One of the best parts of this hockey season so far as been the HBO 24/7 special on the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals. Yes, the show was a huge deal to fans of those two teams, but it was an entertaining look at the sport that just about anyone would enjoy, whether they are hockey fans or not.
It was announced yesterday that the series received three Emmy nominations. As outstanding as the show was, it probably got a few more people interested in hockey and it was definitely a huge marketing tool for the league. The moment it ended anyone who had watched the series wanted more. If the NHL and HBO were going to team up for another 24/7 series, what would the focus be?
As exciting as “Capitals/Penguins: The Road To The Winter Classic” was, the NHL and HBO would be wise to try something different with their next series. That means it shouldn’t be based on the Winter Classic and it shouldn’t feature Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin. As much as that event and those players are the focus of a lot of the league’s promotional efforts, it’s time to spread the spotlight a little bit.
The Trade Deadline
While this wouldn’t be the traditional “follow teams around and see how they prepare” series, an inside look at the NHL trade deadline would be quite interesting. The series could start a few weeks before the deadline and focus on a few teams who would likely be “buyers” and a few who would be “sellers.” The crew would be given inside access to general managers and their coaching staff as well as the players. How interesting would it be to see Brian Burke negotiate with other teams? Or to watch Tomas Kaberle’s last day inside the Leafs locker room after spending 12 years with the team? Even if the deadline was a dud, the access would be interesting.
Realistically, this probably wouldn’t happen. Not only would it be incredibly difficult from a logistics standpoint, but we can’t see too many GMs being happy with the idea. Too much information would be revealed and it might affect the competitive balance at the negotiating table in future years.
The Run Up To The Playoffs
Outside of the postseason itself, this is the most interesting time of the year. Several teams are still scrambling for playoff spots and division titles and every game means more now than at any other point in the season. The series could choose a few teams that are lingering towards the bottom eight in each conference. Every day you’d get to see the highs and lows of battling it out down to the wire.
Again, this probably wouldn’t happen, unfortunately. The teams wouldn’t want to be distracted during the stretch and it would be too difficult to plan filming when there are so many different teams in playoff contention.
The Road To The Stanley Cup
We’ll start off by saying this will probably never happen either. There’s just too much at stake during the playoffs to allow HBO into the locker rooms. But how great would it be?
The show could start during the conference finals and showcase the four teams remaining. It would go into a little back-story about how each team got to this point and focus on what the Cup means to the players, coaches and everyone else involved. From there it would be move on to show the Stanley Cup Final and end with one team hoisting the Cup. That would be the definition of compelling television.
The league doesn’t need a marquee event like the Winter Classic to focus the series around. The next 24/7 could simply focus on two teams who are huge rivals. It would be pretty similar to the Capitals/Penguins series and it would end with a regular season game between the two teams.
This seems the most plausible idea for the next 24/7. Possible rivalries to focus on include the Blackhawks vs. the Red Wings, the Rangers vs. the Devils or Islanders and the Canadiens vs. the Bruins.
Even if HBO isn’t willing to commit to another 24/7 series, the NHL should start producing a similar show itself and airing it on television or NHL.com. The league needs to do something to stand out and raise its profile, and providing access unlike any other league would certainly accomplish that goal.