Couchtimers: So far, I have failed to convince Jill that a non-fiction series following hockey players belongs in the same gym bag as her beloved Friday Night Lights. Okay, so Gracie-Belle hasn’t made an appearance just yet – but the first episode of 24/7 did produce a real-life Grandma Saracen. Additionally, we heard some rather passionate motivational speeches by the coaches. Clearly, there is a lot to talk about… so let’s get to it!
Clear @#$%in’ Eyes, Full @#$%in’ Hearts, Can’t @#$%in’ Lose!
The two coaches (John Tortorella and Peter Laviolette) received a fair bit of airtime during Episode #1. Both men are accomplished NHL coaches that have won a Stanley Cup. In fact, the two sit as #1 and #2 all-time in wins by American-born coaches. Tortorella has even won coach of the year. However, it is fair to say that the two men have different personalities and coaching styles.
Rangers coach John Tortorella is a very honest and passionate coach who doesn’t sugar-coat things. His players say they wouldn’t have it any other way. In the first episode we see an example where his no-nonsense approach pays dividends. During a game he yells at a player (Gaborik) on the bench – but soon after, the same player steps up and scores an important goal. Is it coincidence or coaching?
In another sequence a Rangers player is shown going to the training room to get treatment. Tortorella is critical:
“I have a tough time seeing players in the training room all the time getting rubbed, and they are sore, and they are getting this done and that done. I think athletes can create more problems for themselves than there really is. I think that is part of a mindset.”
While Tortorella may expect a lot from his players, he isn’t exactly running a dictatorship at MSG. It appears that he is willing to listen to ideas that players bring forward. In other words, he had his Eric Taylor moments. For example:
“I’m asking more questions of them than telling them right now, because it’s a matter of respect. I think they have grown and I think you need to allow them to have some input here. But I also think you need to empower your players as you keep on growing with them.”
Personally, my favourite Torts moment from Episode #1 was from a motivational speech that played over a portion of the intro. A little too R-rated for Coach Taylor, but it would have had me all revved up!
“Play @#$%in’ hard. Play for each other. Support each other. Come back to the bench @#$%in’ dripping tired and @#$%in’ sweating exhaustion. And put your foot on the @#$%in’ gas.”
While Laviolette didn’t feature quite as prominently, a few clips gave some insight into his coaching style. Generally speaking, he comes off as being measured and soft spoken, though very passionate during a game. One morning while studying game tape he offers the following:
“There are a lot of things that go into coaching and there are a lot of things that go into playing. But in the end, the team without that passion, the team without that zip on the ice, probably won’t find as much success as they are looking for. You can have all the skill in the world, but if it’s not passionate then you probably won’t be successful. Passion for me is the key to life.”
Certainly, it will be interesting to see if the difference in the two approaches holds up over the entire series.
Star of Show, Dot in Universe
Some of the funnier moments involved Flyers goalie Ilya Bryzgalov. When asked to describe the player, Laviolette noted that his personality was a bit “different”. And by different he means a dude that is part Bobby McFerrin, part Stephen Hawking, and a whole lot of crazy. No, seriously… check out this quote and be sure to read it in bubbly, broken English for full effect:
“I am very into the universe. You know, like, how was it created. What is it? Solar system is so humungous big, right? But if you see, like, our solar system and our galaxy, like on the side you know… it is so small, like you can’t even see it. Our galaxy is so huge, but if you see the big picture our galaxy is like, small tiny. Like, dot in the universe. And I think, like… and we have some problems here on the earth that we worry about? Compared to like *looks to sky*… nothing. Just be happy! Don’t worry, be happy right now.”
Easy to say when you just signed to a 9-year, $51 million contract Bryz!
In Russia, Puck Shoots You!
One of the more controversial moments of the first episode involved Rangers forward Artem Anisimov. After scoring a goal, he celebrated by repeatedly cocking his hockey stick as if it was a rifle and pointing it at the opposing goalie. Needless to say, the other team took issue and a scrum ensued. While it was a bonehead move, Anisimov did at least apologize to his own team after the game.
The next day at practice his team mates teased him about the celebration. Brandon Prust had the best line when he suggested that they work on a list of inappropriate celebrations to see how many brawls they could start. Anisimov explained the origins of the celebration, noting that he once played with someone in Russia that used the rifle celebration after every goal. Uh, okay… but can we just agree from now on that what happens in Yaroslavl stays in Yaroslavl?
Now Appearing As…
Okay, okay… so some guy was a jerk for pointing his stick at someone, the coaches made some speeches, and one of the goalies is an oddball, But what you really want to know is how this all compares to Friday Night Lights, right? Who am I to disappoint! Ladies and gentlemen, here are your candidates for starring roles in FNL on Ice (it could happen!):
· Claude Giroux as Jason Street: Star player that is out with a concussion in the first episode following a missed check and a knee to the head.
· Ryan Callahan as Tim Riggins: Much is made of his blue-collar roots and his leadership qualities. And… he appears without his shirt on a time or two.
· Grandma Callahan as Grandma Saracen: After a game in which Ryan Callahan receives a debatable penalty, his 95-year old, wheelchair-bound grandmother declares: “God bless you honey, but you didn’t deserve that penalty! Darn, if I could’ve, I would’ve gone down there and told them!” Somewhere, Don Cherry is choked up.
· Sean Avery as Smash Williams: We didn’t see much of Avery in the first episode, though they did show him doing some fashion modelling. Avery is what Smash might have become if Mama Smash wasn’t around to keep him in check.
· Ilya Bryzgalov as Landry Clarke: As noted above, the dude is quirky, funny, up on his studies, and may just have a body buried in a river somewhere.
· Exotic Limousines as The Landing Strip: One sequence shows the Rangers doing charity work with underprivileged youth. Good stuff. Except, when the limo pulls up to cart the kids around for the day, a sticker on the back window reads “Exotic Limousines” and the interior is full of neon lights and lasers. Seriously? This was the only limo available in NEW YORK FRICKIN’ CITY??? At least they removed the stripper pole?
Final F-Bomb Tally
Finally, the all important question: which team demonstrated the most creative use of the English language? Folks, according to my count, it wasn’t even close…
John Tortorella: 15
Rangers Players: 14
Peter Laviolette: 3
Flyers Players: 8
So what did you think of the first episode? Which coach do you think more closely resembled Erik Taylor? What other players deserve starring roles in FNL on Ice? What will Bryz rant about in Episode #2? Let me know in the comments!
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