The first episode of HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic was absolutely everything I hoped it would be.

It came out of the gates hard – closeups of scars, missing teeth and tattoos, with the always awesome commentator Liev Schreiber explaining that The Game “engraves its way onto the body, and envelops the soul.” I mean….right? How poetic is that?

What follows are my thoughts on everything that stood out to me, and of course, the things that stood out to everyone, ie. everything Ilya Bryzgalov said.

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“We are not a conservative team. We’re a ‘let’s f**king giddy-up and go type of team.’” – Peter Laviolette to the Flyers, pregame

This made me want to punch my cats it got me so fired up to play hockey. Maybe it’s that I no longer hear 80 pregame speeches a year, or maybe it’s that I never had a coach who didn’t just say defense first a thousand different ways, but that quote made me want to run through a goddamn brick wall, to steal a phrase from Drew Magary. It was easily a top-5 favourite quote of the episode for me, and it came right off the top.

LET’S DO THIS.

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For my money, it’s the great on-ice quotes that put the show over the top.

I mentioned in yesterday’s 24/7 preview post that I liked to watch how the players act in-game, because that’s when you get the best feel for who they really are. And man, did I love Brandon Prust getting out of the penalty box and saying to Wayne Simmonds “You better f**king settle down,” as in, that’s enough running around out here dude. Then he punches him squarely in the face.

When you watch it here, you have no idea what preceeded the fight, or what score is being settled. 24/7 showed us.

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Claude Giroux head fakes at Ruslan Fedentenko (like he might hit him) who doesn’t remotely flinch, and it was the most endearing Giroux thing ever.

It was a brief, four second part of the show, but it was so hilariously playful it made Giroux seem about ten years old. I loved it.

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John Tortorella came off great.

I may be alone in this, but I liked his dressing room demeanor – he strikes me as a guy that you simply need to play well for to get on his good side, nothing more or less. At one point in the episode, he talks about listening to his players, using their input, and “empowering” them. I did not see that coming.

What I did see coming and didn’t like from him was his talk about not liking it when he sees guys in the medical room (“you can create more problems for yourself, it’s a mindset”). That’s the type of talk I’ve heard from coaches in the past, and it makes you not want to get injuries taken care of, which only exacerbates problems. “Tape an aspirin to it” is old-fashioned and stupid.

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Sean Avery made my wife say “ew, what a creepy loser.”

His photoshoot was a little disturbing, but not as disturbing as him saying being sent down to the AHL “gave him more power.” I like what Sean Avery does on the activism front off the ice, but what a moron. But, love is blind, and Sean Avery loves him some Sean Avery.

At least he worked in the always-clever ”you’re a f**king loser” in-game chirp for us.

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Michael Del Zotto was also a front-runner for Quote of the Night.

Del Zotto goes screaming into the boards full force and hammers his shoulder. While the trainers are helping scrape him off the ice he sits on his knees, stares straight ahead and goes “….F**k me, am I bleeding?”

Doesn’t specify from where, or that it hurts in any particular place, just a general statement like after a car crash where you’re like “I’m not sure what hurts, but I ain’t right.” F**k me. Am I bleeding?

I also enjoyed him walking to the training room the next day – he’s being tailed by cameras and someone in the workout room is stunned. “…What are they following you around for?” As in, YOU, of all the unimportant people.

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Laviolette also came off in a positive light.

His burning intensity and intelligence is evident throughout the whole episode. High marks for him, especially in his role previewing Ilya Bryzgalov’s “universe” tangent.

Bryzgalov….his personality is…a little bit different.” The last sentence out of his mouth before they cut to Bryz killed me: ”Yesterday….he was telling me…about the universe?”

And yes, that question mark should be there. He says it to the camera almost inquisitively, like….”what the f**k, that’s weird right?”

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Ilya Bryzgalov was unquestionably the star of the show. 

Where to start, really. You can’t put into words what this guy is like, you just have to watch for yourself. Bryz offers the following thoughts on the universe for all of us, too:

“It’s humongous big.” Hilarious. Dude is starting to remind me of the Lakers “Metta World Peace,” which is to say, on the fringe of crazy. This explanation of a Russian liqueur did nothing to change my mind on that:

Too funny. I have no problem with them devoting 10 minutes an episode to Bryz alone.

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I’ve done a 180 on Artem Anisimov, one of my new favourite players in the league.

A couple weeks ago, Artem Anisimov scored a goal, then did the whole “cool your hot hand on the ice” celebration, and I got mad about it on Twitter. It was his fourth goal of the year.

On his fifth, he flipped his stick around and mimed shooting at the Lightning net like an asshole. I did not like him.

NHL.com’s Dave Lozo, someone who actually goes into the dressing room and knows the guys replied to me and shared that Anisimov is actually a great guy. Well, 24/7 confirmed that for me yesterday.

The team apology – even though he didn’t need to do it - was great. It’s a tough, awkward thing to do, and he manned up. He seemed humble, and talked about his mistake openly…. I’m just a fan after getting to hear him discuss the incident. (Also, he celebrated his next goal a little bit more modestly, so apparently he did learn from it.)

And, I loved the 24/7 camera work, getting the guys coming back into the room with Anisimov just sitting there. Mesmerizing theatre.

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The Flyers have an awesome win song, and win songs RULE.

Walking into your dressing room after a win – especially a home win – is a feeling you get to have as an athlete that just can’t be replicated in any other line of work. So to have a good post-win song is a must, and the Flyers nailed it.

Some bad language, but if you want to listen to Mac Miller’s “Knock, Knock,” you can do so here. Yes, I added it to my iPod this morning.

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Claude Giroux’s concussion story was nicely done.

It sucks recognizing a certain look or tone in Giroux’s answers to his teammates after getting concussed, but I do. He’s a little delayed, trying to be positive – at one point he says he’s “fine” to James Van Riemsdyk – but it’s just not there. HBO did incredible work to make his concussion a major part of the show, given the short amount of time they had to edit everything in there.

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 Ryan Callahan has an awesome family, and his Grandmother is the star.

His parents come off like a great hard-working blue collar family - you can’t help but think ”hey, I like his family.” Then you meet his Grandmother who’s so sharp you want her doing colour commentary during the next game. She loves her Grandson, and thinks he got jobbed on a penalty call:

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At one point, the Rangers play credit card roulette, a game that’s a lot scarier in the ECHL.

Credit card roulette is simple – everyone’s credit card goes into a hat, and they get pulled out one-by-one until there’s only one remaining. Then, that guy pays the entire tab.

When I was making $600 a week before tax in the ECHL, the game mattered. Lundqvist loses, and almost has to pretend to care. He makes nearly seven million a year, for crying out loud.

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John Tortorella’s star players aren’t exempt from his wrath.

I loved Torts taking a shot at Marion Gaborik for making a few fly-by’s of the puck: “Hey, you gonnna stop on a puck tonight?” That has to make a mid-level player feel good, knowing nobody is above a shot from your equal-rights coach.

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Max Talbot still has horrible Christmas sweaters, and has no problem flying solo to the team Christmas parties.

Something tells me this guy has a decent time off the ice.

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The highlights were many last night, with Bryzgalov stealing the show. What about you – what was your favourite part of episode one?

Check back later to listen to today’s emergency Backhand Shelf podcast – Pizzo and I absolutely have to talk about last night.