If “HBO 24/7” is a long-term relationship with two teams leading up to the NHL Winter Classic, then “NHL Revealed” is speed dating.
The League’s latest reality show, produced in part by “24/7” creator Ross Greenburg, debuted on NBCSN on Wednesday and premieres on CBC on Thursday night. It follows a dozen players from the seven Stadium Series teams, many of who are not coincidentally Olympians. (The show will follow them to Sochi, and provide ice-level game coverage of the tournament, which sounds awesome.)
“NHL Revealed” isn’t “24/7”, but it’s trying to be, and that’s one of the issues with what was otherwise an entertaining and, in one particular plotline, groundbreaking show for the League.
Let’s start with the positive: Five things we liked about the first episode of “NHL Revealed.”
1. The Birth of The Okposo Baby
We’ve seen a lot of things on three seasons of “HBO 24/7” and the NHL Network’s watered-down imitations of it, but we’ve never seen cameras follow a player through his wife’s labor and the birth of their daughter. Yet that’s what they captured with New York Islanders forward Kyle Okposo and his family, from him leaving the dressing room through him holding his daughter at the hospital.
It was touching in a way these reality shows usually aren’t. And there’s no question viewers got to know Okposo more in 10 minutes of air time than did over several seasons in the NHL.
2. Tavares and Perry and Rituals
Not to be outdone, John Tavares had an actual revelation on “NHL Revealed”: He literally prays to a Hall of Fame plaque of Mike Bossy before games, resting his head and his sticks next to it.
Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks is also followed through his pregame routine, which involves a seemingly endless process of numbering sticks, touching teammates and other assorted “oh, that’s so Corey Perry” things.
3. The Olympic Announcement
The camera caught a few players learning their Canadian Olympic fate, including two hilarious cases: Drew Doughty sleeping through the call from Hockey Canada and Jonathan Toews being forced to watch the announcement special on someone’s cell phone because it wasn’t being shown on American television. (Pause for a moment to think about where “NHL Revealed” aired and how subversive this is.)
4. Spreading The Wealth
There’s a downside to featuring so many players and teams (more on that later), but it was refreshing to meet new faces (Okposo, Perry, Brodeur) alongside NHL reality television veterans (Bruce Boudreau, Sidney Crosby).
5. Malkin vs. Ovechkin
One of the aspects of “NHL Revealed” that has us excited is to explore how the relationship between teammates changes when they head to the Olympics. Here, Alex Ovechkin slashed Evgeni Malkin during at Washington Capitals’ game vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins, and in a scant month, they’ll be teammates for Russia. The Toews and Kane stuff, in this regard, should be awesome.
And The Five Things We Didn’t Like …
1. Rossif Sutherland
Liev Schreiber is the best and worst thing that’s happened to the NHL on television. His baritone narration of “24/7” is an inseparable part of that show’s success. So the “NHL Revealed” crew tried to recreate it with Rossif Sutherland, Donald’s son and Kiefer’s half-brother, and … you know how there’s crab and then there’s imitation crab? It’s like that.
2. The Infomercial Feel
On “24/7”, there’s a guerrilla filmmaking aesthetic to the coverage, even if the NHL has the final edit. You know you’re watching a four-week advertisement for the Winter Classic, but it never feels that way.
You know why? They never say “Bridgestone Winter Classic.” But on “NHL Revealed”, every reference to the Stadium Series had “Coors Light” attached to it, and ditto the “Tim Hortons Heritage Classic.” It made the show feel more like a product and less like a production.
3. No Single Finish Line
“HBO 24/7” is literally called “Road To The NHL Winter Classic.”
“NHL Revealed” has many roads: To the five Stadium Series games, to the Olympics, to other regular season games. It’s less building to a big showdown than following a dozen somewhat connected plot lines. It still works, but we miss the “Big Bad” at the end.
4. Game Action Seemed Superfluous
Did we even need to see them on the ice? The Ovechkin slash on Malkin was interesting, but the show felt like the inverse of “24/7”: The off-the-ice stuff was far more compelling than anything on the ice. (At least now -- when there are stakes, like in Sochi, that might change.)
We actually watched hoping to see more family time and dressing room quirks, and less gameplay. It doesn't really drive the narrative as it does on HBO, with so many narratives to drive.
5. Where Were The New York Rangers?
Everyone got their moment on “24/7” … save for the Rangers, who are in two different outdoor games. They were seen via their rivalry with the New Jersey Devils, but nothing more. One assumes this is by design, as they have the Yankee Stadium game before the next episode. But it was a conspicuous absence.
Although, according to the show, the Devils have never beaten the Rangers in the playoffs. Hey, if you’re not going to feature them, at least erase history in their favor, right?