Ken Holland and Brian Burke announce the 2013 Winter Classic.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

A disappointing reality of which most viewers aren—t aware, modern reality television is — in fact — fairly scripted. Soft scripting is the technique a show—s producers use to vaguely outline what should happen to the show—s participants, and oftentimes, they will implore those contestants to perform as requested. Documentaries are no different, typically outlined based on extensive research and footage collection and them assembled to form a coherent, calculated point.

Since the February announcement that the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings will compete in the January 2012 Winter Classic, many have assumed — correctly — that HBO will film and broadcast their next season of 24/7 focussed on the two teams. What many readers won—t have realized is that HBO—s award-winning writing teams have been working on scripting the show secretly since the announcement in preparation for the expected deal.

Naturally, a source has revealed some of the stories and scenes being considered in early drafts.


-The season premiere recounts the behind-the-scenes action of the summer offseason. Starting with the draft, Brian Burke and his scouting staff select exclusively Ontario-born players, all choices which Don Cherry immediately lambasts for not also being named Doug.

-The cameras capture Ken Holland—s successful efforts to sign Ryan Suter, who will be featured as a marquee player in the Winter Classic.  In his first media scrum as a Red Wing, Suter cites Brian Burke—s July 1st deep ice-drilling charity trip to Antarctica as the main reason why he rebuked Toronto—s $42 million dollar offer, then immediately bursts out laughing and adds, I—m kidding. That—s ridiculous. What am I, a [censored] phoneless child?

-The doldrums of cubicle life at MLSE are the subject of an early episode called The Office, most of which is focused on Peter Chiarelli relentlessly pranking Brian Burke by hiding his draft picks.

-Phil Kessel—s personal bath remedy is revealed: ginsing, Dead Sea salts, and Polynesian vanilla — a potent mixture that may relax your competitive urge and leave your skin overly soft, but makes you pretty much amazing at everything else.

-The Leafs, ironically, trade John-Michael Liles back to Colorado. In his farewell press conference, Brian Burke calls the move necessary to gain cap flexibility for future transactions. He refuses to admit it has anything to do with Liles— expendability given that Jake Gardiner—s apparently superhuman development curve has him playing 48 minutes a night by the third week of October.

-In the most expensive episode of 24/7 ever filmed, the Leafs— charter crashes enroute to Pearson and the players find themselves stranded on a strange island. It—s a mysterious place where bewildering things happen: teams never make the playoffs, consistent improvement of the roster on paper has no result in the standings, goaltenders somehow knock soft, blatantly wide shots into their own net for overtime losses, and former Pittsburgh Pirates castaways hit 40+ home runs a year. After forty confusing minutes of murder, betrayal, and mystery — a rescue ferry arrives and transports them half a mile across the water to Queen—s Quay.

-Brian Burke records his video message for 2013-2014 Season Ticket renewal package in November: Despite a great start, this season fell apart because our penalty kill was abhorrent half the time and great the rest, our goaltending has been inconsistent, our defense don—t play defense, and our forward group needs to get bigger. Yes, it is absolutely a coincidence that I have used an identical script for this video the last three years. I—m pretty sure the true fans see the steel going up.

-One episode is a crossover with the ER reunion show: an intense, emotionally draining crisis in the blood-soaked unit as the battered trauma docs attempt to treat Colby Armstrong.

-In mid-December, the Winter Classic is aptly re-named the Winters in the Great Lakes Region are No Longer Cold Enough to Sustain Outdoor Rinks Classic, and changed to a water polo match.

-After several episodes of unbearable will-they-won—t-they tension, Randy Carlyle finally relents and plays Luke Schenn and Mike Komisarek together on the flailing penalty kill. Seventeen seconds later, Jason Allison (having won the Kansas City Coyotes— first line centre spot on a professional tryout) blows past both of them to score a shorthanded goal.

-A major emotional arc earns  Brian Burke an Emmy Nomination for Best Supporting Actor as he extolls the virtues of several Leafs defensemen to other GM—s while trying to trade them as part of a package to obtain a number one center. The plotline ends on a cliffhanger when @IncarceratedBob suffers a stroke.

-Burke and Holland shock the NHL community with a one-for-one trade involving players they both deem better fits for their respective organizations. Holland acquires Carl Gunnarson, an initially underrated Swedish player selected much later than he should have been in the NHL entry draft. In return, Burke receives Todd Bertuzzi, an acquisition that promises truculence, skill, leadership, and gritty hockey – but completely fails to deliver on all fronts.

-In one episode, the Leafs— medical staff faces the moral dilemma of whether or not to reveal a terrible secret they—ve discovered: testing has shown that Mike Komisarek is in fact blue-white colorblind, meaning every giveaway in the last three years has been the result of an attempted pass that was, understandably, almost 100% a total guess at full game speed.

-As part of an obscure publicity stunt for his new film (in which he plays a Tahitian wild game hunter who—s come to Canada to become a hockey coach), Sasha Baron Cohen accidentally releases a live honey badger on the ice during a game a game at the ACC. Mike Brown fights it, and doesn—t win.

-In a fan favourite episode called The Contest, Colby Armstrong, Mike Brown, Jay Rosehill, and Nikolai Kulemin attempt to see who can go the longest without scoring a goal. Kulemin is the first player eliminated when the NHL introduces the new 3-point-goal and counts post hits as 1, because absolutely crazy amounts of parity make our sport more amazing, right?

-Fresh out of the hospital, Colby Armstrong returns to the lineup and scores 36 points in 42 games while playing 4th line minutes with David Steckel and Mike Brown. When asked by a reporter how he thinks that might affect contract negotiations due to his impending free agency, Colby replies Oh, really? Is that coming up?

-Ken Holland eventually complains to the 24/7 producers about the gross underrepresentation of the Red Wings in the series. The producer replies, Sorry, we—re the media. You—re an organization with routinely great players who win with consistent effort and without the potential for shocking or negative headlines. So, naturally, we—re just way more interested in talking about Toronto.

-The penultimate episode, titled How I Won Your Cup, is a flash-forward set entirely in the future. It stars a 28 year-old Jake Gardiner, and features a special guest appearance by a probably-unjustly-fired-about-three-years-earlier Brian Burke.

-In the season—s shocking final scene, John Ferguson Jr. wakes up at home and finds himself surrounded by Tuuka Rask, Lars Eller, Tyler Seguin, and Dougie Hamilton — all wearing Leaf jerseys. Ferguson rises slowly from the bed and laments, I just had the most horrible dream¦

-Matt Mistele