HBO 24/7 Wish List: Playoffs, Canucks VS Blackhawks

Article Thumbnail

By Dave Cunning 

“It is a gradual process. Taking hold not over weeks or months, but years. Decades. And entire lives. The game engraves its way onto the body. It envelops itself around the soul. Insistently. Excruciatingly. Completely. Hockey becomes them. Their spirits grow intimate with the pain of frustration, even as their wills become ever more possessed by the ecstasy of victory. If you let it, that’s just the start of what the game can do to you.”

BetOnHockey_NHL_Winter_Classic_2012_250x250.jpgThis was the opening narration of the first episode of this year’s HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic four-part series. If you can read that and not get goose bumps in agreement, then I’d venture to say you never played the game of hockey. This series is bar none, the best promo the Winter Classic and the NHL have going for them.

A little after the gimmick game’s inception, sometime after the initial nostalgia of an outdoor game wore off just a bit, I started to wonder why a mid-season, fairly meaningless (standings wise) game needs so much attention and publicity (I know it’s about selling 40,000 tickets, plus heaps of money in advertising, memorabilia, and concessions). I’ve been advocating since the finale of last season’s series that the 24/7 concept would be absolutely dynamite in a scenario where the game really meant something. As in the playoffs. The finals in particular. With the stirring narration this show includes, can you not see it all the more fitting for two teams’ pursuit of the Stanley Cup? The chance to win the Cup is ultimately what takes hold and envelops the soul of a hockey player, not a one-off game they play in the middle of their year. Trying to win one more Stanley Cup was part of the reason Gretzky kept playing as long as he did. It’s why Ray Bourque hung in for 23 years and even left the Bruins to hoist his first. Can you imagine the locker room and behind the scenes banter that you could film in scenarios like those?

I can’t help but think that the rivalry between the Chicago Blackhawks and Vancouver Canucks would be the most entertaining match-up of all to broadcast -- especially given the recent chirp-fest between Chicago’s Dave Bolland directed at the Sedin’s, and from Kevin Bieksa and Alain Vigneault in retaliation (in summary: ). That, of course, lumped onto the smoldering pile of burning hatred the teams have had for each other over the last few years. They would have to play their game in Chicago again (first time there was in 2009), as obviously Vancouver’s liquid winter wouldn’t make for a great outdoor game environment. Taking the HBO cameras into the Luongo/Schneider stuff alone would be worth the price of admission.  

Coming back to Gretzky, apparently he’s “warming up” to the idea of playing in the Winter Classic alumni game ( for the Rangers side. This, is after deadpanning the idea when previously asked to if he’d play – promoting the NHL may not be at the top of Wayne’s priority list, considering the league still owes him around $8 million from the Phoenix Coyotes fiasco. Don’t underestimate the collective convincing ability of Glen Sather and Mike Keenan. I guess Gretzky and Keenan’s un-pleasantries from the St. Louis Blues days are water under the bridge.  Playing in the game would once more reunite Gretzky with Mark Messier; who much like Chicago, also has a bone to pick with Vancouver. Messier is claiming the Canucks owe him “a significant amount of money” from his failed days wearing the angry Orca on his chest (details: If HBO has any sense, they’ll get as much camera time on these two guys as possible.  

Whether I get my wish for the teams or scenario I want or not, is not quite as important to me as this series continuing to be produced every season. It’s the best promotion for the game that the NHL has managed to swing yet. Far better than a trip to the Winter Classic being given away as a Showcase prize on the Price is Right (they did that earlier this month: ) in front of a mildly excited, half-conscious studio audience. It’s better than the regular TV shows that I don’t miss every week. It makes me love hockey, and I thought I already did a whole lot. So tune in each week, and tell all your American friends to as well! 







blog comments powered by Disqus

Subscribe Here To Receive News, Updates
and Picks Sent Directly To Your Inbox
I agree to the .

Pick Archive




View all pro picks

Connect with