NHL, HBO announce 24/7 series featuring Washington Capitals, Pittsburgh Penguins and NHL Winter Classic

By Dan Rosen  - Senior Writer
Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin are known for holding nothing back on the ice. Come December, when HBO's cameras start rolling and the two superstar captains take leading roles in a real-life documentary about the NHL's best present-day rivalry, the world will find out how "The Kid" and "Ovi" prepare to go all out.

It should be revealing. It will be entertaining.

The NHL and HBO Sports announced Thursday their partnership for a groundbreaking, four-episode series as part of the network's 12-time Emmy Award-winning "24/7" reality TV franchise that will go deep into the inner workings of the Capitals-Penguins rivalry leading up to the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, which will be played Jan. 1 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.

HBO Sports' cameras will have unprecedented access to film "24/7 Penguins/Capitals Road to the Winter Classic." It's the first time HBO Sports will divide its cameras between two teams and also the first time the network will document teams in the middle of their regular seasons.

The series will debut with a show Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. ET with an encore at 11. Ensuing episodes will debut at 10 p.m. ET on the subsequent Wednesdays -- Dec. 22, 29 and Jan. 5 -- all with an encore at 11. All four episodes will have multiple replay dates on HBO, and the series also will be available on HBO On Demand.

The Penguins and Caps meet for the first time in 2010-11 at Verizon Center on Dec. 23, followed by the Winter Classic showdown nine days later.

The final episode will include exclusive, behind-the-scenes footage from the event at Heinz Field.

"Teaming up with the 12-time Emmy Award-winning and much acclaimed HBO '24/7' series gives us an incredible opportunity to bring our fans even deeper inside the two model hockey organizations during the regular season as we lead into the 2011 Bridgestone Winter Classic," NHL Chief Operating Officer John Collins said in a statement. "In just three short years the Winter Classic has become so well established on the national sports calendar. It's truly a New Year’s Day tradition. Uniting HBO's amazing reality series with one of sport's greatest rivalries in an outdoor setting in front of 65,000 raucous fans will make this Winter Classic the most anticipated one yet."

HBO Sports' "24/7" franchise has been called "the best sports program on television, bar none," by Newsday and was lauded as "the best sports reality show on television" by the St. Petersburg Times. Newsday also has called the Winter Classic "the best idea the NHL has had in years."

HBO debuted its "24/7" franchise in 2007 with the "De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7," tracking the two boxing stars in the run up to their much anticipated fight. It has since produced seven more boxing installments and, last January, HBO Sports extended the franchise with "24/7 Jimmie Johnson: Race to Daytona."

HBO Sports took home five trophies at the 2010 Sports Emmy Awards for production excellence, including awards for Outstanding Edited Sports Special, Outstanding Camera Work and Outstanding Writing. Its 12 Emmys make it the most-decorated sports program during the past three years.

HBO Sports will begin filming its promo spots next week and will again turn the cameras on in mid-November in both D.C. and Pittsburgh. The network won't begin tracking the daily lives of the Penguins and Capitals until December so the series will be timely.

Ross Greenburg, the president of HBO Sports, called teaming with the NHL "a perfect fit."

"The '24/7' franchise is fashioned on larger-than-life personalities, engaging storylines and unrestricted access," Greenburg said in a statement. "With Sidney Crosby leading the Penguins and Alex Ovechkin leading the Capitals we have all the ingredients for a dynamic show that will take viewers deep inside professional hockey and set the stage for the Winter Classic."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

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