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Capitals back in spotlight with 'Hockey Diaries'

by Corey Masisak
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Whether it was the raw emotion of Braden Holtby's first NHL win or Matt Hendricks' special brand of mathematics, "Hockey Diaries: Change the Game" takes fans inside the sport in a unique and mesmerizing audio documentary.

"Change the Game" is the third installment of Hockey Diaries from producers Gemma Hooley and Chris Nelson of Media Chameleon, a non-profit production company "dedicated to innovative and sound-rich media projects on the air and online." The hour-long documentary debuts Monday night on XM's NHL Home Ice at 6 p.m. ET, to be proceeded by interviews with Hendricks and Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.

"I'm really excited, actually," said Holtby, a goaltender with the Capitals. "Gemma and Chris did an outstanding job. We listened to it about a week ago and they really did a fantastic job. It might only seem like an hour but they probably put times hundreds of hours into it to make it work."

Added Hendricks: "Chris and Gemma did a wonderful job. Obviously we didn't get the end result we wanted at the end of the season, but the amount of work and effort they put into that is phenomenal and I thought they did a great job."

The first Hockey Diaries documentary featured forward Brooks Laich and defenseman Karl Alzner from the Capitals during the 2008-09 season, while defenseman Tyler Sloan and forward Mike Knuble were featured for the 2009-10 campaign.

This installment focuses on Hendricks, a training camp tryout who quickly earns a place on the team and proves to be a vital role player as a leader in the dressing room, and his willingness to sacrifice his body on the ice, and Holtby, a young goaltender who experiences the extreme highs and lows of life in the NHL.

"Content-wise, for me I was really excited to have a goaltender aspect to this because I thought we could pick at not just with Braden but with [coach] Dave Pryor about coaching goaltenders, about being a goaltender and the pressures goaltenders obviously like to put themselves in," Hooley said. "The biggest difference was having a goaltender, having someone like Matt -- we've never had someone who plays a fighting role on the team, either -- there was a lot to more to explore.

"We started working in different forms of multimedia so there was a lot of digital video this year that we haven't done in the past. Chris is always looking for different ways to look forward and different sounds so it is not the same sounds each year."

Hooley and Nelson spent the entire 2010-11 season interviewing the two players after practices and games, but Holtby and Hendricks also kept personal audio diaries. It was a long process for the two producers to pare down all of the content into an hour-long story. They also had plenty of extra audio and video content on their web site,

"It is safe to say we have hundreds of hours of material," Nelson said. "There are the diary recordings, the general media scrums that we record, and then also don't forget that for any game that we feature we go back and listen to all the television play-by-play calls and all the radio play-by-plays calls and log that information to find the best way to paint that picture. We have just piles and piles of document files on our computer. It is pretty much every single word that was uttered about them over the course of the season."

Boudreau also agreed to do a personal diary for Hooley and Nelson this past season. At the beginning of each campaign, they have to pick out subjects who will be compelling for a season-long inside look, but they also have to find willing participants as well.

The overwhelmingly positive critical claim for Hockey Diaries, both from hockey fans and from inside the Capitals' dressing room, has been a big help for them.

"To date it has become easier and I think that is because so much of succeeding at this format is getting players to trust what we're trying to do and trust the process and trust us," Hooley said. "The more teammates they have to tell them it is OK, the better it is. We hope that will be the case again this year."

Added Nelson: "In the case of Matt, Tyler [Sloan] was his roommate through training camp and through most of the season and they are good friends, so we were able to talk to Tyler to put in a good word for us."

Hendricks became a big hit inside the Washington dressing room, and that plays out during the course of the documentary. He was also one of the stars of HBO's documentary series, "24/7" which featured the Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins leading up to the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic.

More specifically, Hendricks' eye, bloodshot and stitched up after a fight with New York's Sean Avery, was one of the defining images of the show.

"I think it was very fortunate for us how quickly Matt became a fixture on this team," Hooley said. "People came up to us during the year and said, 'Man, you guys got so lucky with picking Hendricks and Holtby.' Part of me is like, 'Luck?'

"With the eye thing, as we say in the piece, that became sort of an iconic moment in the series, and that was a big deal."

Added Nelson: "We spend a lot time trying to pick the right players."

"Hockey Diaries: Change the Game" re-airs on XM's NHL Home Ice on Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. It will also be available to listen and download Tuesday on the Capitals' team website.

It is an incredible 60 minutes of funny stories, emotional highs and lows and insight into how a hockey team ticks. Each installment has been as compelling as or more so than the last, and it will be an informative and enjoyable listen for any fan of the sport.

"It was different at first, but the more I talked into [the recorder] I got more comfortable," Holtby said. "I think the great part was when Gemma and Chris would ask us questions. They asked questions that fans really would like now -- not everything general, but stuff about life. That's something you don't always get in interviews. They did a great job with that."

Added Hendricks: "It was a test at times to stay up on it. The rigors of the season sort of get at you, but they were there all the time, too, getting stuff after games, after practices. Sometimes you didn't necessarily want to see them that day and they'd sense that. But they did all the work, and it is tremendous."
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