There are very few things you can call definite in hockey, but watching two teams play outdoors on New Year's Day is one of them. And no matter who is on the ice, it always makes for a great story.
"There always needs to be a compelling story," is Ross Greenburg's credo for picking his subjects. And while professional sports never seem to be lacking those, he admits that doing a show in real-time, as opposed to having history on your side, can prove difficult, and you have to hope those stories surface. Thankfully for his new show that premiers December 16th on Epix, the four-episode, behind-the-scenes and all-access Road to the Winter Classic, the buildup to the yearly hockey tradition is a story in itself. The players, coaches, and owners of the Chicago Blackhawks and Washington Capitals only make it that much more interesting.
If anybody knows how to find those subjects, it's Greenburg. If you aren't familiar, just Google his name and you'll quickly find a list of familiar sports documentaries and films, some of which helped Greenburg net his 51 Emmys during his time as first executive producer, then president of HBO Sports. It's safe to say if the guy smells a story, whether it already happened or it's one in the works, you should pay attention.
Filmed in real-time, each episode will be turned over to Epix to air just as soon as each episode is edited. It's a formula Greenburg has worked with before with the HBO series 24/7. While the outcome of the game and many of the factors leading up to it remain unknown, Greenburg and his team (who shot some preliminary footage of both teams in November) will no doubt catch on camera two squads of professional hockey player treating this single game like it's the most important thing in the world. Because while points-wise, the game itself is really just one of the 82 on the schedule for these two teams, for some of the best players in the world, Winter Classic bragging rights hold almost as much meaning as any playoff matchup aside from playing to hoist the Stanley Cup since it recalls the ponds and backyard rinks many of them grew up playing on.
Greenburg points to the footage his team shot of Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin firing hundred of pucks by himself, an almost mediative practice that the superstar has no doubt done thousands of time in his life, as something that takes on a bigger meaning when we see just how much extra time last year's goal scoring leader spends preparing for this one matchup against the flourishing dynasty from the Windy City. It might only get a few seconds of airtime in the finished product what with the unpredictable nature of sports and the many twists and turns the season can take in the coming weeks before the game itself, but Road to the Winter Classic will no doubt showcase just how much this single game means to everybody involved.
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