Episode rating: 2.5/5
Warning: Some clips in this post contain coarse language.
It was the perfect TV storm on paper. And then it aired. And then it wasn’t.
When the NHL (re)announced the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings would play in the next Winter Classic and HBO would reprise its groundbreaking series, 24/7, I fist-pumped. Two Original Six squads, both coming off surprisingly strong playoff showings, both pegged by pundits like us as teams on the rise, both hockey markets, ready to star on the best hockey documentary series ever made? Yes, please. It couldn’t miss. We had stars of the game like Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, charming characters like Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul and David Clarkson and quotable coaches in down-to-earth Mike Babcock and blunt Randy Carlyle.
The season premiere aired Saturday and there’s no point sugarcoating it: we hockey people love this series, but season 3, episode 1 was somewhat of snoozer, more so than the eight episodes that preceded it. To understand what went wrong, let’s remember what made 24/7 Penguins/Capitals and 24/7 Flyers/Rangers so good:
1. Memorable characters. Maxime Talbot and Pascal Dupuis are funny. Marc-Andre Fleury is a quirky prankster. Ilya Bryzalov needs no introduction in the sport anymore, and that’s because of the personality he showed on 24/7.
2. Fiery coaches. Bruce Boudreau put the series on the map in season 1, episode 1 with his profanity-laden tirades. Not to be outdone were the calculating Dan Bylsma, the prickly Peter Laviolette (just ask Steve Ott) and John Tortorella, who was yelling at the Rangers not to s— their pants one minute and reaching out to a child in need the next.
3. Music. The tracks in seasons 1 and 2 were great. People rushed to Google the tunes they couldn’t get out of their heads and came up with M83’s Midnight City and Fitz and the Tantrums’ Moneygrabber.
4. Rivalry. Penguins/Capitals was Crosby/Ovechkin and two teams who had played a seven-game playoff war a season and a half prior. The Flyers and Rangers…that one doesn’t even need explaining.
While one episode doesn’t condemn a season, the opener of 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs lacks sparkle because it’s arguably missing all those elements.