2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic - New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

HBO hits the high points in engrossing 24/7 finale


If the reception for last week’s episode of “HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic”was relatively underwhelming, then the finale received rave reviews. To be honest, the New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers produced so many storylines in the last week that HBO probably gathered enough material for two jam-packed hours.

The final hour captured the most compelling threads with HBO’s artful mix of great music and stunning cinematography, leaving us all wanting more – just like the 2011 edition. Let’s take a look at how they handled some of the top stories:

The penalty shot

Naturally, the Winter Classic coverage provided many of the show-stopping moments, but the high point revolved around Danny Briere’s penalty shot against Henrik Lundqvist. HBO pulled out all the stops with multiple camera angles, a perfect soundtrack for the moment and then allowed the inherent drama to take over.

Jaromir Jagr’s up-and-down week

To little surprise, Jagr dominated much of the footage. HBO went behind the scenes during his momentous visit to Pittsburgh with Maxime Talbot, who clearly faced an emotional night.

source: Getty ImagesNaturally, it didn’t stop there as cameras captured Jagr during his well-documented Winter Classic injury. They followed him all the way into the trainer’s room, only stopping when Jagr waived them off while getting treatment.

Finally, perhaps the best bit of chatter came regarding Mike Rupp’s mock salute. Some Flyers weren’t even aware it happened, others shared considerable disdain for the gesture while the Rangers were predictably supportive of the celebration. Regardless of where each player stood, it all resulted in a bevy of gut-busting one-liners.

Bryzgalov’s pain

Ilya Bryzgalov cast a large shadow over the final episode, but this time he wasn’t a source of comic relief. Really, he provided a sort of dark comedy, as HBO captured him in some painful moments after an ugly loss and included footage of Bryzgalov spilling the beans about the Winter Classic starter.

As much as HBO spotlighted Bryzgalov’s oddball side, the greatest value came in the evidence that he happens to be a rather sensitive soul. (Note: that might just be a long way of calling him a “goalie,” though.)


From Marc Staal’s comeback to robust critiques of referees, HBO covered all the biggest threads without giving the hour-long episode a congested feel.

Still, many of us will miss the “little” moments the most. What were some of the standout scenes for you? Feel free to share your favorite memories from the final episode and the second edition of HBO’s great doc series, in general.

Finally, if you want to read up on the rest of the series, here are recaps for the other episodes:

Episode 1 review
Episode 2 review
Episode 3 review

10 memorable phrases from HBO 24/7 episode three

Marian Gaborik

We’re now three episodes deep in “HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic” and seven into the series overall. After a strong first and second episode, there are some rumblings of the third installment being a little weak.

Personally, I think that’s really just a testament of the high bar that’s already been set. Either way, there were some memorable moments to be found, as you’ll see in the top 10 phrases one might associate with episode three.

“Go [blank] yourself”

As expected, HBO captured the awkward exchange between Steve Ott and Peter Laviolette. Ott crowed about respect (and also had an odd trash-talking exchange with Claude Giroux), but Laviolette simply told him to … well, you know.

Christmas sweaters

The New York Rangers held an “ugly Christmas sweater” party that Brad Richards sharply compared to a Halloween party. The biggest highlight was Ryan Callahan’s light-up sweater, but there were plenty of beauties.

Praise for Giroux

Everyone from Laviolette to Jaromir Jagr urged Claude Giroux to make his comeback. The most telling part about his excellence came in the locker room after his four-point return, though. Sure, he celebrated, but his teammates certainly didn’t seem surprised. In other words, they simply expect that from the genuine NHL star.

Gaborik’s Christmas tree

The episode took the hockey world deep into Marian Gaborik’s life, as he did such important things like buying a Christmas tree. Naturally, hecklers couldn’t help but make injury jokes as he carried the tree to his apartment.

source: Getty Images“You’re irrelevant”

Speaking of jokes, HBO’s microphones captured some high-level chirping in episode three. Mike Rupp echoed Brandon Dubinsky’s criticisms, calling a Philadelphia Flyers goon “irrelevant.”

“Like fantasy camp”

Brad Richards might be as bland as watching paint dry during interviews, but the star can trash talk with the best of them. He beat down a marginal Flyer by saying that playing in an NHL game must be “like fantasy camp” for him. Ouch.


Laviolette had some great moments in episode three, but his frequent requests for the Flyers to bring the jam might have some meme-generating potential.

War room

In episode two, HBO brought us into the officials’ own locker room. Episode three’s unique fly-on-the-wall moment came in the NHL’s war room, where goals are reviewed. It was another one of those intriguing little slices of professional hockey life that you won’t see anywhere else.

“Master motivators”

More and more, it seems like Laviolette and John Tortorella are great at their jobs. Sure, their messages are often profane, but Derek of the Pensblog was accurate in calling both of them “master motivators.”

Five faces of Bryzgalov

HBO went through most of the episode before finally going back to the series’ breakout star Ilya Bryzgalov. It was worth the wait, though, as his infamous Husky harassed is predictably hilarious son while Bryzgalov explained that he has “five faces.” It was a confusing way to say that he acts differently in public and in private, but as usual, it was also highly comical.


Some might say that another key phrase might be “filler,” but the previous 10 seem good enough to me. Were you happy with the latest hour from HBO? Are there any other phrases that might leak into your vocabulary? Feel free to share them in the comments.

Five standouts from HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers episode two

Peter Laviolette

The second episode of “HBO 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic” began with Henrik Lundqvist jamming with … John McEnroe. That was a pretty stunning opening, yet an hour later, it barely reverberates compared to the rest of the content. Here are five things that stood out the most from the second hour of the network’s fascinating documentary series.

1. The Kids

Children dominated episode two, covering every end of the spectrum.

On the adorable side, Dan Girardi’s (year and a half old) son Landon rocked his little toy guitar but couldn’t quite connect on his father’s one-timer passes when cameras were on. Danny Briere’s considerably older boys interacted with Sean Couturier, who is upholding the time-honored tradition of living with an older player as a rookie. Briere’s kids trolled Couturier while they played hockey video games and clearly reveled in his presence.

The most heartwarming moment featured the softer side of John Tortorella, who regularly exchanges text messages with Liam, a boy who with cerebral palsy. His reaction to the New York Rangers’ jaw-dropping last-tenth-of-a-second win against the Phoenix Coyotes added some gravity to that moment.

2. Good Torts/Bad Torts

That interchange with Liam gave Tortorella some valuable dimension, because the other footage features a starling, profane taskmaster. (Some believe that his intensity will eventually burn the team out, which is a stance you’re welcome to debate in the comments.)

source: Getty Images3. Peter Laviolette: “Montreal typical” and officials

Peter Laviolette was inflamed when Jaromir Jagr didn’t draw a penalty, going as far as to accuse officials of playing to the crowd in Montreal. If you see someone react to a Habs-friendly call with “It’s Montreal typical,” then you’ll know where that little meme came from. (Laviolette just seems to rub his hosts the wrong way, as you can see from this altercation with Steve Ott.

The officials made a big impact on the show, in general. One basically admitted to making a bad call, there was a great moment in the referees’ locker room and well-placed recording equipment caught some fascinating behind-the-scenes bits.

4. Injuries

From Steve Eminger’s separated shoulder to Chris Pronger’s season-ending injury and Couturier taking a puck to the head, those pull-back-the-curtain moments were awfully interesting. The most telling footage centered on Claude Giroux’s recovery from a concussion. Cameras caught trainers working with Giroux and a doctor running baseline tests that one could imagine being administered when a cop pulls over a drunk driver.

Giroux’s four-point night showed that he must be feeling OK, although time will tell.

5. Ilya Bryzgalov, again

The Flyers certainly caught the first episode of 24/7, because they really let Ilya Bryzgalov have it during a team breakfast. One player gave him the greeting of “Hey, Universe” (which must be his nickname from now on). Jaromir Jagr teased him and even changed tables on Breezy.

Even with reduced screen time, Bryzgalov provided another priceless gem. The Russian goalie stupefied audiences by saying that his blue-eyed husky is “basically like a hot girl.”

Moments like those make us all a little sad that there are only two episodes left.

Five biggest stars from HBO 24/7 episode one

New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

The first episode of HBO’s 24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic just aired. As expected, there were goose bump moments, great hockey bits and even better glimpses into the lives of hockey players off the ice. (My favorite off-ice moment: Rangers players paying for dinner via “credit card roulette.”)

Expect more fun regarding the first edition in the next day or so, but I wanted to start things off with the five “stars” of the glorious hour one.

1. Ilya Bryzgalov

People who follow the sport religiously probably already knew this, but Breezy is a … character. No doubt about it, the Russian netminder stole the show. He made spacey comments about the universe, spoke about how he was told that Philadelphia is “hell” for goalies and informed us all about tigers and Russian liquor. Expectations were high for his weirdness and he raised the bar.

(In fact, when you consider the tiger mask and the lunar lunacy, I’d say that Bryzgalov is the modern answer to oddball netminder Gilles Gratton.)

2. Artem Anisimov

The major expected “plot points” were covered with aplomb, but Anisimov’s rifle “firing” goal celebration was the most fascinating. First, HBO captured reactions to the penalties he received, including profane responses from Brandon Dubinsky and John Tortorella. (Some would say they also depicted a questionable response from officials.)

That paled in comparison to the in-locker room footage, though. There was Sean Avery’s smirk after discussing it with Anisimov, the general awkwardness brimming from the Russian winger right after it happened, Torts’ angry speech about discipline and then Anisimov’s heartfelt apology. Again, HBO’s fly-on-the-wall coverage exceeded expectations.

source: AP3. John Tortorella

Peter Laviolette gained an early advantage in F-bombs but Torts’ rage (and honesty) ruled the day. It’s difficult to summarize his best moments because just about everything he said was hilarious. HBO proves what many thought: there’s rarely a dull moment with the fiery head coach of the Rangers.

4. The Callahan family

My cold soul wasn’t as moved as most, but it was still pretty special to see Callahan’s family beam with pride over Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. The showstopper came when his 90+ year old grandmother teared up with pride over Cally. The already likeable winger might be practically bullet-proof in fans’ eyes after this documentary series is finished.

5. Injuries

Both teams suffered some bumps and bruises, so getting a behind-the-scenes look at those moments was special. The most dramatic moment wasn’t the bigger impact loss of Claude Giroux or continued absence of Chris Pronger, though.

The most engrossing injury-related moment (in my opinion) was Mike del Zotto’s crash into the boards. You could hear his groans of agony as he fell awkwardly and asked a trainer if he was bleeding. He also provided a portal into the soul of many banged-up hockey players when the 21-year-old defenseman said: “I feel like a 61-year-old man today.”


What else stood out to you about this first great episode? If you need to catch a replay, check out this schedule of showings.

Expect to see this John Tortorella meltdown on HBO

John Tortorella

New York Rangers rookie Carl Hagelin collided with Dallas Stars newbie goalie Richard Bachman, leading to a highly questionable charging penalty on Hagelin. ESPN New York’s Katie Strang reports that Rangers head coach John Tortorella had a simple message for Hagelin when he got back to the bench: “Do it again.”

“I told him to do it again,” Tortorella said. “The goalie charged him. The goalie’s out 20 feet and [Hagelin] is going after the puck. That’s his job. So I said ‘Do it again’.”

OK, Torts said that to Hagelin, but what did he say to the officials who called that penalty? Well, let’s put it this way: if you have children who can read lips, then don’t let them watch this video. (H/T to @agentsmith):

This is probably a convenient time to mention that HBO 24/7 premieres tomorrow