The first episode of 24/7 featuring the Rangers and Flyers has certainly become a popular topic of discussion in the sports world. For fans, it gave us a chance to see what really goes on in the NHL. We got to see how players talk in the locker room or on the ice. We got to see how coaches did their job. Definitely an eye opening experience for fans and especially for New York Rangers fans, who are used to management suffocating the media.
But what did people actually involved in hockey think? Players like Zbynek Michalek and Brent Johnson of the Pittsburgh Penguins, have been in the National Hockey League for a while and certainly know how everything works. But even they were impressed by HBO’s presentation. Both players briefly gave their input on the first episode and had positive things to say about what went on during the Rangers portions of the show:
Artem Anisimov’s goal celebration was a controversial moment and one that HBO spent a good amount of the episode focusing on. No doubt Anisimov gained a lot of negative attention, but both Michalek and Johnson give a lot of credit to Artem Anisimov for how he dealt with the situation. Here’s what Michalek had to say:
If you do something to hurt your team, you apologize. For him, I’m sure he felt bad after the game. I’m sure he won’t do it again. It’s a good lesson for him. He did a good thing in front of the whole team and apologized. It wasn’t an easy thing to do in front of everybody and the cameras. I give him all the credit.
Michalek also claims that this type of thing is a common occurrence in the locker room. He makes a great point which I never considered. I can imagine that having to stand up in the middle of the locker room and apologize to your entire team is a little stress-inducing. But Artem probably was aware that he was not only confronting his team, but the HBO cameras and anyone who would later watch the show. Brent Johnson also remarked that he told his wife as they watched that Anisimov “looks like a great kid.”
Of all the reasons to be excited for 24/7, getting an in-depth, uncensored look at John Tortorella was on top of everybody’s list. No Rangers player is going to make a controversy and say anything bad about Tortorella, so how players on other teams perceive him is telling. Brent Johnson admitted to thinking more highly of Tortorella after the first episode than before it.
I kind of have a different opinion about him now. I’ve heard he’s very tough, very honest. Sometimes brutally honest. But I think sometimes you get coaches like that who say it real quick, say what they’re thinking. As (Marian) Gaborik said, you know exactly right then and there, what you did wrong, what you need to improve one. He was straight to the point.”
Brent Johnson has been in the league for a very long time and has played for numerous coaches, so his perspective on Tortorella is not trivial. Johnson has no reason to sugar coat anything or falsely praise Torts, so his opinion on Tortorella is probably genuine. Tortorella was yelling a lot during the episode, but the truth is that HBO is going to show the most interesting stuff, and intense Torts makes for better TV than calm Torts.