While the Capitals haven’t yet gotten the chance to host the Winter Classic – the NHL’s now annual New Year’s Day game held in an outside venue – getting announced as participants for the 2011 version in Pittsburgh was a solid consolation prize for Caps fans. The national spotlight and a hated rival in Sidney Crosby and the Pens will provide for some solid hangover recovery television after the clean-up from New Year’s Eve.
If three hours of outdoor hockey isn’t enough, an interesting bit of news has surfaced via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: HBO will film a mini-documentary that features mic’d up players throughout practices leading up to the games. While it isn’t likely to share the same brand as the NFL version, this approach to professional sports has helped to make the Hard Knocks style a very popular way for fans to get to know their teams. In discussing it, Puck Daddy commented why this is so big:
Despite some palpable Sid vs. Ovie fatigue amongst hockey fans, this is exactly why you book the Capitals and Penguins in the Classic: To create a pop culture phenomenon.
The Wrigley-to-Fenway Winter Classic transition was a lateral move; this is a blockbuster, to the point where HBO finds it compelling enough to build sports programming around it. The hype will be astronomical for this game; and with the Winter Classic as the centerpiece for the NHL’s next television contract negations, hopefully the ratings will match the hype.
The series is expected to be formally announced later today, details and showtimes as they become available.
Update, 1:21 – Official release from HBO is now out. The four episode series, “24/7 PENGUINS/CAPITALS: ROAD TO THE NHL WINTER CLASSIC” will premiere on December 15th on the cable network at 10 p.m.