HBO just recently premiered its flagship sports program for this winter: Penguins/Capitals 24/7. I got a chance to watch it recently, and I didn't know how I was going to feel about it going in. Candidly, I'm a Flyers fan first and foremost, but a fan of the game of hockey overall. I enjoy watching the game and every team fight their heart out night in and night out.
And that's exactly what HBO encapsulated in its first episode of this four-part special. I don't like the Penguins, I don't like the Capitals, but the passion that these hockey players exhibited in the show, right from the start, was extremely refreshing. These are two really good teams in the NHL--admittedly overplayed in the media, but...HBO captured the essence of these two teams really well.
Since it's presented as a drama, there are times where people might think that the producers scripted some of the moments, but as a hockey fan, I'd like to think that's not true. Sometimes, you can't script using the f-word 15 times in a span of 1:22. We know Bruce Boudreau of the Washington Capitals is a hothead to start with, and we know that Alexander Ovechkin is rather flamboyant with his mouth too. We know that this is entirely conceivable.
And the Penguins seem to have so much fun together. Everyone seems to love to hate Evgeni Malkin (and I can see why). As I was watching this program, I just grew to have this gigantic respect for these two teams. You could see how confidently serious the atmosphere is when a team is on a gigantic roll, and you could see how depressingly desperate a team is when they can't find the answers (and as of the 3-2 loss to Boston tonight, they haven't found them yet).
On the broadcast side of things, you see the game. As a broadcaster, I bring you the game. But as the HBO cameras roll behind the scenes, you can clearly see the frustration, the passion, the determination, and the sacrifice that goes into every single game that these players play. Broadcasting seems so simple when you see the game as it is. It's a back and forth affair, trying to accomplish one goal.
But this special has added a new-found appreciation of the game for me. And I hope that it has for everyone else too. It's wonderfully produced, expertly shot, seamlessly edited...it's just a beautiful program that captures why we all love hockey. Even if we don't like the teams involved.
Give it a watch if you have HBO, or if you hit the NHL's YouTube channel, you can watch it there.