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Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Three Stars of '24/7' -- Episode 1

By Katie Strang

Great stuff from the season premiere of HBO's "24/7: Flyers/Rangers: Road to the Winter Classic."

Three Stars of Episode 1:

1. Ryan Callahan's grandma -- Leave it to the 95-year-old lady to show the boys how it's done and steal the show. In Buffalo to watch her grandson's performance against the hometown Sabres, Grandma Adriana tells Callahan what she thinks of his undeserved cross-checking penalty. Guarantee any official would rather face a few f-bombs from coach John Tortorella than a stern talking-to from her. Bonus points for the fur coat.

2. Ilya Byrzgalov -- The 31-year-old Russian goaltender treats viewers with an existential monologue about The Universe. Chuckles while contemplating the insignificance of Earth compared to the "humongous" expanse of the solar system. The Flyers' new netminder also enlightened a training staff member about Chinese Law on hunting endangered species ... WHILE TALKING ABOUT LIQUOR?!? My take? Whoever had the bright idea to limit his media availability is a cruel, soulless individual.

3. John Tortorella -- Surprisingly, it was his Philadelphia counterpart -- Peter Laviolette -- who monopolized the profane language from the start, but the fiery Rangers coach didn't disappoint. Whether he was barking at players on the bench, scorching them inside the room or sparring with officials, Tortorella delivered some HBO gold. Marian Gaborik summed it up best: "He tells you directly, which is good. And he's always dead-on."

Other noteworthy moments:

• Claude Giroux's concussion -- HBO had to execute a tight turnaround to include one of the week's biggest storylines into the debut episode. Scary sight for Flyers fans but it offered an interesting glimpse into the league's biggest issue of the moment.

• Artem Anisimov's apology -- Sean Avery's smirk upon seeing Anisimov in the dressing room was pretty priceless, as was Anisimov's sincere apology to his teammates. Cute moment seeing Brian Boyle offer his teammate a simple fist bump to ease the tension.

• Jaromir Jagr talking about his decision to sign in Philly vs. Pittsburgh -- "Probably would be a lot easier [in Pittsburgh], my jersey would hang one day, but I chose the other way." he said. "Sometimes you think your brain knows everything but you have to follow your heart."

• John Tortorella on Toronto's Phil Kessel -- "Don't S%$# you pants on him."

• Flyers GM Paul Holmgren on shipping both Mike Richards and Jeff Carter out of town this summer -- "I don't know if we'll be a better team or a worse team, but we'll certainly be a different team."

• Night out on the town -- Very neat to see Boyle, Brandon Prust and Henrik Lundqvist bring some lucky kids to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. Good on HBO to show another side to the players rather than just the rough stuff fans see on the ice.

• Rangers' credit card roulette -- That's one way to settle a bill. Both Lundqvist and defenseman Jeff Woywitka are saddled with the check. Lundqvist's 2011-12 salary? $6.875 million, or in simpler terms, $6.25 million more than Woywitka.