There are a number of things to be excited about when HBO drops its 2nd NHL edition of 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic tonight. Because of that, expectations are unthinkably high, and this post won’t likely do anything to lessen them.

As a guy who’s spent a lifetime in dressing rooms at a variety of levels, there are certain things I’ll be watching for. I’ve shared them below so you can too.

Off-ice/on-ice personality contrast

“No one is bigger than the game” is the hockey players mantra, and it’s something most guys abide by. You defer to your teammates, take blame where necessary, and try not to say anything too inflammatory. That doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and clown around – hockey players do that in spades – but when the cameras are around and the notepads are out, it’s time to retreat back into that shell.

One of the things that makes 24/7 so great is that the cameras are constantly around, and you can’t hide your true self forever, so we get some glimpses into what kind of personalities exist in each dressing room.

Still, since they’re a slightly muted version of guys full, boisterous nature, keep an eye on how their on-ice self contrasts with the off-ice guy we’ll see in interviews.

On the ice and on the bench, these guys will have no thoughts of the camera. Just like you don’t think about the fans or scouts after awhile, cameras just become a part of the blur around you. How the guys interact, how the coaches speak to their team on the bench….that’s the real guy, and that’s who I want to discover. Not the polite, understated dude vaguely saying something psuedo-inflammatory that’s supposed to drive the narrative like ”yep, I hate the Flyers.”

The whiteboards

Last year I managed to get a screenshot of Dan Bylsma’s whiteboard, and with it, I was able to learn a lot about how he prepares his team, and how he coaches in general.

His boards had their opponent’s breakouts, neutral zone defense, PP breakouts and more (as well as their own). Bruce Boudreau’s board wasn’t X’s and O’s, it was words – stuff like “aggressive forecheck early” “make their goaltender move,” just….stuff like that. More motivational than technical.

I’m not sure if they’ll allow us to get another glimpse of the whiteboards again or not, but I’ll have eagle eyes out for them. There is reason to believe we may get to see them, even though they’d rather us not - incredibly, they don’t finish editing each episode until an hour before it runs, sometimes less. I’m hoping some technical stuff slips through the cracks.

Getting a sense of cliques

In the NHL there’s a massive age range between certain guys. You’re a team, of course, but guys aren’t all at the same places in their lives. Some are pushing 40 with kids, while others are kids, and want to go party and chase girls.

In last year’s episode, we saw Crosby, Fleury, Talbot and others playing PSP games on one of their flights, and that stuff fascinates me now that I’ve stopped playing - who are the core guys that hang out and really make up the personality of the team, and who are the guys that come to the rink when they’re supposed to and leave when it’s over because it’s a job?

As much as we romanticize “the boys,” there are guys on every team for whom hockey truly is work, and I think figuring out who fits in where on a team is interesting stuff.

Playing the “would I like to play for this guy?” game

That’s pretty self-explanatory, really. But when it comes to John Tortorella, I have no clue. I know I’d like to go drink with him. But the whole “lose your mind” act over and over would wear thin with me real quick.

Hopefully 24/7 will help me decide.

And last…

Hey wait what the hell is NHL 36?

I literally hadn’t heard of this until today, but starting tonight, Versus AKA the NBC Sports Network is airing the first of its 10 documentaries, which spends 36 hours with an NHL player and follows their whole night before/gameday routine.

Tonight’s episode starts at 6:30 p.m. EST, and features young superstar Patrick Kane.

It’s going to be one hell of a TV night, friends. Looking forward to following up with you tomorrow.