Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Has HBO 24/7 Series Become Bigger Than Winter Classic Game Itself?

Over the course of the past few months most have reported, but no one has confirmed that the 2012 NHL Winter Classic will have the New York Rangers traveling to Philadelphia to take on the rival Flyers.  This morning, Larry Brooks of the New York Post, via twitter said that the match-up will happen on January 2 and that both teams will participate in HBO’s 24/7 this fall.
Will be no surprise, but when NHL schedule is released, confirmed that Rangers will be in Philly for Jan. 2 Winter Classic w/ 24/7 coverage.
The most interesting thing about the reaction to Brooks reporting was that much of it revolved around the Rangers being on 24/7 as opposed to the game itself.  Maybe that is partially because the rumors of the 
matchup have been out there for months, but so has the assumption that any future participation in a Winter Classic required the participation in the HBO series.  It appears that the behind the scenes look into the lives of the NHL and its players has actually become bigger than the biggest regular season game itself.  That is not a bad thing either.

The NHL was looking to use the exposure of the HBO mini-series to reach a wider group of viewers and that appears to be happening.  Now instead of the focus just being on the fact that a regular season NHL game is being played outside, there is a series of discussions about what could be seen on this season’s show.  That kind of buzz and talk is something that the NHL needs in order to continue to grow the sport.  The diehard hockey fan is going to watch both the show and the game regardless of who is involved, but using the show to bring in the casual fan and have them form an attachment to the players increases the likelihood of them watching the game and sticking with the sport.  

The early favorite in discussing what could be seen on the show revolves around New York Rangers coach John Tortorella and his already colorful press conferences.  To see what he can do at press conferences, one gets excited to see what HBO could catch behind the scenes.  Will Tortorella curse as much as Washington Capitals’ coach Bruce Boudreau?  Do not discount the chances that it will be Flyer coach Peter Laviolette who comes out with the mouth and temper as while generally more composed with the media he gets very heated on the bench.  

Having personalities like Sean Avery, Brian Boyle, Martin Biron, Brandon Dubinsky, Mike Richards and Chris Pronger should make for entertaining television.  There will be natural storylines of the rivalries between the cities and about whether each team will be able to contend for a championship.  Much of the storylines have yet to be written because there is no way to fully know what the teams will look like until the offseason kicks into high gear with free agency next week.  No matter what the teams look like the combination of personalities on the rosters and storylines to follow will lead to increased interest both during and after the completion of the series.  It is likely that when the Winter Classic itself is over this coming January that the most memorable part of the whole event will be the mini-series and something that occurs on it before the game ever happens, which would not bother the NHL in the least.  After only one year, HBO’s 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic has found a way to dominate the game itself and the sport is better for it.

For an entertaining viewers guide to things to watch for during this year’s 24/7 check out this viewer’s guide.