Tuesday evening, ahead of puck drop for the Caps v. Canucks game, and exactly one month until the Winter Classic at Nats Park, a couple hundred Capitals Club Red 365 members attended a town hall at Verizon Center to hear about preparations and planning for the big New Years Day tilt.
Briefing the crowd were NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly and sports TV impresario, Ross Greenburg, who will be helming the production seen later this month on Epix. Greenburg claims 51 Sports Emmys and if that wasn’t enough hardware for his mantle, he’s won 8 Peabodys (big boy broadcast awards). John Walton moderated the evening.
Greenburg’s last Winter Classic effort was Caps v. Pens [Haagen-Daz, sack grabbing, Hendy’s stitches , Eric Fehr as Santa, and “F*ck you, Geno”]. This year’s production is in very capable hands. He sees the city as very much a character with plenty of nice places to shoot and stunning backdrops. While his crews have already been taping some elements, Greenburg says the production begins in earnest for his staff of 30-40 and 8 cameras, this Friday. He employs “the best shooters in sports TV” as well as 7 or 8 local camera operators and techs because of their familiarity with the city. Camera crews will be embedded with the teams in both cities.
Greenburg’s cameras will be given their typical extensive access, inside locker rooms, training rooms, ice level and in homes. Four edit rooms working round the clock will cobble together the episodes, turning around some of the action in just a day. Greenburg doesn’t expect to see a replay of last year’s unseemly spectacle of coaches (Carlyle and Babcock) kicking crews out of locker rooms. He said that as a directive from the NHL, teams must grant complete and total access to be considered for playing in the Winter Classic; 100% cooperation makes it a good show.
He wants viewers to see to see story arcs that closely track players and coaches over the course of four episodes. Greenburg cited Humangus Big Bryzgalov as a good example of getting a close look at a player, I think describing him as “weird.” The lack of a natural rivalry between the Caps and Hawks didn’t seem to bother Greenburg, and he wonders if we may see one develop over the next 4 weeks.
Greenburg says the story lines will develop. He’s met with players and coaches already and sees Coach Trotz and his family life, as the father of a child with special needs particularly engaging. Greenburg saw Ovi up close and personal in 2010 and said he expects to see a different player this time, one far more mature, and he hopes to showcase the captain’s role as a mentor to the younger players.
One story line may be the weather, as we saw in 2010, with the game being pushed back into the evening. Daly says they’re flexible on puck drop and that NBC is cooperative and has a decent window to get the game in. The ice truck arrives in DC mid-month, one of two state-of-the-art mobile sheet machines that move around the country for the outdoor games. “Weather is the wild card,” Daly said, and that anything above 50 Fahrenheit won’t be an issue. He wants a clear day, no rain. Despite daytime temps in the 80s for last year’s Dodger Stadium game, the cooler nights helped make the sheet, Daly believes, the best yet for an outdoor game.
Greenburg got some criticism from the 2010 24/7. Through league brass he heard that Ted wasn’t all too thrilled about how he looked on camera, thinking that the lighting made him look like Darth Vader. But remember, the Caps were in the midst of a serious losing streak that December, and none of us were looking like Princess Leia during those dark, dark days. Greenburg’s response to Ted, “Dont worry, we’ll put more lights on you. But do me a favor, WIN!” And then the Caps blew up the Death Star, the Ewoks danced and we lived (mostly) happily ever after. Until Adam Oates.
One element that won’t make the final cut is a Caps watch party at Nellies, DC’s gay sports bar. One of Greenburg’s producers told us that was in the mix but the shoot was waved off by Epix brass. In its place they ended up shooting a bunch of dumb ass Hawks fans swilling cheap booze and beers at some dumb ass Chicago sports bar. Must See TV? Musty TV. On the plus side, expect to see Loud Goat featured during the series. That alone is worth the price of admission.
Another letdown was the announcement that there won’t be an alumni game ahead of the Classic. Boo! We expected to be a house divided for that tilt, Team Locker v. Team May, but we’ll be denied. Maybe we try to organize a guerrilla pickup game on the Mall? With wagering, of course.
The episodes air December 6, 23, 30 and January 6. Don’t get your hopes us for Liev Schreiber as the narrator; HBO owns him. But we are promised top-tier talent to handle the voice duties. Daly tells us that announcements for game entertainment and celebrity attendees will be made in the coming weeks. Is Winter Classic party now.