ARLINGTON, Va. -- A usual scene unfolded prior to the Washington Capitals practice Monday morning when goaltending coach Mitch Korn huddled together Braden Holtby and Justin Peters, preparing them for a 30-minute workout.
As defensemen Jack Hillen and Nate Schmidt made D-to-D passes while the goaltenders cradled medicine balls and cut side-to-side, a cameraman kneeled behind at each point, filming the entire drill and turning an ordinary occurrence into a potential television segment.
That is the Capitals’ lives for the next several weeks as a 15-person crew from EPIX has arrived to chronicle their preparation for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic against the Chicago Blackhawks on Jan. 1.
A usual scene unfolded prior to the Washington Capitals practice Monday morning when goaltending coach Mitch Korn huddled together Braden Holtby and Justin Peters, preparing them for a 30-minute workout. (Photo: Washington Capitals)
“They’re doing a pretty good job of being sneaky,” forward Eric Fehr said. “They’ve caught us a few times where we don’t even know they’re there and they’ve got you mic’d.”
The four-part miniseries debuts Dec. 16 at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 CT. Each episode of “EPIX Presents Road To The NHL Winter Classic” will stream live as it premieres on a variety of digital platforms, including NHL.com.
Several members of the Capitals have prior experience with the all-access nature of the program. They, along with the Pittsburgh Penguins, were the original subjects of HBO’s “24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic” prior to the 2011 game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh. Those players who were in Washington four years ago have learned to handle the presence of the cameras.
“I think the biggest thing you learn is that as much as they’re filming, they don’t use most of the stuff they get,” Fehr said. “You’re always nervous, there are cameras on you, ‘Oh they’re going to use this. Watch what you’re saying.’ I’d say 95 percent of the stuff they film they throw out and they take a select five percent. It’s not really a big deal when the cameras are there.”
The producer of that first season, 52-time Emmy winner Ross Greenburg, is once again in charge of sifting through a week’s worth of unfiltered footage shot during 16-hour days and formatting it into an hour-long episode.
"We’re looking at this series as go back to your roots," Greenburg said last week. "Make it really in-depth. Go real behind-the-scenes, dig up some really interesting humanitarian stories and focus on what makes these great athletes so unique. Not only on the ice, because I think we capture the sport like few have by bringing those cameras down and putting those microphones on them and going into those locker rooms and training rooms and seeing how a hockey player and his coaches attack this sport on a daily basis.
"I really think we have to go behind the scenes but also create some memorable storylines and carry them through for four weeks and really rivet the viewer."
What intrigues Greenburg about the Capitals in particular is the maturation process of the organization since he last captured them. As an example, he spoke of his excitement to follow Alex Ovechkin “the matured mentor” as opposed to “the kid who was flying around four or five years ago.”
The colorful personality of Barry Trotz as a coach and father will also be a predominant Washington storyline.
“He’s very down to earth; he’s a player’s coach and I think that you can already see the bonding taking place between the superstars like Ovechkin and [Nicklas] Backstrom and others, [Jason] Chimera and others, and him,” Greenburg said of Trotz. “I think that he’s setting a tone and creating leaders amongst his players and we want to showcase that."
The embedded crew, mostly strangers to the Capitals when they arrived Friday, has already begun to blend in.
“The great thing about our crew that we have with us is that they’re very personable,” Trotz said. “They really cheer for us. It’s sort of funny in a short period of time, everybody knows them, I think they’re comfortable with them. … It’s been fine. It’s been good. I look forward to seeing the first show.”