Welcome back, HBO Sports. It’s been a while
Thanks to last summer’s NFL lockout, there was no Hard Knocks 2011. That means SCP hasn’t chronicled an HBO sports series since last winter’s 24/7 Penguins/Capitals.
But a lack of practice is the least of my worries. This year’s NHL winter classic includes the New York Rangers. They’re my favorite team. It’s the first time one of my teams has been featured on one of these shows. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to look at this with an unbiased eye. And I’m not sure if the fact that I’m already familiar with most of the story lines and characters will enhance or diminish my enjoyment.
There’s only one way to find out. Let’s jump into Episode one of 24/7 Flyers/ Rangers
-24/7 opens with shots of the Rangers commuting to the Garden. As I stated earlier, I’m a big Ranger fan. So, I was surprised to realize that, without jerseys or identifying graphics, I had no idea who I was looking at. One of the players rode the subway. I can honestly say if I had been sitting next to him on that train, I would not recognize him as anyone other than a well dressed commuter.
-A few days before Thanksgiving, the Rangers and Flyers played for the first time this season. Rangers forward Brandon Prust got into two fights in the first 11 minutes of the first period, including one about 10 seconds into the game. During the course of that first contest, Rangers broadcaster Sam Rosen mentioned that HBO cameras were following the two teams for the first time and also noted that Prust was wearing a microphone. At that point, I felt like Prust had been playing to the cameras. It was even conceivable that HBO asked him to step up his aggressiveness and get into a couple of fights to ramp up the drama between the two teams. Those concerns were allayed tonight, when the premiere episode featured virtually no footage of that initial matchup. In fact, the Rangers-Flyers game was used as nothing but early episode B-Roll. I’m sorry for questioning your motives, HBO.
-John Tortorella has been pretty open in the media about how much he hates having the HBO cameras around. That was crystalized early in this episode when he said to forward Brian Boyle, “You have that fucking mic on. You can’t think straight.” I think Tort’s relationship with the cameras may be something to watch as this series moves forward.
- I admit it. Every time the narrative shifts from the Rangers to the Flyers, my interest level dips. That’s a personal thing. Philly has no shortage of interesting characters. From Jaromir Jagr returning after three years in Russia to Wayne Simmonds addressing race issues to Claude Giroux dealing with his injury, there are plenty of compelling stories.
-Another interesting character in Philly is goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov (who I just googled in order to spell his name right.) His realizations about our place in the universe and his discussion of Tigers and russian liquor place Bryzgalov firmly on the fence between deep thinker and complete idiot. The two are closer than you think.
- Is that song the Flyers play after they win a song I should know?
-The best part of Artem Anisimov’s shotgun style celebration that got him in trouble against Tampa Bay happened in the locker room in between periods. The first teammate to join him in there was Sean Avery, who flashed a knowing smile. Avery’s obviously no stranger to borderline behavior.
-Ryan Callahan grew up in Rochester, so his family came to watch him when the Rangers played Buffalo. Two dozen family members turned out. I don’t even know if I have two dozen relatives, let alone two dozen who would show up to watch me do something.
-They showed a couple of shots of Claude Giroux being tested for a concussion. I would have liked to have been taken through the entire process. Concussion testing is such a huge part of sports these days. It would have been incredibly interesting to really see what the testing entails.