BOSTON — With profanity-laced tirades from coaches, microphones picking up in-game, ice-level conversations and complete behind-the-scenes access to the Penguins and Capitals as they prepare for this season's Winter Classic, HBO's 24/7 program has been a dream come true for hockey fans.
For the players, it's been more of a mixed blessing.
"I've never been a big camera guy, so it's tough sometimes," said Washington defenseman John Erskine. "But you get used to it."
Washington coach Bruce Boudreau, who supplied the bulk of the profanities for Wednesday's first episode, has also become accustomed to the presence of the HBO cameras.
"They're there," said Boudreau. "You know they're around. I think we're kind of used to it now. It doesn't bother us and I don't think we act any different than we normally would. At first it was, 'Wow, they're allowed in here and they're allowed in here.' But now, they're second nature."
Boudreau may have gotten a little too comfortable around the cameras though, as his salty language while addressing his club in the midst of a seven-game losing streak not only made him a cable star, but also drew a rebuke from his mother.
"The big difference with that is that normally cameras would never be allowed in there," said Boudreau of his colorful language. "That goes on in every dressing room on every team in every sport at this level. It's because they're second nature. If this was the first week I definitely wouldn't have been anywhere near as passionate. But at that point we had seen them for two straight weeks, so they were there but so be it. This was what had to be said. I don't talk like that normally, but it just comes out of your mouth when you're mad. My mom talked to me about it, so I'll be OK."
Erskine wasn't fazed by his coach's choice of words, or the fact that they were aired for the world to see.
"It's HBO, so it's no holds barred," said Erskine. "You don't watch what you say, but you try to be normal and act how you would if there wasn't cameras around."
Erskine admitted he eagerly tuned in to see the debut. He liked what he saw, but he hopes the storylines of the Caps struggling while the Penguins keep rattling off wins will be reversed in later episodes.
"I watched it," said Erskine. "It's tough watching us in the skid that we're in, but HBO is doing a real good job I think. It's turning out pretty good. Hopefully, it gets the attention of some non-hockey fans, and we get some new fans on board."
It's also drawn the attention of rival clubs, as the show was the talk of the Boston locker room after Saturday's morning skate at the Garden, where the Bruins were preparing to take on the Capitals that night.
Some Bruins were eager for a chance to be in the spotlight, while others feared having a miscue broadcast for the world to see.
"Hopefully I'm not on the highlights for it," said rookie defenseman Steven Kampfer. "Hopefully I'm doing something right out there if I show up on it."
The always quotable Shawn Thornton would probably be the breakout star if the Bruins were ever the subject of the HBO series, but the Bruins tough guy wanted no part of this production and vowed not to pay any attention to the extra cameras focused on Saturday's game.
"The cameras aren't on us, they're on them," said Thornton. "It's a non-factor. We have to focus on playing the game, not trying to get on HBO. Who cares about that. This isn't an episode of Entourage, it's 24/7."
And it's the best thing about hockey put on film since Slap Shot, even if the Bruins aren't the featured players.
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