The Ranger-Flyer rivalry still means something. A contemporary twist is coming soon: HBO viewers will get to see unfiltered access in December, for better or worse.
PHILADELPHIA — Rangers general manager Glen Sather and Flyers owner Ed Snider stood on the platform inside Philadelphia’s Citizens Bank Park Monday afternoon and traded barbs.
“We are going to come to Philadelphia and we are going to win,” Sather said. “I’m sorry we (the 1984-85 and 1986-87 Edmonton Oilers) kicked the hell out of you in the Stanley Cup and we’re going to do the same thing on (Jan. 2). At the end of the year we will be carrying the Cup, just like the Yankees are going to have the World Championship.”
“When he said ‘we kicked the hell out of the two Stanley Cups’ he wasn’t talking about the Rangers,” Snider replied. “I remember kicking the hell out of the Rangers on the way to our Cups.
“Nice to see you haven’t lost your edge,” Sather deadpanned.
Yeah, the Ranger-Flyer rivalry still means something after all these years. On January 2, the two teams will be the nexus of the hockey and sports worlds at the NHL's premier regular-season event, the Winter Classic. As part of the build leading up to the game, both teams will be profiled for four weeks by HBO’s highly regarded "24/7" series.
“Taking our reality series ‘24/7’ into the world of the National Hockey League proved to be a perfect fit,” HBO Sports Executive Producer Rick Bernstein crowed in a press release. “The ‘24/7’ franchise is fashioned on larger-than-life personalities, engaging storylines and unrestricted access.”
What made last year’s 24/7 Penguins-Capitals series so compelling was the unvarnished look at the individuals that made up both teams. We learned that Bruce Boudreau is a profane teddy bear of a man while Marc-Andre Fleury’s impishness and quirks made for an endearing figure.
Already there is a school of thought that this year’s edition will have at least one breakout personality.
Brandon Dubinsky, Brandon Prust could be the stars for the Rangers. Chris Pronger and Jaromir Jagr, who despite their longevity as NHL stars are not household names to the public at-large, are good candidates to be focal points for the show.
“Star power always help but in the end it’s the characters, it’s the stories,” Bernstein told reporters after the press conference. “It’s what happens that you don’t expect. That and the access – that’s what makes 24/7.”
Yet for all of the show’s positives – introducing the athletes and their personalities to the public at-large, brand building for the franchises and league – there is a concern that unfettered access could potentially cast a player or coach in an unflattering light.
Tortorella also noted that he watched only one episode of last year’s series because of time contstraints and saw some things that made him cringe.
“We’ll handle it,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said about the cameras and microphones. “There is access but we do have a little say as far as what’s going on that TV. I just want to make sure there (are) no embarrassing things, especially to the players. That does not need to be out there.
“We’re just going to go about our business,” Tortorella said. “I’m not afraid of that. I think we do it the right way. I think our organization does it the right way. I think our coaching staff does it the right way. Our focus is trying to win a hockey game. Whatever they come up with as far as the show, we’ll see where it goes.”
As for HBO’s philosophy on airing potentially sensitive footage, Bernstein said he did not envision any major issues.
For all the show's positives, there is a concern that unfettered access could potentially cast a player or coach in an unflattering light.
It makes for a tricky minefield, balancing newsworthiness against the fascinating but ultimately humiliating. But Bernstein believes HBO’s credibility and its willingness to work with its subjects should alleviate any potential trepidation on the part of the teams.
“What we have in place is editorial control but the teams, as well as the NHL, screen the show prior to air mainly to prevent the divulging of unique competitive strategies,” Bernstein said. “As you saw in last year’s show, they wanted to be real. And I can only think of one or two very minor things that they said that need to be out; very, very minor, something that hadn’t even crossed our minds to be an issue,”
“It’s never been an issue with Hard Knocks, never been an issue with this,” he said. “There’s a trust factor and we’ll always do what’s journalistically the right thing to do, but we’re smart enough to know when it may cross the line. But it never has been an issue.”
HBO had its cameras and reporters at Citizens Bank Park Monday afternoon. In three months, they will be inside the Flyers’ and Rangers’ dressing room on a 24-7 basis for four weeks.
On Twitter: @HockeyPrimeTime and @DenisGorman