Wings debut on HBO this Saturday

Hit show chronicles Red Wings, Maple Leafs as teams prepare for Winter Classic

Friday, 12.13.2013 / 6:00 AM
Andrea Nelson  - Editorial Assistant | DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT – There are few things that can stop Jonathan Ericsson from talking about video games. Apparently, one of those things is an HBO camera.

The HBO crew has been in Detroit filming footage for the “24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic” mini-series, and as they follow the Red Wings on and off the ice, catching their casual conversations is easier said than done.

“It’s not like I’ve been waiting for this day to come. It’s not like that. It’s going to take some time,” Ericsson said of the cameras. “I was talking to Smitty (Brendan Smith) about something (video games) and I just stopped talking. That’s just how it feels right now.

“But from what I’ve heard from other players that have been in the ‘24/7’ they told me that after a few days they really don’t think about them too much. They’re there all the time and there’s really nothing to think about. Hopefully it’s the same for us.”

Although the first few days of filming were challenging, the players have grown accustomed to the cameras, it’s only a matter of time before they forget the record button is on.

“They really start to be themselves,” said Bentley Weiner, the coordinating producer for the HBO series. “Our goal is to have them not realize the cameras are there. That’s really our goal, to blend in.’’

Wings center Stephen Weiss is already at that stage, hardly noticing the cameras until the crew zooms in for a close-up shot.

“These guys are professionals,” Weiss said. “You can barely notice they’re there. There’s a quiet time before the game when you’re getting ready and there’s a guy right in front of you tying your skates, that’s a little different. But those are little things that are a part of being in this type of series.’’

The critically acclaimed series is a dream come true for hockey fans, who will get a behind-the-scenes look at their favorite Hockeytown players beginning with the first episode which will air this Saturday at 10 p.m. EST. Crews of 10 have been embedded with the Maple Leafs and Red Wings, documenting the teams’ highs, lows and everything in between as they prepare for the Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium on Jan. 1.

“It’s a mix,” Weiner said of the show’s content. “We always document a couple games during the week, we don’t show every game. We want to show some practices, some off the ice stuff with the players, with their families. We love road trips, seeing the guys on planes, seeing them in their hotels rooms, out for dinners. If you remember the Rangers last year they played a game of credit card roulette in Buffalo. All those little gems make for great TV.’’

HBO visited Wings forward Daniel Alfredsson and his family at their Oakland County home last Sunday, chronicled one of coach Mike Babcock’s daily runs around Joe Louis Arena, clipped wireless microphones to 2-3 players during the month’s numerous practices and 13 games for exclusive footage. The film crew also accompanied the Red Wings on two road trips to New Jersey and Florida, and although they capture every moment possible, there are times when the camera stops rolling.

“Private moments,” Weiner said. “We respect a moment, if there is a moment between a coach and player that’s private, but for the most part we’ve been lucky the past two years. We try to blend in as much as we can. They hardly notice we’re there. That’s how we get great material.’’

This is the third edition of "24/7" to highlight NHL teams as they prepare for the Winter Classic. HBO followed the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins prior to the 2011 game and the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers in 2012. The footage is taken from each respective team’s city and sent to New York where it’s processed before going on air.

“What makes 24/7 so unique is how we put together a polished product essentially in six days,” Weiner said. “If we air on a Saturday, for instance, you’re going to see a Wednesday game on the show, so we have to turn it around really quickly.’’

But that’s not the only unique aspect of the show.

“It’s good for our game, good for our fans, gives them kind of inside in the locker room, takes them behind the scenes,’’ Wings forward Justin Abdelkader said.

Babcock couldn’t agree more.

“You know it’s just one of those things, they believe it’s a big seller of the game so if it’s good for the game then I’m all about the game,” he said.

And the show even has fans in the dressing room where it’s being filmed.

“Absolutely I watched them,” Weiss said of the series. “I’m a big fan of HBO stuff and they do a really, really good job with the ‘24/7’ series. I enjoyed the Winter Classic games and these ‘24/7’ behind the scenes have been awesome too. Neat to be a part of it.’’

HBO has four episodes planned for “24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the Winter Classic” with new shows airing each Saturday at 10 p.m. EST between now and Jan. 4.

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