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Lights, camera, action as HBO visits Caps practice

by Dan Rosen
ARLINGTON, Va. -- Alex Ovechkin says he's ready for HBO's cameras to enter his world, see how he lives and maybe even go to some clubs with him. The rest of the Capitals feel the same way, but they didn't expect what they saw when they arrived to work on Monday.

The production team shooting the promo for the upcoming show, "24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic" turned Kettler Capitals Iceplex into their own makeshift Hollywood studio. Monday's promotional shoot figures to the most noticeable since the HBO crew was actually staging a promo rather than chronicling the team as the HBO series unfolds later this year. The promotional shoot will be repeated Thursday with the Penguins at Southpointe Iceoplex in Canonsburg, Penn.
"I guess I didn't think it would be this crazy with this many people," defenseman Tom Poti told "I thought there would be a couple of cameras here and there, but there are like 40 guys here."

With 12 cameras and a couple of crewmen wearing skates, making it one of the more interesting days at the rink.

"The camera always goes to Ovi, but I think (this show) will put a good light on some of our other guys who are good hockey players as well. It'll also show the public the interesting characters that we have in here. I hope the guys have fun with it."
-- Brooks Laich

"I thought we were filming a full-fledged movie here," Caps coach Bruce Boudreau told "You know what, it's so great for hockey."

HBO started Monday by sending cameras on the ice at Kettler Capitals Iceplex to get some of the imagery from practice, but these were no ordinary cameras. For example, they actually put a camera on the end of a long poll so it would resemble a hockey stick.

"That's how we'll get the imagery of the puck on the hockey stick," said Damien Vena, a Line Producer for HBO Creative Services who is in charge of producing the promo shoot for "24/7." "The imagery we get here will be used to create some of the show's opening, too."

Vena said they put a camera on a dolly that was built with skates to track the players as they go up and down the ice. Normally, he said, a dolly is on a track like a train, but they had to get creative due to the ice surface.

"The ice is the track," Vena said. "It's a dolly on skates and it was created by Fisher Dolly, the people that manufacture the dollies.

"The key aspect to all of this is the grip department," Vena added. "That's the side that hangs everything and prepares everything. We're going for crazy camera angles. We want to show the world hockey in a way that you've never seen it. I don't mean the story, I mean strictly the camera angles, the visual."

When the Caps were finished with practice, HBO's team actually did turn their practice rink into a Hollywood studio by turning down all the house lights and illuminating the rink with their own lights in order to get some on-ice shots for the promo.

HBO bought four hours of ice time. They used cranes to hang cameras.

"This is for the Winter Classic, so conceptually the idea is to not identify the location," he said. "We're just in a hockey world."

Throughout the course of the day HBO was also sitting down with several key characters from the Caps' side of the story. They were granted 15 minutes to interview Ovechkin, Laich, Bruce Boudreau, George McPhee, John Carlson, Mike Green, Mike Knuble, Nicklas Backstrom, Jason Chimera, D.J. King and Eric Fehr.

HBO had a team of 10 people alone setting up and sitting in on the interview with Ovechkin. The lights and cameras were set up just outside the Capitals' ninth-floor offices by the glass that looks out onto the eighth-floor parking lot.

Ovechkin flashed his gap-tooth smile seven times as he was answering questions. They ranged from his experience playing outdoors as a kid growing up in Moscow, to his thoughts on the upcoming "24/7" show, to his rivalry with Sidney Crosby, to what he likes to listen to on his headphones -- "hip hop, dance music, Metallica, Rammstein and some Russian music."

Ovechkin told HBO he predicts Chimera and Bradley will be two personalities that shine in the show, and added don't rule out Semin even with the language barrier.

"He speaks English," Ovechkin said. "Just ask him."

HBO's producers most definitely will. These guys will leave no stone unturned in their quest to show the real life of a hockey player in the middle of his season.

"For people that don't know how good Nicky Backstrom is, hopefully it's a coming out party for him," Brooks Laich said. "The camera always goes to Ovi, but I think (this show) will put a good light on some of our other guys who are good hockey players as well. It'll also show the public the interesting characters that we have in here. I hope the guys have fun with it."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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