Mention the names Dave Schultz, Eric Lindros or Bobby Clarke to fans of the New York Rangers or Philadelphia Flyers, and you'll no doubt conjure images of dirty hits, unsportsmanlike conduct and bad blood.
It's that type of rivalry HBO hopes to tap into with the four-episode reality series "24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic," premiering Wednesday, Dec. 14. Set against the backdrop of the Jan. 2 outdoor game between these teams at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, it captures two avowed Atlantic Division adversaries as they prepare for each other and pursue playoff berths.
This series comes a year after the franchise made its first foray into hockey with "24/7 Penguins/Capitals," which senior producer Dave Harmon says was a real eye-opening experience for hockey fans.
" '24/7' with the NHL was such a big success last year that to us it opened up a whole new world to hockey fans," he says. "I'm a hockey fan as well as a producer, and I heard things and saw things that I only imagined existed. And when I found out what they were really saying and what they were really doing, it made me follow the game and even follow the Penguins and Capitals for the rest of last year in a way I never did before."
This series also boasts two players from last year: Max Talbot, the former Pens center who signed as a free agent this summer with the Flyers, and Mike Rupp, the ex-Pens forward who landed in New York as a free agent.
According to Harmon, both could serve as ambassadors in a sense when HBO cameras come to infiltrate the clubhouse.
"Max Talbot on the Flyers was an excellent character for us with the Penguins last year," he says. "It's very difficult having to decide yet without shooting having started how much we're going to focus on someone like him again until we see how important he is to the Flyers. ... Talbot has been so positive about the experience he had last year with '24/7' that he's enabled the Flyers to become more comfortable with us quickly because he can say, 'Guys, these guys know how to be flies on the wall; they're not going to get in the way. They're not going to be a hindrance to us as we play.' "Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun