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Rossi: Time is now for NHL Films

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Sunday, Jan. 9, 2011

The HBO camera crew wasn't around this past week, and hardly was a void felt.

This is to the credit of those cameramen who made Pittsburgh their home in December. Fears from the mainstream media that HBO's cameras would cause problems couldn't have been more foolish. From this reporter's perspective, it was like those cameramen weren't even there with the Penguins at home, on the road or anywhere else.

They were, of course. As the four episodes of "24/7 Penguins-Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic" showed brilliantly, the camera crews that immersed themselves with two NHL teams captured countless hours of delightful behind-the-scenes footage.

Most of it was left on the floor by editors and coordinating producers at a production studio in New York. Those editors, producers and camera folks are getting a deserved breather now.

If NHL commissioner Gary Bettman is smart — and the feeling here is that he's the shrewdest commissioner among the four North American pro sports leagues — he will start calling all of those HBO people to offer them jobs.

The time for a first-rate NHL Films is now, because the success of "24/7" showed that the want of people — regular people, not just die-hard hockey fans — is expertly executed specialty programs such as what HBO churned out the past four weeks.

Oh, and more access.

Nobody does more with access than HBO, except for perhaps NFL Films — the company most experts have credited with helping football become America's national passion. Well, passion and hockey go hand-in-hand, as everybody had a chance to see during "24/7."

The NHL needs to continue capturing that passion — and not wait until next December with presumably another Winter Classic-themed "24/7" series.

HBO showed hockey like it had never before been seen to most Americans, the audience the NHL needs to convert positive buzz into a bigger imprint on the U.S. sporting landscape.

An NHL Films made up of some of those HBO employees that made "24/7" sizzle would help with that conversion.

Rob Rossi, in his fourth season covering the Penguins, shares some of the scenes unique to a traveling beat reporter.

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