The race is over for Bates Battaglia and his brother Anthony.
It was, as one might assume, amazing.
The Battaglia Bros. will appear on Season 22 of “The Amazing Race”, the Emmy-winning competitive reality series that airs on CBS and CTV. The season was filmed last fall; the participation of the hockey-playing siblings was just announced this week.
For the uninitiated: 11 two-person teams trek around the world, unaware of their next destination. At each location, they must complete mental and physical challenges to stay in the race. The winning team gets at least $1 million … and one hell of a photo album from their adventure.
Bates, 37 and left in the image above, played for the Carolina Hurricanes, Colorado Avalanche, Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs during his NHL career. Anthony, 33, is currently playing for the Huntsville Havoc of the Southern Professional Hockey League, having bounced around the minor leagues since 2002. Both are Chicago natives.
They had no idea what they were in for signing up for “The Amazing Race”, including who their opponents would be prior to the season.
“You really don’t know who you’re up against,” Bates said. “I just knew it was going to be me and my brother.”
(Too bad. The brothers could have game-planned something for the Roller Derby Moms in Season 22.)
We spoke with Bates Battaglia this week about deciding to enter the ‘Race’; the challenges they faced; whether “Dumb Hockey Playing Brothers” was a suitable hook for producers; and how other NHL players will feel about his participation on a reality show.
But first, as any “Amazing Race” fan knows, it’s all about the transportation.
Q. The most important thing we could ask an “Amazing Race” contestant: Did you have any idea how to handle hailing the right cab? Because we’ve seen dozens of teams eliminated because they picked the wrong cab.
BATES BATTAGLIA: That was one of my biggest fears: How much trouble people have with cabbies. Going into it, you assume that every one of them is going to be terrible.
I figure I’d look at them and go by my gut feeling. There was really no way to tell.
Why do this? Who came up with the idea, you or your brother?
More me [than him]. We’d always watch the show, and like everybody else we thought, ‘Oh, I can do this, I can do that’. I talked to him about it, and he was like ‘hell yeah, let’s do it.’
As a fan of the show, you know every team has a hook. Did you know Hockey Playing Brothers would sell?
I thought that couldn’t hurt. He’s played for quite a long time. I have as well. The combination of hockey and being brothers, plus I think we bring some personality to the table as well. I hadn’t seen any hockey players on there. So why not?
In watching your audition video, we were trying to figure out if you were playing up the “Dumb Hockey Guys” angle or if you actually were intimidated by the mental challenges on the show.
I thought we’d be better at the physical than the mental. [Laughs] We didn’t finish college. I’m not going to do any Chinese math or anything.
But that’s part of the fun on “The Amazing Race”, right? That the intellectual stuff evens the playing field. If this were “American Gladiators”, you guys would rule.
You watch the show, and they’re doing everything from math to puzzles to jumping into airplanes to lifting something. You have to be the total package to win it.
Did you expect your team would gain any advantage from your brother’s ability to remove his own teeth?
Considering he removes them for a lot of things, I knew they’d definitely be coming out.
The stuff you see on the show, they may not make it back with him ...
So how does one prepare for “The Amazing Race”?
A lot of homework. If you watch it, there are little tricks you pick up. To be prepared for anything they throw at you. It was a combination of the physical training, which is what we do normally, and computer watching old episodes. Every season’s a little bit different. You have to be ready for everything.
Had you done a lot of traveling before doing the show?
I played in Finland, Sweden and Canada. I played on world championship teams, in six or seven other countries. I was pretty familiar with flying into other countries. The whole currencies and stuff.
There’s a lot of aspects of world travel that we’re probably rookies at.
Knowing that you usually have to eat something disgusting on “The Amazing Race” – they once ate frog fallopian tubes – what’s the grossest thing you’ve eaten before being on the show?
[Laughs] I bet there’s some gross stuff out there I didn’t know I was eating. But I don’t go out of my way to eat animal parts or something.
So what kind of strategy did you devise before the race? Alliances and such?
We knew there would be people who knew the show better than we did. Going into it, we were looking to team up with someone. We definitely not trying to be the guys who sneak up on you or be a dirty player. We went into it being friendly, being ourselves, not lying to anybody.
You and your brother are putting yourselves out there in a pretty big way. Do you expect to catch grief from current and former players for becoming a reality TV star?
They’re jealous. I’ve heard from a few that are jealous [Laughs] I was looking forward to doing it. I wouldn’t have done the show if I was trying to keep it as some big secret.
Finally, what’s more stressful: Playing in Toronto or competing on “The Amazing Race”?
[Laughs] The race was pretty stressful, I’m not going to lie to you. It’s no walk in the park.