In 2008, the National Hockey League came up with the crazy idea of having a nationally televised game played at an outdoor stadium on New Years Day. The event known as the Winter Classic between the Buffalo Sabres and Pittsburgh Penguins was so well-received that it became an annual event that was used to highlight some of the league's classic rivalries such as The Blackhawks vs The Red Wings and The Bruins vs The Flyers. For its fourth year, the league chose to instead highlight a more recent rivalry in that of the Penguins (again) against the Washington Capitals, but more importantly to highlight their respective stars Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin, the two players most likely to be recognized by non-hockey fans who might watch the game. The league's motivation for doing this was somewhat understandable. It proved to be for the best though because the added publicity of the matchup prompted HBO to produce a hockey variant of their recurring series 24/7, which had previously covered high profile boxing matchs, and so NHL 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic was born and quickly became a fan favorite with the upcoming second season being as anticipated as the Winter Classic game itself.
In the series, which airs in 4 hour long episodes, producers follow the players, coaches, and staff of the two teams around in the locker room and in various aspects of their daily lives over the course of the month of December leading up to the January 1st game. Fans (and haters) of the teams receive an inside look at each practice, each game, and even in the homes and families of the players. You might expect any amount of awesomeness and heartwarming, but what truly made it a fan favorite are the unexpectedly hilarious bits that make it a rich well of Memetic Mutation for hockey fans of all persuasions.
The second season, featuring the Flyers (again) and the New York Rangers aired in late 2011. Unfortunately, due to the league being locked out for a significant portion of the 2012-13 season, the 2013 Winter Classic, which was to be played at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor between the Maple Leafs and the Red Wings, was canceled. Fortunately, since the league and the players did resolve the lockout and at least some of the schedule was salvaged, the league has said that they will simply push what would have been this season's Winter Classic back until 2014, so the third season of 24/7, featuring Toronto and Detroit, will likely air later this year.
NHL 24/7 provides examples of the following tropes:
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who enjoys engaging in phylisophical discussions during his one on one interviews.
- Cluster F-Bomb: A common occurance, but especially Bruce Boudreau. The man is Cluster F-Bomb incarnate. Observe.
- Honorable mention for Marc Andre Fleury who doesn't think you can score on him...you fucking fuckface.
- In season 2, Both John Tortorella AND Peter Laviollette gave Bruce a run for his money
- Everything's Better with Penguins: Well...
- The Friend Nobody Likes: It's not so much that his teammates dislike Bryzgalov, they just find him off-putting and seem to steer clear of him to prevent being sucked into one of his weird observations.
- Hidden Depths: The show does a very good job of showing that the players are actually real people, many with families and outside interests. For example, while many people see Matt Cooke as a disgusting goon who should be banned from the sport, he's also a loving and devoted husband and father.
- Notoriously curmudgeonly Rangers Head Coach John Tortorella befriending a disabled Rangers superfan and was actually moved to tears when talking about him and how much his support means to him and the team.
- Sir Swears-a-Lot: Bruce Boudreau nuff said.
- Momma's Boy: Alex Ovechkin of all people
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Averted. It would be very easy to give Crosby and Ovechkin all the screentime but there ws plenty of exposure for everybody else.
- The Rival: The reason the Winter Classic, and therefore the series exists.