On Thursday, HBO announced it won’t make “24/7: The Road to the Winter Classic” for the 2015 outdoor game between the Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks at Nationals Park.
While last year’s edition didn’t have the most compelling of drama, it was more due to the subjects and the losing streaks both teams endured rather than the show itself. The series has been critically acclaimed for its behind-the-scenes access and showcasing raw, unedited footage of NHL players in daily life and during games.
My first thought when I heard “24/7” wasn’t going to be renewed was the producers were most likely upset with Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle during last year’s show.
In case you forgot what happened or want to relive it, here are the details.
During the show’s second episode, both teams were in the middle of losing streaks. Neither team was playing exceptionally well, and both coaches let their respective teams know about it.
During a 5-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks, Babcock went into the locker room to address his team. With the HBO cameras waiting to capture his tirade, Babcock quickly dismissed the production crew saying:
Get out of here! Get out of here! That’s why I shut the room! Get the (bleep) out of here!
I can’t imagine that sat well with HBO — being told to get out of the locker room when you knew a Babcock explosion was on its way. The whole point of “24/7” is to get the unedited blowups that NBC or NHL Network can’t show.
There was an agreement to let the cameras follow the team during the entirety of the four-week period, and Babcock decided he had had enough and threw the cameras out.
Carlyle did the same thing in the same episode during a 3-1 loss to the Florida Panthers. I managed to find video of the Carlyle blowup, but the Babcock one has been taken down by the NHL.
Warning: This contains NSFW language.
The cameras still managed to capture the essence of Carlyle’s anger, but shots of him and the rest of the team would have been a lot better.
HBO Denies Speculation
However, according to ESPN.com’s Scott Burnside, HBO representatives said the restricted access was not the reason the show was not renewed. HBO spokesman Raymond Stallone told ESPN.com in an email:
Everybody at HBO enjoyed working with the NHL and its teams on 24/7 the past four years. It was an exciting endeavor and we’re very proud of the never-before-seen presentation of the world of hockey that 24/7 was able to capture.
There was never an expectation that HBO would chronicle the lead-up to the Winter Classic every year.
We wish the NHL the very best and the door will always remain open.
Of course, HBO would never come out and say “Yes, restricted access was the reason we decided to not renew the show.” However, the way this email is worded makes me believe it was HBO’s decision not to produce the show rather than a disagreement between HBO and the NHL, or the NHL wanting to produce their own show.
According to Burnside, the reason the show is not being renewed is because of budgetary issues. However, for a show that collected 15 Emmy nominations, I find it hard to believe they were lacking the funds to be able to produce it.
Something doesn’t seem right here. A wildly successful and popular TV show doesn’t just stop production because of “budgetary issues.” I think the Babcock and Carlyle incidents irked HBO enough to the point they refused to do another series.
I can’t say I blame them. What’s the point of producing a no-holds-barred, unrestricted access show if the subjects are going to tell you what you can and can’t record?
It’s unfortunate “24/7” had to end. It was the first of its kind to show NHL players in a new light. There were no bleeps and not every storyline was happy or uplifting. It was raw, unedited footage of NHL players you couldn’t experience on any other TV show.
A New ‘24/7’?
The NHL is expected to reveal a new U.S. broadcast partner for a similar behind-the-scenes show on Sept. 23 that will follow the Capitals and Blackhawks leading up to the Winter Classic on Jan. 1.
NBC Sports Network produced its version of “24/7” called “NHL Revealed,” in which the cameras followed the teams involved in the three Stadium Series games as well as the Olympics in Sochi.
While it was entertaining to watch the players prepare for more outdoor games and compete in the Olympics, the language was edited and it didn’t have the same raw feel “24/7” did.
NHL chief operating officer John Collins claims the new show will be unedited and commercial-free like “24/7,” but I’ll believe it when I see it.
If the NHL can partner with another premium cable network like Showtime that will be able to allow swearing and adult content, then I’ll be onboard.
However, until that broadcast partner is announced, I’ll just have to enjoy this .Gif of Todd Bertuzzi drinking a Corona and relieve the glory days of “24/7.”
Tom Mitsos is a writer from Michigan who covers the Red Wings and the Red Wings’ AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, for The Hockey Writers.