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Equally cursed and blessed

Caps coach's torrent of TV F-bombs not pretty, but shows fans other side of the game

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Thanks to the new four-part HBO series 24/7 that features the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals, some dressing-room doors in pro hockey may be a little less impenetrable.

Maybe even someday in Moose-land, judging by Friday's comments on the show's first episode, which aired this week.

That's not to say that the welcome mat is out for cameras or nosy reporters but the idea dismissals and flat-out refusals of the past seem to be softening.

This from an organization and head coach Randy Carlyle that steadfastly forbade the Free Press from taking even one historic first-game locker-room picture of the Moose seconds before they took the ice at the brand new MTS Centre in 2004.

What the HBO series showed this week was how NHL teams work from the inside, including highlighted profanity from Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau.

That between-periods speech, the coach admitted this week, was not popular with his mother.

"Me, I wouldn't be crazy about it," Moose GM Craig Heisinger said Friday, asked if he could ever see his own team subject to such all-access viewing. "But I'm not sure there's any negative marketing to it. If you don't think that happens, it's very naive.

"I'm not crazy about that in-camera dressing-room stuff to start with and it may be old-school thinking. But I'm not naive enough to think it doesn't happen in one dressing room, maybe both, every game."

Moose captain Nolan Baumgartner stopped just short of welcoming such a documentary-style crew.

"Would I be comfortable? Yeah. I've seen that before," Baumgartner said. "Scott (Arniel) could be like that. I've played for coaches who get frustrated, especially when you're losing. And more so in that league (the NHL) because you need to win there or else you're fired. Sometimes the pressure builds up and comes out like that.

"I think it makes for great TV. There are these reality shows now; that's reality of sports right there. That's how it's handled every day. I think it's fun for a fan to see what goes on.

"It's full-access and I think it's great."

The staunchest defender of tradition was Moose coach Claude Noel, who didn't say Friday all-access was wrong but rather it's likely not for him.

"What a good question, because where do you (draw the line)?" Noel said. "For me, I'm not real comfortable with it and the reason is that I think the privacy of the locker-room is something that your team cherishes. I'm not sure I'd want to be exposed like that, or the players. It's a really tough situation.

"The first thing you ask is whether the coach performing for the cameras or is he holding back, so is it really real? I don't think you'd like to be performing for the camera. You're performing for your players."

Members of the Moose were in much agreement the new HBO series, a prelude to the New Year's Day outdoor game between the teams in Pittsburgh, was a fantastic marketing tool for hockey.

"I think it's good for the sport to get that type of exposure," Noel said. "Whether you're ranting or raving, when you're in the middle of a six-game losing streak I think that certainly it will draw some attention and being on HBO certainly draws a lot of attention, positive or negative."

Added Baumgartner: "I've been listening to XM radio and I heard the producer on there from HBO and I heard (NHL deputy commissioner) Bill Daly and all the feedback has been positive from everybody around the league and fans.

"If people think it's all rosy when you're down after a period and the coach comes in the dressing room, they're sadly mistaken. That's exactly, sometimes, how it happens. Anybody that's played for Bruce knows he's a fiery guy and wants to win. They were in the midst of a losing streak and things were a little tight there. I thought it was perfect."

Heisinger said anyone with their shirt in a knot over Boudreau's expletive-laced speech might be too sensitive for a tough sport.

"That happens every game in somebody's dressing room," he said. "And with all due respect to Bruce Boudreau, it was a pretty good rant but it couldn't hold a candle to a (former Winnipeg Jets coach) Terry Simpson speech."

tim.campbell@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 18, 2010 D1

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