In a lockout shortened 2012-13 season, the NHL did manage a 48-game schedule, but the cancellation of the Winter Classic meant no HBO 24/7. Saturday night, the show that has so perfectly captured the behind-the-scenes elements of the NHL hockey fans absolutely eat up, made its television return.
In what should shape up to be one of the more epic Winter Classics -- the largest crowd ever, the inclusion of a Canadian team for the first time, etc. -- since the first game in 2008, there will be plenty to talk about leading up to the New Year's Day showdown.
Episode 1 of HBO's 24/7 on Saturday night provided some great insight into the Maple Leafs, while the juicy Red Wings storylines have yet to come. The theme of the opening episode was without a doubt "team adversity," as both Detroit and Toronto have battled injuries and inconsistent play early this season. With the cameras back on, and the locker rooms opened, here's the good stuff from the latest iteration of the HBO series.
A PAIR OF ORIGINAL SIX TEAMS, AND DETROIT IS BANKRUPT
The episode begins with a four-minute opening montage that supplied some of the standard elements you'd expect when dealing with these two teams: the heritage, the recent successes of the Wings, the recent struggles of the Leafs, and the whole Original Six angle. The montage also started and ended with a bunch of pee wee hockey players playing outside, which is probably what made it relevant -- even if It was still kinda weird.
From there, HBO did a great job painting Detroit as this chic, hockey capital, while still quick to point out the city's bankruptcy. The moral of the story: The people of this city have no money, but they can still shell out dollars for hockey tickets, so they must really love the sport!
TOMAS TATAR DOES INTROS
The team oriented stuff starts with the Red Wings in Florida to play the Panthers.
In possibly the funniest moment of the episode, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock has Tomas Tatar announce the game's starting lineup. It was revealed Babcock has had a different player announce the starter's each night -- with each announcer adding his own spin to the introductions -- in an effort to keep things loose in the locker room.
This episode really focused on the injuries, the struggles, and the problems these teams are facing. Right before game footage of the Maple Leafs-Bruins tilt that led to Dion Phaneuf's suspension, HBO decided to take a trip down memory lane and play up the adversity theme by revisiting Game 7 of the 2013 playoffs between Boston and Toronto.
But, there were some other angles played up, like the injuries of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, and Jimmy Howard. Datsyuk made his return to action in the course of the episode, and his impact was instantly felt as he scored in his first game back. HBO had a great chance to do something hysterical about Florida's boards situation, but it only got mentioned quickly. Kind of a disappointment.
Interestingly enough, at a team dinner the night before, a group of Red Wings players opined on Datsyuk's return -- Detroit is pretty bland thus far, they actually talk about hockey at dinner -- and his importance to that team can't be overstated.
The female face of the show is undoubtedly going to be Elisha Cuthbert, Phaneuf's wife, more prominently known as Kim Bauer. There were a few Phaneuf scenes where she was visible, including a team event where she showed her skating prowess. (OK, so maybe she's Canadian, but even if she wasn't, of course Kim Bauer would be able to ice skate.) Can't wait to see how she solves all the Maple Leafs' problems in 24 hours.
THE DANIEL ALFREDSSON STORYLINE
It seemed inevitable, and in the first episode, there was a glimpse into Daniel Alfredsson's thought process to leave Ottawa for Detroit. Alfredsson, who spent his entire 17-season career with the Senators until he signed with Detroit this offseason, talked about Babcock and the Red Wings brass' recruiting pitch, and how he felt he could make a difference and an impact in Detroit. Oh, and how his family is adjusting to life in Detroit.
While there might have been more to say, it was something that obviously needed to be addressed, and that's probably all the attention it will get this series.
OTHER NOTABLE MOMENTS
- The first 'f-bomb' of the night belonged to Randy Carlyle, and it took 15 minutes to get to. The time before that followed the mild-mannered Red Wings, who were either biting their tongues in front of the cameras, or have a swear jar.
- Speaking of Carlyle, just because he can coach an NHL team doesn't mean he can do every day, simple tasks, like make toast.
- Staying with Carlyle, HBO caught a shot of him right when Phaneuf delivered that hit to Kevan Miller. Caryle said, "Dion, come on, buddy," and shook his head.
- Dion Phaneuf's closet is filled with suits and fine menswear.
- There was a weird, semi-erotic scene from Joffrey Lupul's rehab, as a trainer was giving him some kind of deep tissue massage to help mend his injured groin. There was a towel, but it certainly got weird.