HBO inadvertently chose a difficult week to release “24/7 Penguins/Capitals: Road to the NHL Winter Classic,” the DVD version ($15.99) of the exquisite, all-access documentary series that followed the local hockey team and rival Pittsburgh leading up to last season’s New Year’s Day outdoor game.
The Capitals team captured by HBO’s cameras is suddenly very different from the squad fans watch at Verizon Center these days: Bruce Boudreau, the team’s lovable, foul-mouthed head coach and runaway star of the four-episode miniseries, was fired less than two weeks ago, with the team mired in a month-long slump. As a result, Caps fans may watch the package feeling the type of nostalgia one usually reserves for flipping through Facebook photos of an old flame.
But the candid moments captured by the “24/7” cameras remain incredibly revealing, and rewarding, to even the most seasoned sports fan. It’s the life of a professional hockey player, on and off the ice, captured in high-definition, profanity-laced glory. In one cathartic sequence, Boudreau laces into his charges after a lethargic period of hockey with an 80-second tirade that contains no fewer than 15 instances of one particular four-letter expletive. In professional sports, it doesn’t get much more authentic, or revealing, than that.
HBO’s cameras began rolling in December 2010, with Washington mired in a season-long eight-game winless streak, while the Penguins were riding the crest of a 12-game winning streak. By the series’ climax, captured in one of HBO’s typical goose-bump-inducing montages of the teams taking the ice at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Washington would emerge victorious, 3-1, over its rival.
No bonus features or deleted scenes are on the DVD, and because of copyright restrictions, some of the music from the original broadcast has been dubbed-over with generic stadium rock. Regardless, until that blessed day comes when there’s a Washington Capitals Stanley Cup DVD, “24/7” is one for the archives that no Caps fan should be without.