HBO 24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Top 10 Highlights of the Series Finale
HBO came, we saw. As hockey fans, we walk away from the experience of 24/7 having seen things we thought we'd never get to see. Wednesday night marked the series finale and it ended just as brilliantly as it started.
Let's take a look at the top 10 moments from the final show.
10: Behind the Steel Curtain
The show opened with a behind-the-scenes look at the Heinz Field transformation. Amazingly, organizers used 10 gallons of water per inch of ice and they spray it on one layer at a time. People worked around the clock for the first few days.
The other funny thing was the imperfect painting of the on-ice lines. Who knew that they used paint brushes to make a face-off dot?
For most of us, we just show up at the arena and it seems like the ice rink is always there. Watching them create one from scratch is cool every time I see it.
9: Where's Mario?
It must have been a conscious decision by Lemieux, but he didn't really appear in the series whatsoever. I noted his absence after episode one, but I did so with the assumption that he would get involved at some point in the series.
Instead, all we saw of him was a couple clips of him practicing on the ice and waving to the crowd. Maybe he didn't want to misdirect the attention away from the team because surely his stardom is big enough to do so, but I found it a bit surprising that he didn't sit down and talk to the cameras.
If I had one criticism of the show, this would be it.
8: Matt Cooke
Love him or hate him (it's the latter for me), Matt Cooke became a prominent figure in this series. He kicked things off with some comedy relief when he orchestrated some good-natured fun, but in the final episode he displayed why he is such a polarizing player.
Early in the show, he showed us his human side as he paraded his son around the workout complex in an exact replica suit. However, by the end of the episode he once again revealed why most of us dislike him so much.
On the ice this player lives up to his cockroach reputation by dishing out cheap shots to opposing players and mouthing off to the refs when someone retaliates.
7: Hockey's Roots
One moment that might go overlooked from this episode was the small feature on the outdoor hockey pond. As a prologue to the Winter Classic, kids were shown at a local frozen pond playing some shinny hockey as current Capitals talked about their memories doing the same when they were kids.
It reminds us what this game is at its roots. At its essence is a grace and grit that simultaneously bond together to create one of the most unique sports on the planet. Kids ignore hunger, fatigue, pain and parents calls to stay on the pond hours on end imagining that it's game seven of the Stanley Cup finals.
For the current stars of 24/7, these dreams are coming true as they preparing to play in one of the biggest pond hockey games in the sports history.
6: The Highs and Lows of Jordan Staal
Throughout the series we've seen snippets of Jordan Staal preparing to return from injury. At one point in tonight's episode he seemed like a kid brought into the principal's office.
He was sitting on a chair in between Dan Bylsma and Ray Shero as they talked about his possible availability for the Winter Classic. The look on his face was that of a child getting lectured about right and wrong.
Thankfully, he escaped further punishment and was cleared to play in the big game. It can't be easy waiting around for half a season for the chance to rejoin the team. He's there with the team, but he's not part of it. Often times in sports, a long-term injury translates into them becoming an observing bystander like the rest of us.
5: Injuries Galore
If there is one constant of every episode (besides the F-bombs) is the daily battery of injuries. I thought we were finally going to go through an entire show without seeing more grotesque close-ups of faces being sewn up, but it wasn't to be.
If we are to take away one thing from this series, it's the grueling battle these players endure. Yes, they are heavily compensated as millionaire athletes, but it's hard to watch this series and not thing that they don't earn their money. They sacrifice their bodies and must survive a mentally wearing travel schedule just for the chance to make the playoffs.
I can only imagine what the operating table looks like in the postseason once they start playing for real. The Stanley Cup is indeed the hardest trophy to win in all of sports.
4: Concussion Problem? What Concussion Problem?
Speaking of injuries, what happened to the crackdown on concussions?
At the end of the second period of the Winter Classic, Sidney Crosby clearly got his "bell rung." He struggled off the ice and staggered into the locker room, but where was the medical team? It might be presumptuous to assume that doctor's didn't take a look at him, but we didn't get that impression from HBO.
Even sitting in his locker stall he didn't seem right. Given the high profile that concussions have had this year, one would think that he would be going through some sort of testing to see if he indeed have a concussion.
3: More On-Ice Microphones
Another huge highlight of 24/7 has been the on-ice access with uncensored audio. The Winter Classic might have given us the best clips of the entire series. In fact, a special shout-out should go to the referees of this league.
Who knew that they played such an active role in the game? It became very apparent that they do a whole lot more than call penalties.
Hockey is a fast-paced and emotional game. So much so that even the refs get caught up in the tone of the game. We saw more clips of Crosby bitching at the ref and it didn't matter how big of a star he was because the ref gave it back to him just as good.
If HBO ever signs a TV deal with the league to broadcast games I'm not sure anyone would want to go back and watch it as it's shown now. The access on the ice has added that much more to the action.
2: Marc-Andre Fleury Becomes Francois Dupuy
If you don't know who Francois Dupuy is, don't worry because neither did I. I had to search on Google for what was one of the funniest series of hockey commercials in the 1990s.
Francois Dupuy was a stereotype french goalie that starred in those famous Nike commercials and when HBO showcased Fleury stopping pucks during the practice shootout I couldn't help but draw the comparison.
The most refreshing aspect of the series finale was the hatred displayed for the Penguins by many members of the Capitals. I understand that off the ice most players probably like each other and have no problem getting along, but in the heat of battle it rubs me the wrong way when players from opposing teams rejoice only seconds after the final buzzer.
Not these teams. They clearly don't like each other and they weren't mincing words about it. During a locker room speech, coach Bruce Boudreau tells his team that they are "going to get two points from these pricks." Later we see Ovechkin refer to the Penguins as "Shittsburgh."
To extinguish all doubt about the hate these teams have for each other, the Penguins skated off the ice after losing the Winter Classic without shaking hands. Something all of the previous teams have done in the three previous outdoor games.
It's hard to summarize just how good this series was. I thought it portrayed all aspects of the sport that it should have. The finesse, the brutality and the cold business of it all.
One can only hope that the ratings are good enough that they can do it again next year. I wouldn't object to them doing this feature on the Winter Classic teams every season. If this indeed comes to pass then the NHL could be entering an unprecedented time in the history of the game.
It's not very often that the league enjoys this kind of success in the big, bad world of media exposure. While the Winter Classic game itself wasn't a very good representation of what the game has to offer, the event itself along with HBO's hit series are additional building blocks in the rise to relevancy.
The very last shot of the series was Penguins jerseys tumbling in the wash which was the perfect bookend to the exact same shot with Capitals jerseys that opened the series. You'll have to watch the show to know what the symbolism was behind it, but it is a testament to the thought that went into this from the people who filmed this series.
The only bad thing about 24/7 is that it's over.