Penguins like having role on HBO


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There will be coarse language, raw emotions, maybe a bit of gore if there is an injury.

That might be off-putting to those whose uncensored moments would be beamed into people's living rooms, but the Penguins see great benefit to participating in an HBO "24/7" reality miniseries in December and January that will chronicle them and the Washington Capitals as the rivals approach and play in one of the NHL's premier events, the outdoor Winter Classic.

"The way our league is now in terms of marketing and exposure -- or lack of marketing -- I think stuff like this is good for the league," Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik said Thursday. "Hopefully, everyone will embrace it. I know I've always been a fan of those shows."

"I think that's the one area where our league falls short compared to the other leagues -- marketing players, personalities, stuff like that. I think anything like that, it's hard to look upon it negatively."

The often gritty, gripping series, which previously delved into boxing and NASCAR, will debut "24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road to the NHL Winter Classic" at 10 p.m. Dec. 15. Filming will begin in early December. There will be four episodes, the final one focusing on the Jan. 1 outdoor game at Heinz Field.

These peeks behind the scenes will not be during training camp and exhibition games, such as the one the Penguins will play tonight at Columbus.

Dave Harmon, senior producer for "24/7" and "Hard Knocks," the popular and sometimes controversial show that follows NFL teams, said this will be the first time HBO gets cozy with teams during the regular season.

Harmon promised the shows would be "as unedited and unvarnished as possible," and he and Penguins CEO David Morehouse stressed that the only time material might be withheld is if it would subject the clubs to a competitive disadvantage.

Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury frets a little -- "We're allowed to swear, right, in the show?" he said -- but figures he and the others will loosen up as they get used to cameras following them at times and places that usually are private.

Winger Tyler Kennedy is glad the cable network did not chose another club or a different sport.

"No, I'd rather watch myself," he said. "I'll probably tape it, and then, when you get older, you look back and remember what everything was all about."

Orpik was in Wilkes-Barre several years ago when the Penguins' minor league team was the subject of a season-long documentary series, "Chasing Dreams," that aired locally on FSN Pittsburgh. He remembered players not only getting comfortable with the cameras but becoming buddies with the videographers.

There seemed to be a consensus in the Penguins' locker room that outgoing forward Max Talbot would become a star, although he downplayed that notion.

"We've got some great personalities on our team," general manager Ray Shero said. "I know Washington does as well. ... This isn't going to be G-rated, I'm sure. It's an emotional sport, which makes it exciting."

The Capitals seem pumped about the project.

"We have told them that we will say 'no' to no request," Washington owner Ted Leonsis told reporters.

The Capitals' Mike Knuble and Eric Fehr told the Washington Post their team would be more entertaining than the Penguins.

To which Penguins forward Mike Rupp replied: "I think we're naturally more interesting. I think they might have to try a little bit. If they want to do that, I think the great fans of HBO will figure that out quickly."

Considering he is often described as the face of the NHL, is highly private and takes his responsibility as a role model seriously, Penguins captain Sidney Crosby was surprisingly open to the idea of participating in "24/7," which also will follow players away from the rink, including in their homes.

"I'm not any different than anyone else," said Crosby, who sat out practice Thursday because of a sore hip flexor. "If they get a better look, maybe they'll get to know me better. I'm not worried. I'm cranky just like everyone else has cranky days."

What if he is captured dropping the ultimate swear word on camera?

"I'm human," Crosby said, and smiled.


NOTES -- The Penguins made their first roster cuts. Forward Tyler Brown and goaltender Alex Pechurskiy were returned to their junior teams, and 13 players were reassigned to Wilkes-Barre: forwards Jesse Boulerice, Chris Collins, Joey Haddad, Nick Petersen, Ryan Schnell, Zack Sill, Alex Smigelski, Keven Veilleux and Geoff Walker, defensemen Jason DeSantis, Derek Peltier and Carl Sneep and goaltender Patrick Killeen. ... As of Thursday afternoon, the NHL had not requested a hearing with Orpik for his hit Wednesday night on Detroit's Johan Franzen. Orpik declined to discuss the hit.


For more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus . Shelly Anderson: shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721


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