NHL Mid-Week with Illegal Curve airs Wednesdays from 6pm-8pm CT on TSN 1290 Winnipeg. On the most recent episode, Dave Harmon, the Senior Producer on NHL 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic joined the show for an interview. The following quotes are transcribed and paraphrased from the latest episode available at IllegalCurve.com. To listen to the full show, you can download it directly at IllegalCurve.com or subscribe to the podcast on iTunes.
IC: How long does it take for the players to get comfortable with the presence of the HBO cameras?
Dave Harmon: We find that teams like the Toronto Maple leafs are used to having cameras around in general, and then to have us there every minute of every day takes about three or four days for that to happen. We’ve learned this over the years with our boxing and the hockey 24/7, so we start taping a good week before there is anything you wind up seeing on the show. So by the time the last week came and went, the players were pretty much ignoring the cameras.
IC: How do hockey players compare to football players in terms of their comfort levels around the camera?
Harmon: Hockey players are similar to football players in that they enjoy having the cameras there. They think it is a nice opportunity for people to get to see them and their personalities, and people don’t always get under the helmet. A big difference with Hard Knocks is that a lot of the players which we are profiling there are trying to make the team, and they can be cut at any time let alone at the end of training camp. They are a little more on their guard. In the middle of the NHL season, very few players are worrying about their roster position and it is much more about their day-to-day existence.
IC: Have you thought of focusing a show on an NHL training camp?
Harmon: I am happier with the regular season. There is no other show that we do that has the regular season, so you can’t really replicate what we have with our microphones on. The games; where both of the coaches are mic’d, the referees are mic’d and 4 or 5 players from each team are mic’d. The intensity of a preseason game is nothing compared to a regular season game, and I don’t want to give that up.
IC: How much video is actually shot in a given week? How many hours go into editing and producing one show per week?
Harmon: We probably shoot around 75 hours a week per team. That is because we have more than one camera in each camp. If we are shooting 25 hours over a week with three cameras, that is about 75 hours. So, what comes back to New York when we edit it, is about 500 hours over the course of four weeks of footage when you include the Winter Classic itself in it.
IC: Before you start filming both teams, do you know who the characters are? Or is that determined after you gather some footage that this is a guy who is someone who we are going to focus on throughout the show?
Harmon: To a point, yes. With the Maple Leafs we want to be talking to the stars, certainly someone like Phil Kessel, a player who we knew we wanted to speak to right away, and Dion Phaneuf. When we knew he was married to Elisha Cuthbert, that is a little interesting to us, so we check them off. On the other side, Henrik Zetterberg is hurt but we want people like him or a Pavel Datsyuk in the show because they are big names. Once we start hearing from the teams of some other personalities, and people who might be interesting to the show, we shoot them and see what comes from it. We don’t really predetermine that, it has to be interesting. People may have told us that Bryzgalov would be an interesting interview but no one would have predicted that he would have started talking about the making of the universe.
IC: In terms of strategic information, how do you guard against too much of the team’s propriety information into the episodes?
Harmon: That is no problem at all. Between Hard Knocks and this show, the one thing we make an agreement with the team on is that we are going to show everything, and if they’re losing, they’re losing. We’ll show you losing and we’ll show you winning. But we will not give the rest of the NHL or the NFL a competitive advantage from seeing those typed plans, so they let us tape everything, but after we tape something they may say “from the point we were discussing this strategy on the power play, from that point, you really can’t use that.” It is hard for us to argue why we would want to put any team we are following in a competitive disadvantage in the league. There is nothing in it for anyone with that.
IC: What has changed with this series? On the production side, what are you trying to change yourselves, or is it changing organically?
Harmon: I think the thing that has changed the most with this season, is that because we always shoot leading up to the Winter Classic, that means that Christmas and New Years fall on the same time on every show. We don’t want people to start predicting what is going to happen every show. Okay, this is the show where the team has its Christmas party, this is the show where the team goes on the road for New Years and plays a prank on one of the rookies. That starts to get predictable, so I think we might be avoiding subjects like that this year if we have more compelling things that the players or the team are doing at that point.
IC: Does the NHL consult you before they select the teams put into the Winter Classic?
Harmon: We wish we had that much influence, but I think the Winter Classic is bigger than HBO. They what, sold out the big house in Michigan with one hundred and something thousand people? And NBC is throwing it on national television? I’m not saying that we are an after thought, but we are close to, “oh by the way, these are the teams you got this year.” We have no complaints. My God, between the Penguins and Capitals, Rangers and Flyers, and now Red Wings and Maple Leafs they are doing a pretty good job for us.
IC: Any concern at all with a Canadian team being involved in terms of the interest with the United States?
Answer: One of the advantages of HBO is that we are a subscription service, so we don’t have to sell advertising based on ratings. So, Rogers can show the show in Canada, and that’s great! And we can show the show and our people who pay their good money per month for HBO are happy, If there are people who aren’t following the Toronto Maple Leafs, maybe they are still NHL fans, or maybe they are fans of having behind the scene access, or maybe they’re Elisha Cuthbert fans? you never know.
IC: With the NHL expanding their stadium series and making more showcase events in the NHL during the regular season, is there any thought towards expanding the 24/7 series as well?
Harmon: We would love to expand it but I would prefer to focus not on outdoor games, but how interesting this show would be in the playoffs. I would love to see that. It is only a dream at the moment.
The entire interview is available here at IllegalCurve.com or subscribe to the Illegal Curve Hockey Show on iTunes.
The Illegal Curve Hockey Show airs Saturdays from 12pm-3pm CT on TSN 1290 Winnipeg, NHL Mid-Week with Illegal Curve airs Wednesdays from 6pm-7pm CT on TSN 1290 Winnipeg.
The article above was written and transcribed by Illegal Curve’s intern Jesse Pollock, follow him on twitter @JPolly22