Now that the two participants in the Winter Classic have been made official, it’s time to turn our attention to the most important thing that comes with being in the game: being on HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic.
Both seasons so far have brought to light a few “breakout stars.” Nobody outside the Washington Capitals organization saw Bruce Boudreau coming. Nobody saw Scott Hartnell becoming the most likable player on the Philadelphia Flyers. Hell, I didn’t even see Bryzgalov coming.
So while there’s bound to be a number of surprises as there have been in the past, there’s also a few things we know we can count on being great, as we knew John Tortorella was going to be.
Here are five of those things:
1. The obvious: Brian Burke
Brian Burke is, for my money, just about the Most Interesting Man Alive. Whether you love him or hate him, there’s no denying his strong, opinionated way of doing business is going to make for great TV.
During the first season of 24/7 we actually saw a lot of Ray Shero and George McPhee (Pittsburgh and Washington’s GMs, respectively). We saw how they interacted with their coaches and what they were thinking about their rosters.
This past season, we hardly saw Sather and Holmgren. I’m going to guess that if HBO is going to do the show, they’ll insist on access to Burke. The opportunity is too good to pass up.
2. The coaches: Ron Wilson and Mike Babcock
Get this: when Peter Laviolette was asked who he thought could be the breakout star from a Red Wings/Leafs 24/7 he said….Ron Wilson. Insert Tim Allen question-grunt sound here. (James Mirtle of the Globe and Mail got a number of great quotes from Laviolette on 24/7, which you can read here).
“I know Ron – he’ll have fun with it,” Laviolette said of Wilson, who he has coached with internationally with Team USA. “He’s got a good personality [for the show].
I did not see that coming.
What I DO see coming is the enigma that is Mike Babcock. He’s going to HATE having the cameras in his office, in his dressing room and every way he turns. The man is a serious Canadian beauty who puts hockey ahead of all else (and actually reminds me of a likable Bill Belichick, especially in his preparation).
He’s a great guy who doesn’t reveal his personality much over the course of a season, but I think over those four weeks, we’ll get to see it. If he agrees to go through with it, I can see him ending up pretty high on the list of coaches we’ve seen so far.
3. Joffrey Lupul
If All-Star Weekend taught us anything, it was that a mic’d-up Joffrey Lupul is a good thing.
Knowing his connection to my new beerability favourite Scott Hartnell helps too. I doubt he’ll give us anything dazzling during the “dark chair in a room” interviews, but I could see us getting more Pascal Dupuis-esque “F*** you, Geno” clips.
4. Two teams improving their beerability
Tomorrow is beerability Friday, and I’ll be ranking a “least” list - haven’t decided whether it’ll be players or teams yet - but I gotta say, if it’s teams, are these two not among the ones with the lowest beerability ratings?
After Mike Commodore on the Red Wings, I can’t really think of anyone who I’d want to go out for pints with (maybe Dan Clearly, based strictly on being from the Newfoundland?) And after Lupul…MacArthur? Komisarek?
Every year 24/7 reveals a few dudes to be a lot more interesting than you thought they were, and these two squads need that.
5. Dion Phaneuf
Everyone outside of Toronto hates the guy (and some people from within), and I’ve heard seriously conflicting reports from guys who’ve played with him about what kind of guy he is.
These are two teams that are so big, and have so much fan interest, that they spend the majority of their time warding off the media and burying anything interesting, because they know they’ll just have to answer more questions if something does get revealed.
HBO takes away their ability to hide (which is why I fear the show “shockingly” won’t happen this year), and I’d like to make the judgement call for myself – do I like Dion Phaneuf, or no? Do his teammates?
There’s a lot to get excited about when you think about the potential that four-part documentary has. So what about you – what are you looking forward to seeing that didn’t make the list?