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HBO’s 24/7 has, undeniably, made making a behind-the-scenes NHL documentary series a lot harder, mostly because it’s amazing from top to bottom. But that didn’t stop the NHL from trying to make a knock-off of sorts, which would serve the duel purpose of providing the fans a bit more of the rarely-seen personalities of professional hockey players, and for advertising the hell out of the fact that HEY YOU GUYS THERE’S GOING TO BE A BUNCH OF OUTDOOR GAMES THIS YEAR DON’T FORGET.

The show is called “NHL Revealed,” and it’s original episode aired yesterday, so I gave it a watch.

The show was good. Okay, thanks for reading, that’s the whole article. …But seriously, the content the NHL was given to work with was absolutely amazing, so there’s no way it could’ve been anything but.

Consider:

- They focused on the Ducks, Islanders, Senators and Penguins (obviously all teams that’ll be involved in outdoor games). They highlighted a game each. Win, win, win, win. Okay, good start.

- They followed Kyle Okposo and his wife to give birth to THEIR FIRST CHILD. Like, there were in the car for the ride there and all that. Then he scores the next night. As amazing as it was – I openly cried – I couldn’t help but think what HBO and Liev Schrieber would’ve done with it.

- They focus on Tavares, five point game. Focused on Perry, OT winner. Focused on Brodeur (first return to Montreal since the passing of his father), first star. It’s not like they retroactively followed these guys: they had pre-game features with them, they just happened to have big nights. They couldn’t have asked for more.

- AND, they were around as players got named to play for their Olympic teams! Total gold mine.

As I mentioned, I just couldn’t stop thinking “what would HBO have done with that” because this year’s version of 24/7 was so badly handcuffed by showing two utter non-rivals both playing poorly. There wasn’t a whiff of anything interesting going on. Joffrey Lupul’s coming back from an injury. Oh. The Red Wings have a lot of injuries. Got it. Um…??? …Yeah that was sort of it. They didn’t much clay to make a pot with.

But back to Revealed, which was rolling in mountains of clay…here’s a little more depth on the actual first episode of the series:

* Kyle Okposo holding his wife’s hand on the drive to the hospital, then hugging his parents after the birth of his daughter were moments that absolutely got me.

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* John Tavares

A) prays to the plaque of Mike Bossy before games, and that’s amazing,
B) Appears to be doing a great job helping rookie Ryan Strome (positioning advice, followed be an inspiring “feels good, right?” after the kid’s first NHL goal), and
C) Still sounds like Ben Stein. “This is my game face” kills me as a commercial. I can just see the director…YES! NAILED IT! THE PASSION! MY STARS!

 * Erik Karlsson buying cowboy boots from the world’s biggest parody of a cowboy was amazing. “Gonna need some boot-cut britches” and “I knew you were strange” provided some levity.

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* Nashville looks amazing, as I’ve been told a million times by anyone who’s ever been there. People trying to corral you off the street to come drink beer and steaks the size of an actual cow? I’m in.

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* I did get a peek at a Bylsma whiteboard…

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…but I’ve broken them down before, and this one’s a bit tough to read. It’s still funny to see how much more stuff Bylsma has written on those boards than Carlyle and Boudreau did (granted, they could’ve given the same info out in other ways, packets or whatever, so who knows).

* The Brodeur stuff was a little dry for something that had the potential to be really interesting, and same with the Olympic announcements. It was cool to see, but because it’s the NHL, we get the scrubbed version – you know Jonathan Toews b****ed about the long speeches before the announcements (but we didn’t see it), you know guys like Brent Seabrook and Mike Richards were around when they found out they didn’t make their Olympic teams (but we didn’t see them), it’s all just…a little too polished.

In all, it’s a show worth watching. And in fact, if you’d like to do that, you can so right now at the bottom of the page. If you’re looking to catch the next episodes on the TV machine, this is from the NHL’s website:

The seven-part series debuts Jan. 22 on NBCSN and Jan. 23 on CBC (with a re-air Jan. 26 on Sportsnet in Canada).

Subsequent episodes will air in the United States on NBCSN on Jan. 29, Feb. 5, Feb. 27 (two-part), March 5 and March 12. CBC will air the one-part episodes one day after NBCSN but will also air the two-part episode on Feb. 27. Sportsnet will provide additional viewing opportunities on Jan. 26, Feb. 2, Feb. 23, March 2 (two hours), March 9 and March 16.

Here’s a good review of the show from Steve Lepore if you’re interested in knowing more (rhymes!) – for those you who just want to dive right in, here ya go:

Comments (11)

  1. Weird to grow up in Windsor and hear others describe the Leafs-Wings as a “non-rivalry.” The rivalry must be a regional thing (putting them in different conferences for ~15 years certainly didn’t help though)

  2. I, too, was disappointed with this year’s 24/7, but unlike you, I thought it had more to do with HBO totally messing up a great product. It was New Coke. (You might be too young for that reference.) It was Rocky IV. (Still too young?) It was the third season of Homeland. (Okay, that one might stick…)

    You had two coaches at opposite ends of the spectrum: old school ex-player and younger college guy. Teams with great history and rabid fans. A few stars, characters and oddballs on each team. Winning or losing, those are still ingredients for great entertainment.

    It seemed to me that HBO had fallen so in love with its beauty shots and hockey cliches that they forgot to let the characters be the stars.

    The simple example: both coaches have been successful with multiple teams. That didn’t happen by yelling “Dig in, boys…” and “Work harder, boys…” all season long. But if you watched this year’s 24/7, you would believe that’s all a hockey coach does – tell the guys to work harder.

    Similarly, the on-ice content in previous years provided insight. I remember the scene with Giroux and his Flyer teammates talking about who each would fight on the other team if a line brawl started. This year, all we got was a bunch of “yeahs” and “good jobs”…

    I haven’t gone back to check, but I’m convinced HBO had a different editor on the project this year. Rather than having some who took use a little deeper into the game, it seemed to be in the hands of someone who got stuck on the surface.

    That’s kind of what I expect from “NHL Revealed” – nothing other than loveable people and heartfelt story lines. (Oh yeah…and hockey players never use naughty language!)

    • That’s a fair point. I think they struggled a bit because the biggest names on both teams – Babcock, Datsyuk, Zetterberg, Kessel, etc. – are mostly understated guys. But I also wonder if the NHL isn’t doing more 24/7 scrubbing than they used to? Because you’re right, there was next to no new information offered.

      PS, I’m old now, don’t forget. I can hack the old man references. Assuming you’re an old man, or whatever.

      And now, I’m go look into who edited what…

      • Maybe the part of the problem for 24/7 this year was unrealistic expectations, particularly with 2 years to look forward to it. Aside from the series generally being scrubbed a bit more, it was also frustrating that both teams threw the cameras out of their locker rooms.

        Everyone seems to love the narration on 24/7, but I really dislike the sappy writing (“it’s game of passion and love they’ve been beholden to, ceaselessly trapping their inner children in wonder since they were children themselves” … or something like that), and it’s a problem that seems to get worse each year. Those writers never saw and adjective or adverb they didn’t want to throw in a sentence. Also, enough with the families. They are always the same sort of milquetoast proud of their son done well (who wouldn’t be? who’s going to say, “I love my son, but Mikey really should have become a doctor”?). Maybe I am just a curmudgeon? All that being said, I liked that the writing on NHL Revealed was somewhat toned-down in comparison to 24/7.

        I do wish that the NHL would realize that the locker room and on-ice moments are the major draw for some of us. One thing that I love about this blog is how Justin gives a bit more of that insider’s perspective on how locker rooms work and what players are thinking and saying on the ice. It would be great if the NHL were willing to give us more of that in this series, and it would probably help with attracting fans. The Crosby-Phaneuf conversation with the ref on 24/7 did more humanize Crosby and make him likable than probably a hundred commercials and awkward interviews.

        Anyway, I’ll stop ranting, and thanks for the great post.

      • Ha! You know I’m an old man. And I know you’re still a whippersnapper!

        BTW, creeping closer on our sneaker wager…

    • I’m not sure I would classify Carlyle as being successful with multiple teams. He won a cup in Anaheim, but I don’t know if you would consider his run in Toronto to be “successful” at this point. It may turn out that way, but right now I’d call it something like mediocre, and that might be generous.

      • Okay, leave out his performance with the Leafs. He didn’t get the Ducks to the Cup by shouting “C’mon boys…” over and over.

  3. Video being blocked now?

  4. Sounds a lot like the cliched, insight-free Oil Change that airs on one of the alleged sports networks.

  5. The thing that sucks about the Winter Classic is all the politics that go into it. We will most likely never see a Bruins – Canadiens classic because they will never have it in Montreal, and when it did happen in Boston, it almost didn’t even happen. It sucks.

  6. I was a bit disappointed in 24/7 too… But kind of expected it…
    The thing started to be big (too big?) so more league / P.R. of the teams control..
    Maybe even self control from players…

    Which team or players themselves would like to be seen like Briz ?
    Good for fans, funny, but for trades, contracts ? Seriousness of organization?

    The fact that teams were losing should have brought even more insight than a streak…
    But even coaches were IMO on PR-missions….

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