Ok so let's move past the fact that 99% of the board can't stand either the Pens or Caps. I hate the Pens with all my heart. I can handle the Caps because Ovie is (to me) the best player in the world. But let's look at the bigger picture here: this show was flat out awesome. (For those who haven't seen the show and are planning to, I'll try to limit the spoilers.)
I've never seen a show go behind the scenes in hockey. That's the real selling point for me here. It's like you're a member of the team. Hearing the guys in the locker room is awesome. Hearing the contrast between the successes of the Pen and the hardships of the Caps is priceless. It's great to see how the guys support the fighters in the room during the intermission. Really shows the camaraderie the game is about.
Hearing the guys chirp on-ice is awesome. Hearing them exchange pleasantries after a fight is really cool. This is a look at hockey we've never gotten before. A show like this could really take hockey players, normally of quiet, reserved obcsurity, into more of a spotlight among fans. ("Hey, these guys are pretty cool, after all!")
I do want to address the Pens segments, because it is a part of the show after all. Honestly, if you can get past the fact that they are enemy number 1 for us, it's really entertaining. As much as I hate Max talbot, he provides a good amount of entertainment. Their team seems very tightly-knit. Akin to what I assume the Wings are like. Getting a look at the pranks they pull in practice and at the hotel is great. To me, the plane ride was pretty cool to see, too. It's not just guys being quiet and sleeping. They're having fun all the time. Basically, doing things we all would love to be doing when on the job.
I like that HBO presented a pretty good amount of game footage, mic'd up players and coaches included. This brings me to my final selling point for this post: I want to see the NHL partner with HBO to bring us entire games produced in this fashion - up close, uncensored, and (most importantly to me) without commentators. This would be the kind of broadcast hardcore hockey fans live for, and the kind that might draw fringe viewers to become regular fans. Think of a "Game of the Week" on HBO. Just once to start. Sure, the NHL would probably feature the better, more marketable teams to begin with, but maybe another alternative would be to have each team featured in one game. That way, fans of each team get a real personal look at their squad.
So what exactly would I want to see from this broadcast? List is pretty short and simple, actually. No commentators, mic'd up players, standard broadcast angles plus maybe a few new ones, cameras and mic's in the locker rooms pre- and post-game, as well as in the intermissions, and maybe one rinkside reporter to get some questions to the coach in the intermission. The crowd and arena PA announcer could be mic'd up too to add some character.
But that's a ways off. The fact is that will probably never happen. So I'm going to DVR every episode of this show and replay it whenever I want. It's that good. I watched "Hard Knocks" and this blows it out of the water. Maybe it's the fact that I'm a hockey nut, but it doesn't get much better than this. Kudos to HBO for producing a great show, kudos to the NHL for OK'ing the idea. Even after the first episode, the one thing I'm bummed about is that there are only 3 more episodes. But maybe this is a stepping stone to bigger and better things for the NHL and HBO. Just maybe.