There are very few shows that I get excited for, mainly because most never live up to the hype. We've all seen it. The overhyped show that gets people to feed into it, only to make people regret the minutes they spent watching said show.
Last night was not one of those cases. HBO premiered Flyers Rangers 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic.
Last year I had boycotted this, I now know this was a huge mistake. You see the players in a light that most never get to see them, as normal people. Yes, hockey players are normal people, just like you and I. This point was driven home with Rangers Captain, Ryan Callahan. You find out that Callahan had a great upbringing. Hard working family, never took anything for granted, and most of all, he's close to his family. It was hard not to get choked up when Callahan's 95 year old grandmother made the trip to Buffalo to see him play and when after the game she goes to him "That wasn't a penalty.". A very heart warming and touching scene. It also made me chuckle a little, in a good way.
Before this series had started, especially after former Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau had smeared f-bombs like butter on toast. But, which coach of the two would drop more? Rangers coach John Tortorella or Flyers coach Peter Laviolette? Before watching this I would have guessed Totorella, based on his press conferences. I was wrong on this one. It was Laviolette that won that contest. Though both coaches left a heavy impression on me. You realize how hard it is to coach on the highest level. You saw a moment in the show where Tortorella was looking to pull goalie Henrik Lundqvist, asking his assistant coaches if he should go through with it. "I'd leave him in there." was said, Tortorella acknowledged it, nodded his head, and continued with the game.
Like last year, you saw what happens in the locker room and on the ice. One scene in particular stuck out. It was when Penguin Matt Cooke was calling Flyer forward Scott Hartnell dirty. Hartnell responded to Cooke's insults by going "Yeah, ok buddy. This coming from the dirtiest player in the league.". It was gold.
I always knew how involved the Flyers were in the community, but I never knew how involved the Rangers were in theirs. The Rangers took a bunch of under privilaged kids to their practice facility and then out to meet the Rockettes. While Flyer forward Wayne Simmonds helped open an ice rink and skated with kids, showing them how to play hockey.
What would 24/7 be without player interviews? As mentioned before, you find out that Ryan Callahan is very involved with his family. Jaromir Jagr is not only a veteran presence, but one of the most positive people in the Flyers locker room. Wayne Simmonds is a real down to earth person, with a great outlook on life and a bit of a smartass. Every Ranger loves John Tortorella. Last but not least, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's quirky personality.
Before the season started Flyers fans got a glimpse of how quirky the new Flyers goalie was on Twitter, with light hearted tweets about the area and other things. On the show, you really see that come into fruition. Not only were his interviews entertaining, but there were points that made you scratch your head on the netminder. From his views on the universe, to talking to one of the coaches about a bottle of alcohol from his native Russia with a tiger on it.
All in all, the show once again nailed down the fabric of what kind of toll the game takes on the body. Chris Pronger notably was frustrated by not being able to play due to injury. You also saw how some of the concussion testing was done. After an inadvertent knee to the head from Wayne Simmonds, you see Claude Giroux go through some of these. From the little things like following the finger to more advanced things like following the dots on the page with a pencil. After you see Giroux in the hallway, with his hands over his head.
After episode 1 ended, I found myself craving more. HBO has really brought an amazing behind the scenes look at what goes on. I'm excited to see what the second episode has to offer, which airs next Wednesday at 10pm EST.
Tune in guys, you won't regret it. Even if you aren't a fan of either team.