It’s been a tough couple of days for Habs fans. First, the news that Zack Kassian was involved in a car accident, and then the follow-up that he’s been suspended and will enter a substance abuse program.
For those who are big fans of Dustin Tokarski, the news was not good, as it was announced that he has been placed on waivers and back-up goalie duties given to Mike Condon – who has, admittedly, performed admirably in nets this pre-season and has earned the roster spot.
But if you were a Tokarski fan, you’re not happy today either.
Now, we’re confirming the news that the behind-the-scenes show, 24CH, which made its debut in September of 2013 and has filmed 3 seasons, has been canceled.
(I’ll wait while you all react).
24CH was modeled after the popular HBO series, 24/7, which began as a series that followed popular figures in the boxing world, and debuted in April of 2007, showcasing the lead-up to the match between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather. Narrated by TV- and movie star, Liev Schreiber, the show was an instant hit and the format soared in popularity.
When the 2011 Winter Classic between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals promised to be a spectacular rivalry, HBO went behind the scenes with both teams, traveling with them, filming everything from drama on the ice to shenanigans off the ice. It also proved to show the humanity of everyone involved.
For example – Bruce Boudreau, then-coach of the Capitals, in Episode 1, was shown giving a passionate locker-room speech peppered with profanity. HBO, being a cable network, is a no-holds-barred zone. (Someone did the count – he dropped 15 F-bombs in about 90 seconds)
Boudreau, it turns out, received a chastising call from his mother about the language he used. When that story hit the news, it humanized him more than many might have done prior to the incident.
The 2012 Winter Classic was no less exciting, with rivals New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers facing off that year. Again, it was fun, dramatic, and extremely insightful (a favorite of mine in that series was Jaromir Jagr‘s delightful sense of humor, Ilya Bryzgalov‘s bizarre comparison of his huskies to “hot girls”, and John Tortorella‘s ever-colorful locker room speeches).
But to me, one of the most memorable sequences showed a completely different side of Tortorella: his interaction and relationship with fan, Liam Traynor, a disabled Rangers fan, whom he brought to the Winter Classic as a guest.
HBO followed the Toronto Maple Leafs/Detroit Red Wings series in 2014. In fact, there was a small controversy when the Leafs and the Wings banned the cameras from locker rooms; perhaps their struggles that season made them wish they were not being followed everywhere they went.
That season was the last 24/7 on HBO; the network did not continue their NHL affiliation after that.
However, other teams did follow the model. The Edmonton Oilers, for example, have an ongoing behind-the-scenes entitled Oil Change which even predates HBO’s NHL 24/7. It is available to watch, in its entirety, on the Oilers’ website.
But as Habs fans, we have been treated to 24CH, and it has proven to be exactly what fans love: insider looks at the home lives, on-the-road lives, on-the-ice lives, and locker-room lives of some of our favorite players, past and present.
Think about it: we pay close attention to every game, remembering the “stories” that emerge from the evenings. We talk about these stories – ad infinitum – on social media. And then, a week or so later, we get to see the run-up to that game, and how the players, coaching staff, and management reacted to whatever was happening at the time.
Someone like P.K. Subban, who always seems to be “on” – he, alone, makes the show worth watching. The camaraderie between the players, the previously secret locker-room goings-on, and the personal revelations of players as they react to their week’s events; these are what make this show such a popular series, and so well received by fans of this team.
Here, for example, is a clip from Season 3, when not-yet-Captain Max Pacioretty got pranked by his teammates.
One incredibly poignant episode – one I dreaded and anticipated at the same time – was the episode surrounding the passing of our legendary captain, Jean Béliveau. That whole week, we were immersed in tributes for him – from other teams, from all walks of life, and then from the players themselves. We watched the incredible, unscripted drama unfold as Mrs. Béliveau graciously accepted the accolades of her husband’s fans in one of the longest, loudest ovations yet.
And the Moment of Silence at the Bell Centre still gives me goosebumps to remember; that pure, unprecedented, pin-drop silence echoed throughout the sporting world, acknowledged by everyone from national media to Keith Olbermann.
But watching that episode of 24CH, knowing what we were going to see, the emotions welled up again, and the narration of the episode added to the memories. In fact, the entire series is professional, endearing, exciting, and insightful.
Now, the news that it will not be filmed this season. No explanation given. Just a mention by coach Michel Therrien in a September 30th talk-show appearance.
Though HBO is not following this season’s Winter Classic between the Boston Bruins and our Montreal Canadiens, the cable network EPIX will be filming a similar series. In fact, the Habs have had their first taste of this build-up:
— Dave Stubbs (@Dave_Stubbs) September 30, 2015
Could 24CH be replaced, this year, by the EPIX production? Is it possible that having two crews following the team on and off the ice would just be too much of a distraction for players who, after all, are there to play hockey and not be TV stars?
That, to me, seems the more likely explanation.
But with no official explanation from the team, it’s all we have to go on.
All we can hope is that when the season is said and done, our regularly scheduled 24CH will return in the 2016-17 season.
*NEW: 24CH will return in January 2016!