REVIEW: Could HBO’s Broad Street Bullies Be Worth Skipping Hockey Tonight?


At some point during the HBO documentary “Broad Street Bullies” (premieres tonight at 10:00 PM ET/PT), former Flyer and omnipresent television personality Bill Clement refers to his 70’s Philadelphia teams “beating the shit” out of opponents.  That’s when it occurred to me: The NHL needs to let it’s players go uncensored.  There needs to be an HBO or Showtime series, a la Inside the NFL, that takes you behind the scenes, and gets real talk from it’s players like Hands of Cement and the rest of the 70’s gang of Bullies do in this entertaining, enthralling, at times hilarious hour-long documentary.

Narrated by the voice of HBO Sports, Liev Schriber, and containing a ton of old school hockey footage I’m sure even diehards have never seen, the NHL and it’s bad-boy, bench-clearing 70’s are the perfect fit for HBO.  You see the good, bad and the ugly of all the fisticuffs that occurred, and how Dave “The Hammer” Schultz started it, despite never having fought once before getting to the NHL.

Schultz is made the likely breakout character of the documentary, as it devotes quite a bit of time to his fights, some of his goals, and in one of the more delightful moments of the entire thing, his brief music career, as The Hammer recorded a love song called “Penalty Box” that may or may not be on my iTunes list as we speak.  Whenever the piece focuses on him, in shines brightly.

The other characters are not all as interesting, and the documentary isn’t quite as focused as it should be on some of the key players.  Bobby Clarke gets a few minutes, but it doesn’t seem like enough for the franchise’s most important player.  But that’s how you know it’s HBO.  A documentary made by say, a regional sports network, would’ve devoted half the show to Clarke’s diabetes affecting his draft position that allowed the Flyers to select him in the 2nd Round.

Some of the other bits are more amusing: Anytime the Flyers as a “band of brothers” (sorry) is fantastic.  Like when they mention wearing black armbands to commemorate their favorite bar burning down.  The segments where the members of the team remember each other fondly are also golden, especially when that focus turns on the wacky tastes of goaltender Bernie Parent.

Overall, “Broad Street Bullies” is a little unfocused at times, but is overall a fantastic, gritty, winning production.  The NHL and HBO need to collaborate more often, and I can only hope the NHL sees what hopefully will be a positive reaction to this effort and asks for more.  How about a documentary about Gordie Howe and his sons playing together in the WHA?  Or just a WHA documentary in general?  There are a ton of ideas from hockey’s storied, colorful past to turn to, and the Broad Street Bullies is a great start.  Just don’t turn on the bleep button.

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