September 17, 2010
I'm no TV producer, but biting HBO's "Hard Knocks" and putting out an NHL version is a no-brainer.
If you haven't seen "Hard Knocks," the principle is simple -- follow an NFL team from the day players show up for camp, and cut it off when the games get serious. The show allows fans to get to know the players deeper, while occasionally revealing awesome facts like, say, the odd guy can't remember all of his kid's names.
There's certain things we deserve to know. We need answers to important questions, like just how many times does somebody have to toss a roll at pregame meal to one of the Philadelphia Flyers goalies before they catch it?
I want to be inside the Canucks dressing room when the first guy makes a "sack up" joke to Sami Salo(notes). I want to be in the Flyers dressing room when, lo and behold, it turns out that Daniel Carcillo has been dead serious about that puberty-stache this whole time. Really Dan, really?
I can't imagine how much we'd enjoy seeing a quick clip of guys playing ping-pong, where Lou Lamoriello is in the background giving the "come hither" finger to Brian Rolston(notes). We'd see him put his arm around his shoulder and mouth something along the lines of "we're gonna take you on a niiice little trip to visit Hoffa- er, Hofstra."
At least that way we'd be able to make sense of the Devils next transaction report: "Brian Rolston has signed in Siberia and will be back so don't worry about it's no big deal he'll be back we promise just forget about it."
You can't tell me fans wouldn't love to see the intricacies of the game, like how things don't always work out perfectly with equipment orders. Just this year I heard that after making Keith Ballard(notes) and Roberto Luongo(notes) stall-mates Mike Gillis mistakenly ordered Louisville Sluggers for Ballard instead of his usual Easton's. These things happen.
We'd finally get to see how different guys prepare for different games. Wouldn't it be great to know if, much like last year, Matt Cooke(notes) still enlists the help of Evander Kane(notes) to take his refreshing mid-game naps?
It's the little things we miss out on. We usually see the 60 minutes on the ice, the contrived interviews at the podium, and if we're lucky, maybe read a good quote the next day. Putting fans behind the scenes, almost close enough to smell the booze on Patrick Kane's(notes) breath, would provide a whole other dimension to our perspective.
Our favorite players are into more than just hockey, and knowing things about their other interests can help us relate to them. We could take a camera into Anaheim's dressing room and talk about other sports. Did you know they're talking about using more replay in baseball? Maybe we could get Andy Sutton's(notes) expert opinion on that.
Think about it -- with the amount of travel these guys do, not having a show that features their honest conversations deprives us of valuable tips. I've only been behind the scenes a few times, but in that short while I picked up tons of advice. I heard some players on the Capitals say to not head north and eat poutine, because it can make you choke. Players on the Flyers were saying that every time they head up to Boston, they just cannot wait to come back. And according to some of the guys playing here in Phoenix with the Coyotes, they were saying that if you ever get the chance to spend a winter in Winnipeg, you have to take it.
Look, the fact is, it's the emotional investment in one's team that makes fans care so much, and filming "Hard Knocks: NHL" would let everyone at home see just how much guys care about each other. It's not enough to make anyone cry or anything, but I bet even old pros watching from home -- like, say, Jeremy Roenick(notes) -- might even well-up a little watching his old Chicago Blackhawks hanging out or travelling, or I dunno, celebrating a big win.
This show can happen people. And after we've seen a few episodes we can all sit back and think "huh, until now, I had no idea Ellen DeGeneres played goal under the pseudonym 'Steve Mason.' Thank God for 'Hard Knocks: NHL.'"
Justin Bourne blogs on Bourne's Blog. His columns and videos will appear on this site on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.