No doubt this will be unusual being filmed in midseason. But the cable network has done great work on its 24/7 series in the past, going behind the scenes with NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson, boxers Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr., and most recently, the New York Jets in Hard Knocks. Now HBO is putting together a couple of marquee teams, not to mention the NHL's two best players and heated rivals in Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, as they prepare for their New Year's Day Winter Classic showdown. It has all the earmarks of must-see-TV.
|Initially concerned about the distraction, Caps coach Bruce Boudreau sees benefits in the HBO film. (US Presswire)|
Despite struggles by a few individual franchises, 2009-10 was actually pretty successful overall for the league from a business perspective, enough for the salary cap ceiling to rise this season. It helped obviously having a Stanley Cup Finals featuring major-market Chicago and Philadelphia because it brought record network ratings for NBC. That was not long after the stirring effort by Team USA at the Olympics exposed the game to a much wider audience, and strong ratings for last January's Winter Classic proved that event is a saleable product as well.
This series will be, too.
News: Carey Price feels the wrath of Habs fans.
Views: And he better get used to it because Price won't be cut any slack in Montreal this season. He's the organization's choice, and at 23, still young enough to live up to the promise of being the fifth overall pick a few years back. But Canadiens fans became enamored with Jaroslav Halak last season after he took over the starting job and led Montreal to stunning upsets over Washington and Pittsburgh in the playoffs. The reaction in Montreal when Halak was traded to St. Louis in June for prospects was not good, and Price didn't help himself by giving up four goals on nine shots in the preseason home opener this week. This could be a very long season for him.
News: David Booth hits the ice skating.
Views: No doubt the offensively challenged Panthers were thrilled to see their best goal scorer bury the puck a couple of times in his first game of the preseason, but not as much as they were after he shook off a big hit from Boston's Zdeno Chara -- once they stopped holding their breath. Booth was playing for the first time since suffering a second concussion last March. His first one came last October when Mike Richards of the Flyers clocked him from the blind side. All told, Booth missed 54 games last season, but says he feels fine and if the game against the Bruins is any indication, he seems to be.
News: Bruins deny Marc Savard is out for the season.
Views: But Boston just can't say when the playmaking center will be back. Savard is again suffering from post-concussion symptoms, the result of a blindside hit from Pittsburgh's Matt Cooke in March that was as bad, if not worse than Richards' hit on Booth. Savard came back during the second round of the playoffs and was a factor, but was sent home from training camp after being diagnosed with the symptoms. It has been a rough summer for Savard, whose new long-term contract extension was at one time in danger of being de-registered by the league during the Ilya Kovalchuk investigation. Through it all, Savard was rumored to be on his way to Toronto via trade, a deal that now seems likely to have been impeded by his medical situation.
News: Columbus re-signs Steve Mason for two years.
Views: This deal makes sense for both sides in terms of money and length. Mason will get $5.8 million over the life of the deal, which averages out to more than the Habs' Price got on his new deal, the Jackets will get to see if Mason is really a franchise goalie before they lock in. Mason will be just 24 when this contract ends and will still be a restricted free agent for two years, so Columbus will have every opportunity to keep him. And if Mason plays like the rookie of the year he was in 2009 instead of the jinxed sophomore, he'll be in line for big money to stay put.
They said it
"We'll look for the most compelling characters. [Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby] are going to be as big a part of this series as is warranted but we certainly are not going to focus the content of this four-part series around two players. That would be moronic." -- HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg.