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Mike Babcock wary of Red Wings on HBO’s ’24/7,’ earning YouTube infamy

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DETROIT — Mike Babcock can be surly at times, and drift into downright cantankerous if the mood strikes.

The veteran Detroit Red Wings coach has his own way of drawing the best from his players, and he's not quite sure he's ready for his locker room to become a made-for-TV proposition.

With Thursday's announcement that the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs will square off in the 2013 Winter Classic at Michigan Stadium came the assumed notion that the Red Wings and Maple Leafs would also take center stage for HBO's popular reality series, "24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic."

The show offers viewers a back-stage look into the Winter Classic participants' preparations for the annual outdoor game.

As excited as Babcock is about playing in front of a live audience that could top 115,000 and set a Guinness World Record, the thought of opening up in front of cameras didn't thrill him.

"I'm not embracing that," Babcock said Thursday morning. "What you do and what you say and what you do to get your job done sometimes isn't something I think my kids need to hear on a regular basis."

For Babcock, running his hockey team should remain behind closed doors, a barrier the "24/7" series breaks down. Because it airs on HBO, many of the restrictions of network television don't exist and while Red Wings' players believe it shows fans a different side of the game, Babcock would rather remain insulated.

"We do what we have to do to get wins and we try to treat people with respect," Babcock said. "We cross the line at times and I don't think that has to be on YouTube and be out there forever."

Toronto GM Brian Burke said Thursday that as of now, a deal to renew the "24/7" Winter Classic series has not yet been renewed. Burke has said in the past he would like the Maple Leafs to be featured in the series, but only if it came along with an invitation to play in the Winter Classic.

Now that it's a reality, Burke would rather the cameras focus on the players' day-to-day activities as they prepare for next year's outdoor showdown.

"I don't want to be involved with that at all," Burke said. "But I think it's a great inside look at the game and I think the fans love it."

Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard knows he's got one loyal viewer ready to go already.

"My dad is already talking about ordering HBO to be able to watch it," Howard said Thursday afternoon inside Michigan Stadium, which hosted a second press conference to announce the Winter Classic matchup. "I think it would be a lot of fun to be one of the guys that's in it."

Howard, along with several other teammates, is prepared to embrace the "24/7" experience. While it means constantly having a camera crew film their hockey lives — both in Detroit and on the road — the series is a way to bring fans closer to the teams they cheer for.

Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall predicts teammates Dan Cleary and Pavel Datsyuk may be fan favorites once the cameras start rolling. Veteran defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom agreed, predicting that Datsyuk behind the scenes is much different than the star player that is portrayed in the mainstream media.

"He can be a pretty funny guy," Lidstrom said.

It's one thing for fans to see their hockey heroes on the ice, but Kronwall says the series widens the lens even more.

"They'll get a chance to get to know [players] even better," Kronwall said. "They'll get to see the under side of hockey and see how players go about their business."

New York Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin said in a phone interview with Yahoo! Sports that within a few days, players forget that the HBO cameras are even there, making for a more natural setting to film in.

"We know they've got a job to do but at the same time, they know we have a job to do, too," Hagelin said. "So it's not too bad having them around."

Lidstrom, for one, isn't certain he will be around for cameras to capture. Now in his 20th season, Lidstrom wouldn't speculate whether Detroit hosting a Winter Classic would be enough to bring him back for another year.

He joked Thursday he may be playing in the Red Wings-Maple Leafs' alumni game, which will be one of several events played at Comerica Park — home of the Detroit Tigers — leading up to the Jan. 1 Main Event.

"We just heard about this a few weeks ago and it's an intriguing [opportunity] to play at this stadium," Lidstrom said. "I think it's got to be an unbelievable feeling."

Jeff Arnold can be reached at jeffarnold24@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_arnold24.

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