Fans Get Fascinating Yet Cringe-Worthy Look Inside the NHL

Given all the stories in the media about concussions in the NHL, we now have HBO’s  24/7 Flyers/Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic. For the most part, this four-episode behind-the-scenes look at the two teams that will face off on Jan. 2  in Citizen’s Bank Park in Philly is a well-made, fascinating look at the usually closed world of professional sports. But to me, the show is not doing the league much good in terms of softening the concussion issue. Right now, several NHL players are being held out of games due to concussion symptoms, including superstar Sidney Crosby, who sat out much of last season because of one.

This, coupled with the curious off-season deaths of three NHL enforcers, has the league reeling from a reputation point of view. But in the first episode we see two opposing players ready to fight before they even enter the game—then going at each others’ heads with a fervor. Then, it’s announced that Chris Pronger, the Flyers captain, will miss the rest of the season due to a concussion, while the team’s star center, Claude Giroux, is recovering from one (he has returned to play, hopefully for the rest of the season).

On the one hand, you have to admire the NHL for letting fans in on a no-holds-barred (well, as no-holds as you can get) look at the sport, and I still heartily recommend the show, though it’s not for small kids. But every time a player goes down on the ice and has to be taken into the locker room for testing, I cringe—probably like a lot of other viewers. This can’t be good the NHL and hockey.

—Scott Van Camp