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Rangers, Flyers join fans in anticipating '24/7' debut

by Dan Rosen /
NEW YORK -- Rangers fans that think Dan Girardi is all business all the time may have a different opinion of the defenseman shortly after 10 p.m. ET Wednesday night, when the first episode of HBO's "24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" is scheduled to air.

"I think he's first star, for sure," said Michael Del Zotto, Girardi's neighbor in the Rangers' dressing room. "I think 'G' gets the Broadway hat for HBO."

Henrik Lundqvist agreed, saying he expects Girardi to be HBO's breakout star because of his one-liners. However, Mike Rupp is looking for Artem Anisimov to be the Rangers biggest surprise.

"It's a great tool for the fans, this '24/7.' I enjoy that they focus on hockey, but they also focus on the things we do off the ice, just everyday living, things that are sometimes forgotten about. It's cool that everybody gets to see what we see every day." -- Rangers' Mike Rupp

"If they're on their game, they're putting the mic on Artie as much as they can," Rupp told "He could just ask you to go to lunch and it could be the funniest thing in the world. His English is really good, but sometimes he'll just word a sentence in a way that just makes you chuckle. It could be missing a few adjectives."

Chances are HBO has enough footage of both Girardi and Anisimov to add a comedic element to episode one, but what makes the final cut for Wednesday night's show remains a mystery that the Rangers and Flyers are anxious to see solved.

The teams that will compete in the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2 at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia have been getting the inside experience with separate nine-member camera crews following their every move since Dec. 5. When it's all said and done, HBO will have shot roughly 750 hours of footage over 30 consecutive days for four hour-long episodes (Dec. 14, Dec. 21, Dec. 28, Jan. 4).

HBO has a 20-member production team based in New York that is charged with assembling each show. On average, the final product isn't ready until just a few hours before air time.

If it's anything like last year's Emmy Award-winning series featuring the Penguins and Capitals, people both inside and outside the hockey world will be talking about it on Twitter throughout the episodes and around their offices Thursday morning.

"I didn't watch it last year, but when we found out we were doing this I got the DVDs from HBO and watched it, and it was just really well-done," Flyers forward Scott Hartnell said. "I don't think anyone really has a clue what we go through with things like travel, warm-up for games, how guys tape their sticks, and all that kind of stuff, so it's pretty neat to have that inside scoop."

It doesn't get much more inside than following a player to practice, which HBO did with Del Zotto the morning of Dec. 6.


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Del Zotto crashed hard into the boards in a game against Toronto the night before, and since he had agreed to wear a microphone, the crew picked up on him stumbling around, trying to catch his breath, and figured they better follow the story by following the player the next morning.

So there he was, driving on the West Side Highway in his small two-door sports coupe with a camera focused on him and two crew members riding along, asking him questions about how he felt after his unfriendly meeting with the boards roughly 12 hours earlier.

"I had one camera guy in the front seat and one guy in the back, but it's a two-door car so it's small in the back and my seat was pushed up as I'm driving, so uncomfortable," Del Zotto said, laughing at the experience -- and imagine what other drivers on the West Side Highway must have thought.

"They were following me because it was after the game that I got hit into the boards," he continued. "I was talking about pain and how I was feeling, and then halfway through the ride I pulled over and they got an outside shot of them following alongside me.

"It's just another neat experience. I know it's going to keep getting more intense and more intense as we build up to the Winter Classic."

Anisimov can probably expect HBO to show his controversial goal celebration against Tampa Bay on Dec. 8, when he pretended to turn his stick into a rifle, angering the Lightning and setting off a mini-brawl.

What will he think if he does see it again Wednesday night?

"Nothing," he told "I forget already. It's history."

Anisimov insists he wasn't trying to play to the cameras on that celebration, mainly because he doesn't even like to see himself on camera. He admitted it'll be weird when he watches the show Wednesday night.

"I'm trying to be myself," he said. "I think people want to watch who we really are, not make something special."

Rupp and Flyers center Maxime Talbot already knew how to act like themselves around the cameras before HBO started shooting for this year's series. Both played for the Penguins last season and were featured in the show, especially around the holidays.

You may remember the Christmas sweater Talbot wore to the Penguins holiday party. You also may recall seeing Rupp dressed up as an elf on Christmas morning, going sleigh riding on his front lawn with his kids.

"If you're going to do it, you've got to be yourself, and if that means looking like a bit of a dork, so be it. I guess that's me," Rupp said. "It's a great tool for the fans, this '24/7.' I enjoy that they focus on hockey, but they also focus on the things we do off the ice, just everyday living, things that are sometimes forgotten about. It's cool that everybody gets to see what we see every day."

"You have to be yourself, do what you do," Talbot added. "There is nothing that we are going to change because there are two cameras in the room. It's just us being us."

But it's how HBO portrays the players being themselves that is of great interest to seemingly everyone involved.

"I know what's happening in here, but in the end I don't know what parts they're going to show and what they won't," Lundqvist told "This is what we do every day, and you can angle it in a lot of different ways. Last year they managed to really show the grind. We have to go through a lot of hard work, and you could see that through the show."

The grind, though, can be fun, especially when you're winning. Both the Flyers and Rangers have been doing plenty of winning lately, so expect to see some first-class hijinks in episode one.

If that's the case, the Rangers say Girardi should be front and center.

"If I had to pick one guy to follow, he's it," Lundqvist said. "I don't know how many interesting things he does, but he says a lot of funny things."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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