-- HBO's film crew only was noticeable if you were staring directly at the Pittsburgh Penguins
bench Wednesday morning.
On the ice, the Penguins zipped through a crisp 30-minute workout with no interruptions, no distractions. They retreated to their luxurious dressing room inside Consol Energy Center, where a large contingent of media (the Maple Leafs are here) was waiting for them.
If HBO's crew was in the room, nobody was the wiser.
Oh sure, they were probably back in the training room or coaches room, areas that are restricted to the attending media, but we're hardly talking about an invasive presence.
"They're going to forget we're even there. Believe it or not, the players tend to kind of say, 'Oh, here comes that camera again,' and just slough it off and go about their daily business. That's when we get our best stuff." -- HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg
That's precisely what HBO, the NHL, the Penguins and the Washington Capitals
were hoping for when they all got together to hatch the plans for the upcoming reality series, "24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the Winter Classic," which debuts Dec. 15 at 10 p.m. ET.
The access HBO is getting here and in Washington is unprecedented, but it doesn't appear to be distracting to the players at all.
"Yeah, you don't really see them that much," Penguins forward Maxime Talbot
told NHL.com. "They're just there. You don't pay attention to them that much. They're just filming and we don't notice them too much."
Wednesday was HBO's fourth day with the Penguins and third on the ice. They were here for the team's holiday party on Sunday, followed them through a game day Monday, a practice day Tuesday and now another game day Wednesday. They won't stop filming the Penguins until after the 2011 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day.
said the players are starting to get more comfortable with the film crew around.
"You have a camera guy, a guy holding the screen, another guy with the mic -- so I don't know if they blend in, but I think we've gotten used to it," Crosby said. "Some guys have never dealt with that before while some of us have dealt with it before. So it's a little easier for some, but for some guys it might have taken a couple of days of getting used to having a camera in your face when you're tying your skates or eating your breakfast."
Let's not get crazy here -- it's not as if HBO's presence around the team isn't noticeable at all.
"Right now you come and have a coffee and a camera is in your face, so it feels different," forward Matt Cooke
told NHL.com. "I wouldn't say you hold back, but you might not sit around for as long and chat about whatever, the Flyers, the Leafs for however long we might have before."
Cooke envisions that changing as the players get used to the idea that HBO isn't your typical media outlet following the club.
"We've been taught, for lack of a better word, to approach the media in a certain way and not to give a lot of ammo, keep it generic, all the clichés, that kind of stuff," he said. "Now all of a sudden you have a camera crew there and you think it's the media, but it's not. But it feels like it because that's what you associate a camera with. Hopefully we'll get past that and things will become a little more second nature."
History suggests that will happen soon.
HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg told NHL.com that past productions of "24/7" and "Hard Knocks" have shown him that the first couple of days of shooting are always the most daunting for the athletes, but "the players tend to ignore us after a while."
"They're going to forget we're even there," Greenburg added. "Believe it or not, the players tend to kind of say, 'Oh, here comes that camera again,' and just slough it off and go about their daily business. That's when we get our best stuff."
Cooke said it helps that the members of HBO's Pittsburgh crew appear to be professional and courteous.
"They say hello and they're polite for sure, but for the most part they just want to be as if there is a camera on the wall," he said. "They don't want to be noticed or seen too much."
But they do want a good story.
So, have they gotten one yet?
"I don't know," Talbot said with a smile. "We'll see what they edit and what they put in the show, you know."
We'll see on Dec. 15.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl