DETROIT – A production crew from HBO arrived at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday.
Cameras caught footage of the Red Wings’ practice, as well as the team’s afternoon barbeque on the veranda outside the east entrance over-looking the Detroit River.
The crew is in town to begin work on the Emmy-winning reality show, “24/7 Road to the Winter Classic”, which is set to air on the premium cable network during the month of December.
The 2014 Winter Classic, between the Red Wings and their Original Six rival Toronto Maple Leafs, is set to take place on New Year’s Day at Michigan Stadium on the campus of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
In the past, the series has given fans an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look into the world of hockey, whether it was Dan Bylsma’s kids opening presents on Christmas morning, Bruce Boudreau’s profanity-laced locker room speech or Ilya Bryzgalov’s “Be happy, don’t worry” fascination with the universe.
So which individuals will provide unforgettable moments for the Red Wings-Maple Leafs edition? Ask the players and they feel that person could be Pavel Datsyuk.
“I think Pav will come across pretty good,” defenseman Niklas Kronwall said. “He’s a funny guy and I think that will really show. If he feels that he can be himself, absolutely, it will be great to see him. It will be hilarious; he could have a show all about himself.”
Goalie Jimmy Howard agrees, thinking that Datsyuk is a natural.
“Pasha will be Pasha,” Howard said. “People don’t realize it, but he’s a very smart individual, and very quick (witted) too. He loves to joke around, so hopefully, the people who really don’t follow hockey, or don’t really know Pavel, will get to see that side of him.”
However, when HBO cameras are rolling, Howard said, many of his teammates will be unabashed about their appearance.
“I’m sure there will be several guys that will be do a double-take in the mirror before they walk out the door in the morning,” Howard predicted. “Other than that, I think there will be a lot of guys doing their hair in the back room, making sure everything looks right before they do an interview.”
The HBO invasion can be overwhelming for some players, though Kronwall has been convinced by Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist that the distractions are a minimum.
“Just talking with some guys who have been on the 24/7 before they say in the beginning you definitely notice that they’re there and you’re a little subconscious about it,” Kronwall said. “After a few weeks they’re pretty much part of the fabric and you really don’t notice them.”
As a younger player and a fan of the game, defenseman Brian Lashoff said the series can be a learning tool for fans and players alike.
“The thing you get the most from it is just getting to see the guys and everybody’s different superstitions and things they do during the games and the chatter on the ice,” he said. “We know about it, but it’s fun to see other teams and coaches get involved. It’s pretty cool, because you get to see all of the ins and outs.
“I really don’t have very many (superstitions), but it’s cool for everyone to see the ins and outs of the main guys like Pavel or some of the superstars of the league that people want to see.”
In the off-season, center Stephen Weiss signed a five-year contract with the Red Wings. For the veteran center, the chance to play in the league’s marquee game on New Year’s Day is a bonus.
“I haven’t been able to skate on a pond since I was a young kid, so to be able to do that in front of that many people, and against the Maple Leafs for the Red Wings, it’s going to be a dream come true for me,” said Weiss, a Toronto native. “I try not to look that far ahead yet, but when you get the sheet to fill out your tickets today for it, it kind of hits home that this is actually going to happen. … It’s going to be a lot of fun.”
And the bright lights and cameras won't be a commotion for Weiss.
“I didn’t find it to be a distraction at all. For me I kind of have blinders on anyways when I get to the rink, just come in, do your thing,” Weiss said. “You definitely noticed them, but you don’t notice them. Those guys are professionals and I don’t think it will be too big of a hassle.”
Follow Bill Roose on Twitter | @Bill_Roose
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