Hockey has always struggled to get a stranglehold on American viewership since the 2004 lockout. Prior to the lost season, one could find a game on ESPN on any given night followed by a highlight show. Since then, the NHL has acquired marketable stars but outside the Stanley Cup lacked another distinguishable platform to not only show them off properly but hand select who to feature. Enter the NHL’s Winter Classic. Having only been around since 2008, the yearly event has become the league’s marquee single game event when it pits two teams (usually rivals) outdoors in stadiums reserved for either football or baseball.
It has quickly become a fan-favorite among the diehards and has peaked interest from people who wouldn’t necessarily consider themselves avid hockey fans. Last year saw the league’s two biggest stars in Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin went head-to-head in front of 68,000 fans at Heinz Field (home of the Pittsburgh Steelers) as kind of a wet dream turned reality for the league. To further peak interest leading up to the New Year’s Day event, the NHL teamed up with HBO to shadow the teams in a never before seen uncensored inside access to the players, locker rooms, hotels, homes, and anything else fans would never normally get to see.
Anyone who has ever seen anything sports related on HBO knows it’s guaranteed to be damn good and 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic went above and beyond the call. In fact it was so popular that HBO plans to release it on DVD this month, a first for any of their 24/7 shows. With the success of 24/7 and the Winter Classic itself the NHL re-upped for this year’s edition between the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers which is to be played at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philly.
To give us a taste of what’s to come, HBO released the above 12-minute trailer to basically make our mouths water with anticipation leading up to the December 14th season premiere. What will make this season better than last is the teams involved are actual longtime rivals. Any hockey fan outside of DC or Pittsburgh will have you believe the Pens vs Caps rivalry isn’t all that grand compared to what you find around the league and they’d be right.
Unlike last year, the teams play in the same division and are also significantly closer in proximity. The antagonistic factors found in a roster featuring Sean Avery, Chris Pronger, Scott Hartnell, Jody Shell, Brandon Dubinsky blows it’s predecessor out of the water. Then there’s the always entertaining John Tortorella who’s stands a good chance of out cusring Bruce Boudreau in the first episode alone.
Despite only having true success in baseball
Anyway, I’ll be back throughout the series to do Bloglin recaps as it airs, thoughts, and analysis on the show which will be the best thing on HBO in December. Believe that.- Spartak