By Marc Narducci
The first installment of 24/7 Flyers-Rangers, Road To the Winter Classic on HBO leading up to the Jan. 2 Winter Classic between the two teams at Citizens Bank Park was an interesting behind-the-scenes look at both teams.
There was nothing truly ground breaking, but well worth watching nevertheless.
We learned that NHL players and coaches are one tough breed, many who love to use the F-word as frequently as we see players taking shifts on the ice.
It took less than 30 seconds of the show for Flyers coach Peter Laviolette to drop the first f-bomb and coaches and players on both teams alike fired away during the first installment of the show.
The show didn’t produce many outlandish soundbites, but a number of interesting ones.
Some of the best interaction came with the coaches talking between periods to the players. Rangers coach John Tortorella said this about Toronto’s Phil Kessel.
“Kessel is a good player but don’t sh-t your pants on him,” Tortorella said less than eloquently.
The brutal physical play of hockey was shown, especially when Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto went crashing into the boards.
“F--- am I bleeding?” he asks.
It appears as if the show would like Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to be the go-to soundbite, portraying him as the humorous Russian, who says anything on his mind.
It doesn’t quite play out on the show, even as Bryzgalov gives his views on how the universe was created. Nothing very deep or humorous.
Laviolette describes his goalie best “ He is a little bit different, but I enjoy him.”
In the battle of interesting quotes, Tortorella probably outdid Laviolette, although neither said anything earth-shattering.
Tortortella has no room for anybody who doesn’t measure up to the toughness meter.
“I have trouble seeing players in training room getting rubbed down all the time,” he said.
During one speech between periods he said to his players: “Keep your f---in' discipline, no yapping, no yapping to refs.”
Another player from the Flyers who is always a good quote is Jaromir Jagr, but again, it didn’t translate in this opening show.
He talks about loving Philadelphia, the fans being crazy, nothing unusual there.
The interaction between the players on the ice was a great inside look at the NHL. Here is one pleasantry exchanged by a Penguins player to Flyers winger Scott Hartnell “Hartnell you f—in piece of s—t.”
One interesting Rangers sequence showed Artem Anisimov scoring a goal and then receiving a misconduct for using his stick as a fake gun and pretending to shoot it at the opponent.
After the game, he said to his teammates in the locker room, “Sorry by me.”
One notable tidbit came from Laviolette when he told the Flyers about their required attendance at an upcoming Christmas party.
“The big boss reminds us that the Christmas party is mandatory,” he said.
It was interesting to get the take from Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds, who the show said was among 28 black players in the NHL.
“Everybody walks into dressing room as human being and that is how it is,” Simmonds said. “Any team I have been on, I never experienced anything from teammates anybody acknowledging me being black; it’s pretty obvious. All guys are good about it and obviously it is how it should be.”
The show had a nice moment featuring Rangers captain Ryan Callahan while the team played a game in Buffalo, 70 miles from his hometown in Rochester, N.Y.
Best moment came when he met his 95-year-old grandmother after the game.
“You didn’t deserve that penalty,” she said to him.
The end of the show featured the biggest story concerning the Flyers, the injury to leading scorer Claude Giroux. He suffered a concussion during Saturday’s 5-2 win over visiting Tampa Bay.
While Giroux didn’t say much, the dejection on his face while being treated said it all.
The pictures in this case told the story.
Those who follow the Flyers may not have learned much new, but it is good to see the behind-the-scene access, the interaction between players and opponents on ice.
It was a decent start, but one has to hope that the pace is picked up in the next segment on Wednesday at 10 p.m..