December 22, 2011

NYC and Philly Play Starring Roles in HBO's "24/7 Flyers- Rangers"

As I write this review of HBO's debut episode of "24/7 Flyers-Rangers: Road to the NHL Winter Classic," I'm riding on an Amtrak train through central Philadelphia en route to New York City's Penn Station. As we speed past the rundown rowhouses and abandoned warehouses of this gritty, greasy city, I can't help but think how Season 2 (Caps-Pens last year) of this Emmy Award-winning reality series is as much a tale of two cities as it is about two fierce rivals on the ice.

But the real story is that the two teams and the cities they represent have much in common.

Philly and NYC, despite the popular imagination of big bankers on Wall Street and UPenn rowers on the Schuylkill River, are actually deep down two blue collar cities with many similarities that are brilliantly captured by the HBO cameras. These two rusted out titans of the 20th century are attempting to reinvent themselves to stay on top in the 21st century with the same can-do, blue collar work ethic that made these magnificent metropolisis the economic engines of a bygone era in America. The same can be said of their hard working professional ice hockey teams. 

The opening montage sets up the blue collar theme of the show as Rangers players get to Madison Square Garden by cab, subway and even walking. Rangers forward Ryan Callahan is from hardscrabble Rochester, New York, and the cameras show him meeting his family after playing a game against the Sabres in nearby Buffalo. In perhaps the most touching moment of the hour-long episode we see wheelchair-bound 95-year-old Grandma Callahan beaming with pride as she greets Ryan.

In Philly, the cameras follow Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds as he heads to the opening of an ice rink dedicated to helping inner city youth. Simmonds, who is Afro-Canadian, is joined by Flyers owner Ed Snider at the event.

Episode two airs tonight at 10 p.m. and this fan of the show is looking forward to seeing the urban backdrops of the Big Apple and City of Brotherly Love as much as the Rangers and Flyers.

- Josh Marks

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