Winter Classic 2014: HBO's '24/7' Will Give Fans Inside Look at Rivalry Clash

Donald WoodFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2013

DETROIT, MI - APRIL 07:  A look at the 2014 NHL Winter Classic jersey's displayed at the Press Announcement on April 7, 2013 at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)
Dave Reginek/Getty Images

The 2014 NHL Winter Classic will take place on Jan. 1 inside the confines of Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., between the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs. Fans can get a behind-the-scenes look at the longstanding Original Six rivalry and the preparation for this epic clash with HBO’s 24/7 Red Wings/Maple Leafs: Road to the NHL Winter Classic.

The 24/7 series' latest installment is scheduled to debut on Saturday, Dec. 14. It will follow both teams as they prepare for the outdoor spectacular and will also feature the transformation of Michigan Stadium into a hockey haven that will house over 100,000 fans on game day.

Check out this quick time lapse of the stadium's initial changes:

The show will be available to fans in the United States on HBO. Canadian hockey enthusiasts can witness it on Sportsnet for the first time this year, with 24/7 debuting on Dec. 15 and new episodes running the following three Sundays.

This preview offers a sneak peek, including comments from goalies James Reimer and Jimmy Howard:

This marks the third season of the annual series, with four episodes debuting on each subsequent Saturday beginning Dec. 14 in the United States. The show will lead up to the Jan. 1 Winter Classic game and give the fans an intimate look at each team as they prepare for one of the biggest games of the year.

The all-inclusive showcase has done wonders for the mainstream popularity of the sport in the United States and elsewhere. NHL chief operating officer John Collins told the league’s website about the impact 24/7 has had on the league in the past and the expectations moving forward:

HBO's 24/7 has been a game-changer for us. The wide-open access our clubs provide on and off the ice gives a real sense of what it takes to play in the NHL and just how special our players are. Our fans love it, and there's no question new fans have been attracted by watching the games and the personalities come alive through the lens of HBO's storytelling. Red Wings-Maple Leafs will provide no shortage of great stories, and having Sportsnet as our first partner in Canada will make this year's edition bigger than ever.

Both teams' coaches touch on the rivalry in the video below. The Red Wings' Brendan Smith and Stephen Weiss and Toronto's David Clarkson and Joffrey Lupul also share their thoughts:

The magnitude of playing inside a college football stadium like the “Big House” makes this event feel even more important, and the long-term rivalry between the Maple Leafs and Red Wings will only add more intrigue to the outdoor battle.    

As two of the Original Six franchises, officials couldn’t have picked two better organizations with richer traditions to represent the NHL in the sixth installment of the Winter Classic.

Detroit and Toronto first squared off in 1927 and have since formed a bitter rivalry that has lasted almost a century. The battles have only started to heat up once again as the Red Wings made the jump from the Western Conference to the East.

As if the re-instilled conference bitterness wasn’t bad enough, Detroit is also now part of the Maple Leafs’ division (Atlantic), meaning the teams will begin to see more and more of each other over the coming years.

What better way to ensure that this remains a bitter rivalry than by pitting the franchises against one another in one of the most important games of the season?