Oilers' fans should by now be aware of the new television series shown on TSN and the Oilers website called Oil Change which shows some of the behind the scenes discussions and situations of the Edmonton Oilers players and management. The most recent episode even showed some of the situations involved with the first couple of road trips the team took at the beginning of the 2010-11 NHL season. Well, don't look now, but HBO is trying to one up this series with one of its' own; 24/7 Winter Classic. This series features the Washington Capitals and the Pittsburgh Penguins leading up to the New Year's Day Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Besides the main theme of each series, do they differ much? Absolutely.
The HBO series can be seen on the HBO Canada or US site, depending on which country you are in. You should watch it. This series is raw. The first episode has exactly the type of language you would expect to hear in the locker room. So, you may not want to watch it with your younger children but really what haven't kids heard by now right? The first episode was filmed during the Penguins winning streak and the Capitals losing streak. As such, you were able to see the emotion of the players and the coaches in polar opposite situations. Not only that, but you saw the players interacting with each other on and off the ice; with their families and with their children. The cameras would follow various players throughout their days and lives and not just Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin either. This series feels very real and without any hidden motives, as if this truly is an independent HBO series and produced without any input or mandates from either team. What this boils down to is a PR dream for the NHL. Sports enthusiasts, not just NHL fans could very well sit down to watch this and find entertainment value in it. NHL fans that may not normally care about the winter classic may be more interested now that they can see the players are people and not just guys with numbers on their backs skating up and down a sheet of ice. I can see only positives for the NHL by signing up to make this series.
On the other hand with Oil Change you know that this series was made with full co-operation and in conjunction with the Oilers mandates and objectives. One is able to see some of the behind the scenes decision making, some of the gruelling debate on the Tyler/Taylor situation but it feels polished and with everyone on their best behaviour knowing that the cameras are rolling, and that this production is being made for the paying fans of the Edmonton Oilers. This series feels respective of the fan opinions and concerned about interpretations viewers will take away.
There are some hockey fans who are not happy with either series. They don't want to see their beloved game and sport being turned into another money grabbing reality tv show, like so many other things have been recently. Some fans would rather keep the players in their mystical celebrity unknown status without knowing much about them as a person. I can't help it, I like to know that it 's a person wearing a jersey on the ice but I know that not everyone is the same way. For you that don't wish to know anything about the player beside their weight, height and shooting hand, save yourself some frustration and don't watch either series. If you would like to learn more about the business of hockey, Oil Change might be what you would like to see. If you are interested in anything that you find out about, anything at all, 24/7 may be the show for you. No matter what you hope to learn or take away, you should find a few moments of entertainment this year outside of the regularly scheduled 82 games of the regular season.
I don't see either series continuing on past this year however. Oil Change is supposed to be about the rebuild, about trying to get back to a winning attitude and way of playing and it all started and focused on getting the first overall pick. A growing number of Oil fans want to see this Oilers make a push for the playoffs this year. Those that believe this is not a playoff team may still struggle with the idea of whether or not this team will even make the lottery this year. Oil change focusing on getting the sixth overall pick may not have the same draw or intrigue. 24/7 Winter Classic is money for HBO because it features the rivalry of Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. If Gary Bettman could, you know that he would have Ovechkin and Crosby play each other every night of the week, for the entire season. This competition is marketable, it's intriguing, and its comparable. Crosby has won gold medals with team Canada and a Stanley Cup with his Pittsurgh Penguins. Ovechkin, he wants the same honours, but he hasn't achieved them yet. That can speak to people, people can relate that situation. Very few people can honestly say that they have absolutely everything that they want. A series following the Vancouver Canucks and the Toronto Maple Leafs just wouldn't have the same universal appeal. Sports fans who don't necessarily follow hockey may recognize the name Ovechkin or Crosby. Roberto Loungo? Possibly, but not likely recognizable since he doesn't score highlight goals. Dion Phaneuf? Again, not very likely.
So, eat it up hockey fans if this is something you want to see. This may be your only chance.