose live from Stockholm, Sweden, part of 2010 NHL Premiere. Hockey Tonight with host Ron MacLean will kick-off the evening at 6:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. PT followed by three signature games: Ottawa at Toronto and Montreal at Pittsburgh at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT and Los Angeles squaring off against Vancouver at 10 p.m. ET / 7 p.m. PT. CBC will have full coverage as the Canucks kick-off their season-long 40th anniversary celebrations.

CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA’s schedule includes action-packed special events such as the 2011 NHL Winter Classic between the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins; the NHL Heritage Classic matching Montreal against Calgary outdoors from McMahon Stadium; the 2011 NHL All-Star SuperSkills and 58th NHL All-Star Game and the much-anticipated Hockey Day in Canada, the 11th annual day-long celebration of the game featuring three all-Canadian match-ups and coverage from Whitehorse, Yukon on February 12.

CBCSports.ca will provide live and on-demand streaming of all CBC’s HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA broadcasts and special features, including Morning Highlights and the interactive iDesk, featuring analysis by Jeff Marek, Scott Morrison and Tim Wharnsby, along with blogs and breaking news. The highly popular Hockey Night in Canada app for iPhone and iPod Touch will once again offer users live streaming of every CBC game broadcast, as well as provide fans with instant access to live box scores, statistics and results from all NHL games.

Coach’s Corner is back every Saturday night, with the one-and-only Don Cherry set to begin his 31st season with CBC’s HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA. The Hotstove also returns, with more candid debate and discussion of the current issues from around the NHL. Pierre LeBrun, Glenn Healy and Mike Milbury will all be regular contributors. P.J. Stock will keep fans abreast of all of the night’s scores and highlights, and on Coast to Coast, Kelly Hrudey and Milbury will breakdown key plays from around the league. At 1 a.m. ET/10 p.m. PT, After Hours with host Scott Oake caps off the full night of hockey with live, in-depth post-game interviews featuring NHL players and personalities.

Jim Hughson, Bob Cole, Mark Lee and Dean Brown will provide hockey fans from across the country with the very best in play-by-play. Expert analysts Craig Simpson, Greg Millen, Kevin Weekes, Gary Galley, Hrudey and Milbury all return this season, and rinkside reporting duties and expert analysis will be provided by Elliotte Friedman, Cassie Campbell-Pascal, and Oake.

Plus, three exciting fantasy pools will keep Canadians in the game this season, each with a unique way to win great prizes: the Fantasy Hockey Pool returns for another full season of intense competition, giving fans the opportunity to build their ultimate teams to compete for points; Hockey Night’s Winning tests fans mettle with the challenge of picking winning match-ups and keeping their own streaks alive; and the Star Selector live pool gives fans a chance to select players live online as the game happens.

Hockey fans who can’t wait until Saturday nights to watch CBC’S HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA can tune into HNIC Radio on SIRIUS Satellite Radio beginning on Oct. 4 on SIRIUS Satellite Radio’s Channel 97 and Channel 127 airing Monday through Friday from 3 to 6 p.m. ET with an encore performance from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET and again from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. ET. Host Jeff Marek, one of sports talk radio’s brightest stars, will return alongside rotating co-hosts Hrudey, Morrison and Simpson along with the newest addition to the team, the AHL on CBC’s Brad May.

CBC’s complete broadcast schedule for the 2010-11 season is available at CBCSports.ca.

24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic Premieres December 15th, Writer Apologizes For Short-Sighted Initial Reaction

NEW YORK, Sept. 23, 2010 – HBO Sports’ groundbreaking “24/7” reality franchise, which has captured 12 Sports Emmy® Awards, will join forces with the National Hockey League to take viewers inside one of the NHL’s great rivalries, between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, for 24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC, an innovative four-episode, all-access reality series, it was announced today by Ross Greenburg, president, HBO Sports and John Collins, chief operating officer for the NHL.

The HBO Sports presentation debuts in prime time WEDNESDAY, DEC. 15 (10:00-11:00 p.m. ET/PT), with an immediate encore at 11:00 p.m., and follows the two clubs simultaneously, chronicling their highs and lows each week. The teams will meet in a Dec. 23 regular-season matchup on the Capitals’ home ice, leading into episode three of 24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS, as the build-up intensifies for the Jan. 1 showdown at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

Noted Greenburg, “Taking our reality series ‘24/7’ into the world of the National Hockey League is a perfect fit. 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.”

Said Collins, “Teaming up with the 12-time Emmy Award®-winning and much acclaimed HBO ‘24/7’ series gives us an incredible opportunity to bring our fans even deeper inside two model hockey organizations during the regular season as we lead into the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic. In just three short years, the Winter Classic has become so well established on the national sports calendar it’s truly a New Year’s Day tradition. Uniting HBO’s amazing reality series with one of sport’s greatest rivalries in an outdoor setting in front of 65,000 raucous fans will make this Winter Classic the most anticipated one yet.”

Ensuing episodes of 24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC debut on subsequent Wednesdays – Dec. 22 and 29 and Jan. 5 – at 10:00 p.m., with an immediate encore play at 11:00 p.m. The Jan. 5 series finale debuts four days after the Classic, with cameras tracking all the drama and excitement surrounding the Capitals and Penguins on game day. All four episodes will have multiple replay dates on HBO, and the series will also be available on HBO On Demand.

The series will provide exclusive behind-the-scenes access, along with in-depth interviews of coaches, players and front-office personnel, as the Caps and Penguins battle through their December schedules, meeting twice in one week, including the first-ever NHL game at Heinz Field.

24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC is HBO Sports’ first reality foray into pro hockey. The acclaimed “24/7” franchise began in 2007 with “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7,” followed by seven additional boxing installments. Last January, HBO Sports extended the “24/7” franchise with “24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona,” which chronicled the NASCAR champion’s preparations for the 2010 Daytona 500.

Newsday.com has observed, “HBO’s ‘24/7’ series is the best sports program on television. Bar none.”

The St. Petersburg Times noted, “The best sports reality show on television is HBO’s ‘24/7’.”

Newsday wrote that “the Winter Classic is the best idea the NHL has had in years.”

With 12 Sports Emmy® Awards, “24/7” is the most honored sports series of the past three years. At the 2010 Sports Emmy® Awards, the franchise took home five trophies for production excellence, including awards for Outstanding Edited Sports Special, Outstanding Camera Work and Outstanding Writing.

The executive producers of 24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC are Ross Greenburg and Rick Bernstein; senior producer, Dave Harmon; coordinating producers, Scott Boggins and Bentley Weiner; Aaron Cohen is the writer; Liev Schreiber narrates. Production assistance will be supplied by the National Hockey League.

NHL Decides That They’ll Try to Force You to Care About Pens/Caps By Wasting “Hard Knocks” Type Show On It

From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

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.

Rorabaugh said a formal announcement from the NHL could arrive on Thursday; perhaps not coincidentally, Commissioner Gary Bettman and NHL COO John Collins have a conference call scheduled for 2:30 p.m. ET on Thursday “to discuss a special announcement.”

There will be more thoughts on this, and some more things, when we return from hiatus on Monday.