Hockey on Television Hits an Intriguing High With 24/7, NHL 36 Premieres Tonight
December 14, 2011 5 Comments
You American hockey fans these days are spoiled. Used to be there wasn’t even hockey on national television on a Wednesday. You had to hope that your team was playing or you got nothin’. Tonight, well, here’s what were gonna’ see:
- The second NHL season premiere of the Emmy-award winner 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic on HBO at 10:00 p.m. ET. This season, the show features the Rangers and Flyers. It’s a documentary series that gives you a behind the scenes, uncensored look at what’s going on with two National Hockey League teams. The series goes on for four weeks, yet you kind of wish it would last 40.
- The world premiere of the new VERSUS series and NHL Original Production, NHL 36, sort of an individualized, cleaned up version of 24/7, which follows around a hockey superstar (in this episode, Patrick Kane) for 36 hours of his life. It’s the first project from a production company headed by the mastermind behind 24/7 created exclusively to film documentaries about hockey.
- Oh, by the way, the two best teams (record-wise) in the Western Conference are going to play on VERSUS. The aforementioned Kane and his Chicago Blackhawks are taking on the Minnesota Wild in between those two shows.
This, as we say in most scientific discussions, is pretty damn cool. It’s what diehard hockey fans want, to immerse themselves into their favorite sport completely for as long as they possibly can, because your favorite things a release from whatever other awful things are going on in their lives. It’s just natural for us as human beings. The longer there’s stuff related to hockey on, the longer that man or woman isn’t thinking about something terrible that’s going on with them. Or even something good that’s going on with you. It’s been written many times, many ways, sports – or anything you love as much as you love a sport – is just a complete escape from the bounds of real life. The fact that NHL fans have more hours to escape into their sport is great.
It is, yet again, a testament to, or perhaps a comment on where hockey is in the television world right now. In the ESPN world, none of this probably happens. Sure, maybe you get another token 30 for 30 documentary here and there, and maybe NHL 2nite is back, but the NHL is a niche sport right now, and ESPN is for the broad world. ESPN wouldn’t be able to do any of this, certainly not 24/7 due to language restrictions (though they are fewer than on broadcast television, they still exist). However, VERSUS exists in the more niche world of cable, where they superserve what they have instead of underserving everything to appear fair to what they’ve got. Also, HBO is the no-nonsense rogues of the cable world, they do whatever they hell they want.
But the NHL remains a niche product, and it’s offering itself to the right people. In VERSUS and the NBC Sports Group, they’ve got the right people to super-serve that niche and slowly grow it. With HBO (and the newly founded NHL Original Productions), they’ve got creative minds trying to expand the experience of hockey on television with looks that neither diehard fans nor casual onlookers have seen before. It’s the right combination of people who work hard inside the box, and people with enough vision to create something outside the box. It’s a good mix of networks to have right now.
Hockey has somewhat remained the most secretive and closed-off of the major sports. We have access to NFL locker rooms after games to see rousing speeches that coaches are giving their victorious players. We can get inside a baseball clubhouse or a basketball locker room and see what the dynamics of the sport are just from basic coverage given to it. But hockey remains still at somewhat of a distance, either from lack of desire to crack the code or lack of ability from other networks. Yet, we see the two programs debuting tonight, trying to break us, the fans, in there. We’ve got a hockey game airing with a guy between the two teams benches who gets to interview each coach during a period. We’re getting closer and closer.
There’s some other stuff I’d like to see, and I’ll get into it at another time, but that’s not the point. I’m always going to come up with silly ideas for new stuff to do with hockey because I’m self-centered and I think I’m a genius and that everyone should listen to my ideas. Ignore that. The point is, the National Hockey League is currently aligned with companies that are there to help you immerse yourself totally in hockey. It’s not helicoptering you to and from the rink in between SportsCenters. You get everything you need right now if you’re a hockey fan, and that is a very good place to be. Enjoy tonight, everyone.