Flyers trying for a normal 24/7
The cameras were everywhere, on the ice and off it, leading Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to make an observation about being part of HBO's 24/7, the reality series featuring his team and the New York Rangers.
The cameras were everywhere, on the ice and off it, leading Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to make this observation about being part of HBO's 24/7, the reality series featuring his team and the New York Rangers.
"It's not normal," Laviolette said. "We don't let people in the room here."
They do now.
The four-week series, which began Dec. 14, has documented the Flyers and Rangers as a prelude to Monday's Winter Classic at Citizens Bank Park. The final episode will debut on Jan. 5.
The producers have instructed Laviolette and the players to act as if the cameras aren't around - and that's what has happened, for the most part.
Of course, that has meant a succession of F-bombs from players and coaches alike, proving that many weren't inhibited about being recorded. (And many fans have been critical of the profanity.)
"The guys at HBO have been good," Laviolette said. "It's hard not to notice them in there, and at times there would be eight to nine people in there with cameras and booms."
A distraction? Actually, it seems to be a welcome diversion for the team, something to break up a relentless 82-game NHL schedule.
"You are aware they are there, but I don't think it's a big deal," Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn said. "They are very respectful of us, and we kind of go about our business."
Still, it's difficult not to notice the surroundings.
"You are aware they are there, but what comes across best is us being ourselves and the way we interact, and that is what people want to see," Coburn said.
This is the 17th 24/7 project that HBO has produced: 14 for boxing, two for hockey, and one for NASCAR. Senior producer Dave Harmon has worked on each one.
Harmon said three cameras followed both the Flyers and the Rangers. Including other workers, such as sound people, field producers, and technical support, about 25 people are with each team, he said.
The key has been to capture the behind-the-scenes interaction popular with viewers without being too obtrusive.
"The players and the viewers get to see what their lives are truly like," Harmon said.
The show has a frenetic pace. Although interviews with players were done as early as the summer, much of what is shown is shot that week.
Harmon said the crew shoots until the day before the show. The editing continues that day almost up until the telecast.
"The show is finally done about an hour before it goes on the air," Harmon said.
That's cutting it close, but it lets viewers see the most recent developments with both teams.
Much of the success of a show depends on the personalities of those involved. Clearly, the producers look for a go-to performer, and there is no question it has been Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. Whether he is explaining his theory on the solar system or describing his Siberian husky as "basically a blond girl with blue eyes. . . . basically, she's a hot girl, man," Bryzgalov has the attention of the producers and the audience.
So, while the producers don't try to force the issue, when a comment piques their interest, they will probe.
"We are a TV show and entertainment, and certainly we have our antenna up for somebody who might jump off the screen," Harmon said.
He believes that Bryzgalov has made that leap.
"He found us, and he is a star whether we are there or not," Harmon said. "To compare a Siberian husky to a beautiful woman - you don't hear things like that much."
Bryzgalov was surprised to be approached in New York last Thursday, the day after the second show, by a number of fans who enjoyed his performance.
"I didn't think it was a big deal, but people in New York were stopping me and telling me how much they liked it," the Flyers goalie said. "That was unexpected."
For Laviolette, who is all business, it probably hasn't been easy to accept the intruding cameras, but he understands that the show helps sell the sport.
"Is it distracting? It's almost irrelevant to ask the question," Laviolette said. "I think it's a fair setup, because New York has the same thing going on as we do, so it's one of those things that is what it is."
And that is a fascinating look at the world of hockey inside two rival teams.