Friday, December 17, 2010

Review: 24/7 Episode 1

Screencap courtesy of

When it was announced that the Penguins and Capitals would participate in HBO's "24/7" series many Penguins fans were concerned what type of distraction it would be for the team, but generally speaking there was an excitiement over what exactly we would see in this series. The first episode aired December 15, 2010 and it far exceeded the hype and excitement.

When it comes to the Penguins and, to some extent, hockey in general, I have a hard time being "objective". I love this game more than any other. Consider the fact that I take time to write about hockey for no more than 50 people currently as evidence of my love. If I were writing to 5 people right now, I would still do it, and still have the passion for it that I do. The thing that struck me the most from the first episode, was how HBO "gets it' as it relates to the passion that the actual professionals put in to their sport.

Hockey isn't necessarily very popular in the United States aside from the strong markets such as the Original Six cities, and the mainly northern porition of the first expansion class. One of the reasons the NHL allowed access to their regular season, unlike the NFL which documents training camps via the 24/7 vehicle, is to hopefully gain promotion for both the Winter Classic and the sport in general.

For a casual viewer, they got to see things that surely will catch their eye. They hear the conversations that take place during and after fights. They see how meticulous a hockey practice is. What a road trip is like. How teams bond with the players and each other's families. In summation, a casual viewer gets to see the passion for the game that exudes from Washington owner Ted Leonsis' words all the way down to the tape job on a stick, the sharpening of a skate, and the stitching of a cut.

For an actual fan of either of these teams, or the sport itself, the reaction is certain to be different. I'd be a liar if I said there weren't certain aspects of the show that gave me goosebumps, or touched me. To say that seeing this show is surreal possibly doesn't do it justice. For many of us, to see what goes on in an NHL locker room pre-, in-, and post-game is a dream come true.

Penguins Coach Dan Byslma comes off nearly presidential as he strides in to and out of the room at moments, revealing a lineup, congratulating players on job well done after a game, or encouraging the team with "Let's wear these bitches down, eh?"

Conversely, Washington Coach Bruce Boudreau comes off frustrated at times. While I'm sure many Pens fans will take delight in this, I already find myself having more respect for him. It's easy to paint rivals as jerks or buffoons, but peering in to their locker room during a losing streak is simply amazing. Boudreau shares the wisdom that you can't always harp on the same things with a team. In practice he is seen criticizing a player, but letting him know that he isn't singling him out because other wings made the same mistake. Much is also being made of his use of "the f word". To me language isn't a big deal, but I do understand and concede that it is a big deal to some people. What I see, is a coach that cares that his team is in a spiral, and is frustrated by it immensely. Nothing more. Nothing less. The moment that gains the most respect with me, is after a loss where it appears to me that Bourdreau is about to enter the room after the game, winces, and turns around. This is the realization of his words from earlier in the episode. He easily could rip his team, and I'm sure none of his players would blame him. Honestly though, is there anything he can say that will make his team feel worse at this moment? Not likely.

On the player front, you see many interesting moments. The Penguins' locker room is light and jovial at the high of a 12 game win streak. The Caps room is low and frustrated during a 6 game losing streak. An unshown Caps' coach is heard telling his team to "grab your sack" and basically telling the team that they are playing soft and how ridiculous it is that their Captain and best player in the world (his words) Alex Ovechkin is fighting.

We get to see glimpses of the Penguins traveling, and their bonding on the road. The flight to Buffalo was a really special moment for me to see, and I hope it isn't lost on the viewers. G Marc-Andre Fleury, C Sidney Crosby, F Max Talbot, and F Mike Rupp are playing a video game with one another. While Rupp is a bit older than the other guys, it's easy to forget how young Fleury and Crosby are because of the success and stature they have in the local community. Sid is giving Max grief over the video game and Fleury comes out with my favorite line of the episode, "Suck it Talbo" followed by "Max is a douche", which prompts Sid to burst out in laughter. I find these moments the most interesting, as we often do not get to see Sidney Crosby as a person. By design, he often fits the (pre-scandal) Tiger Woods or Peyton Manning mold...everything said or done is calcualated. It will be intersting to see how the Pens' room reacts in the next episode, as they are in a 2 game losing streak now.

All in all, I consider this great tv and can't wait for the next episode. I am hoping for more in game audio, more locker room footage, and more interaction. Regardless of what is shown, said, or sworn, this promises to continue to be a dream come true for those with a passion for the game, and it may just make a few people tune in that never before cared much. That really is the goal for the league, the rest of us being riveted is just our own private bonus.

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