On Wednesday night, the second annual installment of HBO’s “24/7 – Road To The NHL Winter Classic” premiered to mark the official countdown to the January 2 tilt between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
Much of it was similar to last year’s four-part series on the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins’ path to their respective outdoor tilt, featuring all of the behind-the-scenes footage you would expect, including the uncensored language one would come to find on any HBO Sports presentation.
Which lead to the most surprising part of the episode:
The first f-bomb was thrown by Flyers’ coach Peter Laviolette, rather than John Tortorella.
That’s not to say Tortorella didn’t get his fair share of not-so-G-rated language in. How could he not? But 24/7 is about more than just the verbal language of hockey, and the first episode of this year’s installment pretty much delivered what was to be expected.
As the standard format went last season, the episode alternated between scenes involving the Rangers and Flyers, starting out with the Rangers’ 4-2 loss to Toronto last Monday. The highlight of this portion was when Michael Del Zotto, fully wired for sound, crashed head-first into the boards as the sound of the collision reverberated around Madison Square Garden (and over television, as well).
With the Flyers taking on Pittsburgh and Max Talbot (who, like last year, once again donned a hideous, homemade Christmas sweater) last Thursday night, the Rangers took on Tampa Bay at The Garden in a game that will probably be remembered as something along the lines of “The Artem Anisimov Sniper Game.”
Of course Anisimov’s celebration was shown using many of the several different camera angles at HBO’s disposal, as was the ensuing brawl. The segment also included several Rangers questioning the officials’ rulings following the brawl, which were greeted by the officials with answers ranging from “He’s getting..two minutes for..whatever” to “I don’t have to explain anything.” This may or may not be brought up the next time the officiating doesn’t seem to be going the Rangers’ way in a game.
The footage of the moment, solid as it may be, is not quite as striking as Anisimov’s teammates’ reaction to it in the locker room, with Sean Avery jokingly asking if he was shooting at the goalie to later Brandon Prust asking Anisimov if he can teach him how to celebrate.
The reaction of his teammates gives a glimpse into how the Rangers portray themselves on the program – as a tight-knit group of fun-loving players who like to have a good time, a slight contrast to the Flyers’ somewhat more serious demeanor. It may come off as a surprise to some who think of Tortorella as a no-nonsense general leading his troops into combat.
In terms of comedy, Anisimov and Prust set themselves apart from the rest of the Rangers, although the star of the show is clearly Flyers’ goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, whose speech on how he sees the world should be nominated for an Emmy.
The show does include some sweet moments as well, such as several Rangers players taking children from the Garden of Dreams foundation to Radio City to meet with the Rockettes, along with Ryan Callahan’s successful trip home to Western New York in which his spectacular goal helped lead the win over the Sabres on Saturday night.
Callahan meets with about a dozen family members, including his 95-year old grandmother, providing a heartfelt end to an episode that does its best to show all sides of what it’s like to play in the NHL.
Episode two of “24/7 – Flyers/Rangers – Road to the NHL Winter Classic will air next Wednesday (December 21) at 10 PM Eastern with subsequent airings over the rest of the week.