By Peter Schwartz
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Bill Camp grew up outside of Boston and fell in love with the game of hockey. He became a pretty big Bruins fan at the age of five or six and learned how to skate and play the sport on an outdoor rink not far from his house. He was your typical "rink rat" as he experienced the snow coming down and the unique outdoor smell of the ice.
Given his past experience with outdoor hockey in the elements, the veteran actor will serve as narrator for the EPIX series, "Road To The NHL Winter Classic." It will debut on Wednesday, Dec. 16 at 10 p.m. ET.
"I'm about as excited as I could possibly be," said Camp. "It's sort of like the holy grail of jobs for me. I'm super, super, super excited to be doing it."
The weekly series consists of four one-hour episodes, and will give viewers a behind-the-scenes look at the rivalry between the Bruins and Canadiens as they get ready to face off in the NHL Winter Classic on New Year's Day at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts.
Episodes leading up to the game will also air on Dec. 23 and Dec. 30, with a post-Winter Classic episode set for Jan 6. The series is a partnership between EPIX and NHL Original Productions. The show originated on HBO but is now in its second season on EPIX. Ross Greenburg -- a 53-time Emmy Award winner -- serves as the executive producer, and the series is written by Aaron Cohen.
"It's a giant privilege," said Camp, who's on-screen credits include movies "12 Years a Slave," "Rounders" and "Black Mass," as well TV series "Boardwalk Empire."
Camp has also been on Broadway, with roles in "Death of a Salesman," "Heartbreak House"and "The Seagull."
"It's a gift to be able to do it," Camp said. "I think Ross, Aaron and everybody there at EPIX and the NHL are fantastic. It's really exciting because it really shows so many sides of the game that fans really don't have access to."
The Winter Classic debuted in 2008 when the Buffalo Sabres hosted the Pittsburgh Penguins at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The event has grown into the NHL's marquee regular-season event, with teams clamoring to host the annual outdoor game.
Played in the elements in front of packed stadiums, the NHL Winter Classic has grown into a phenomenon. It even got Camp back on the ice. He had stopped playing competitive hockey for about 25 years, but three years ago he started skating again.
"When they started doing it, it really jumpstarted again, my love of the game," Camp said. "It brought me back to all of those early memories. I think it's the coolest thing ever."
Camp, who moved to New York City in 1985, now plays in a couple of leagues. He skates for "The Puxedoes" in Queens as well as a team in Brooklyn, where he lives with wife Elizabeth Marvel and son Silas. Marvel, an actress, plays Heather Dunbar on "House of Cards."
It's appropriate that Camp lives in Brooklyn, since the city is now a hockey hotbed with the Islanders moving to Barclays Center this season. While he notes that there are plenty of Rangers fans around, he's glad that the Islanders are the hometown team.
"I was super excited when they came out to Brooklyn to play here," said Camp.
EPIX and the NHL certainly picked the right person to narrate the series. While Camp is an avid fan of hockey, he has a strong familiarity with both the Bruins and Canadiens because of his New England roots and the history between the two teams.
"It's a rivalry that goes back," said Camp. "There's a ton of history."
The Bruins will be the first team to host the Winter Classic for a second time. Boston hosted the Flyers in the 2010 event at Fenway Park, but this time around the game is at Gillette Stadium, a much larger venue and the home of the New England Patriots.
Camp is expecting a day to remember.
"I think it will be a big-time success up there," said Camp. "Just because it's the Canadiens and Bruins, I think everybody is going to show up. It's such a hockey state. There are also a lot of Canadiens fans in that area."
Perhaps New York will get to host a Winter Classic in the near future.
Yankee Stadium hosted a pair of "Stadium Series" games in 2014, but the ballpark can't host the Winter Classic at this time because of its commitment to the Pinstripe Bowl. The NHL would prefer to have it in the Bronx, but certainly Citi Field and MetLife Stadium could be possibilities.
"It would be fabulous," said Camp. "That would be a huge success. I'm sure it will come."
But first things first, and that's the 2016 NHL Winter Classic between the Bruins and Canadiens.
Camp will be keeping a close eye on all events leading up to the game for a number of reasons. He has a love for hockey, a love for the Bruins and should be a terrific narrator for "Road To The NHL Winter Classic" on EPIX.
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