HBO 24/7 – Selling hockey to America

If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of watching Home Box Office’s 24/7 miniseries, do yourself a favour and check it out. You might say, “I don’t have HBO!” Doesn’t matter; download it however you can. It’s worth any potential fine or jail sentence (The Sputnik does not encourage any illegal piracy activities, though we do encourage watching HBO. –Ed.)

The idea is simple: a camera crew follows the NHL’s Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins for one month leading up to the Winter Classic, held this past New Year’s day. It’s the behind-the-scenes action that was captured that is truly incredible. It is usually the kind of thing you wait for 10 years to hear about in somebody’s tell-all autobiography.

The word “unprecedented” gets thrown around far too often but the access HBO gets is just that.

Certainly most Canadians hardly need to be sold on the merits of hockey; for many, it’s as important as brushing your teeth before bed. For Americans, it’s a different story.

One argument Canadians like goes like this: “Who needs the Americans to like hockey? It’s Canada’s game anyway.” Well, the truth is that Canadians need the Americans to like hockey. Money comes from interest. Not the literal financial type of interest, but that of fans that spend frivolously on their jersey-wearing heroes.

24/7 is the single best interest-building device to come out for hockey’s promotion in the U.S. Glowing pucks did not work but selling the game like a movie drama just might. Wisely, HBO used the current greatest rivalry in the sport, with arguably the two greatest and certainly the two most recognizable players in the game: Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin.

Meanwhile, the crude vulgarity of charismatic characters – like Washington’s head coach Bruce Boudreau – not only create a tense, dramatic atmosphere, but they also provide for many moments of unintended comic relief. Scenes of fights and huge hits become the icing on the cake, fulfilling that American appetite for blood and violence.

All of the events leading up to the Winter Classic game are scene setters, building towards that ultimate climax (don’t get too excited, Sex 101 readers). The show effectively dramatizes the sport that many Americans have had a hard time embracing as a valid sport worthy of their time and, more importantly to Canadians, their money.

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